top of page

Movies: “Dr. Strangelove”

Jan. 25, 1964 - Ten years in the motion-picture industry is a long time to remain a boy genius, and Stanley Kubrick, at 34, is about to discard the tag. With half a dozen artistic and/or commercial and/or controversial achievements behind him, he is ready and waiting to hit the bullseye with his seventh — an all-or-nothing gamble with the intimidating title, “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

Why did he make a comedy about nuclear destruction? “First,” Mr. Kubrick said today, “I was fascinated by book ‘Red Alert,’ a serious suspense novel about what happens when one of the great powers pushes the wrong button. The film keeps the same suspense frame. But the more I worked on it, the more I was intrigued by the comic aspects — the facade of conventional reality being pierced.” He compared the idea to “Paths of Glory” (1957), a decidedly serious treatment of a powerful antiwar theme that brought him his best reviews to date. “Do you remember the scene where the two generals argue about how many deserters to shoot, as an example to the other soldiers? The first says one would be enough — the other says, how about 300? They compromise on three. That scene always brought a nervous titter from the audience — a reaction of shock, of recognition, that things like that can happen within the context of the ‘normal’ world.”

Mr. Kubrick does not share the fears of some Columbia executives that the assassination of President Kennedy may have soured the public’s taste for topical comedy about serious themes. “There is absolutely no relationship between our President, the one played by Peter Sellers, and any real person.” Furthermore, Mr. Kubrick emphasized, it is clear that no one can see “Strangelove” and take it just as a joke. Whether or not he is correct will be determined Wednesday, when the film opens.


bottom of page