Film Discussion 15: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Another great discussion on Stanley Kubrick's classic, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. We discuss the dangers of our technologies and systems, the role of humanity amidst those systems, why the title is what it is, and much more. Oh, and the fact that this film has become such a large part of our cultural conscience in nuclear and Cold War thinking. I certainly left today's discussion with plenty to think about!

If you did too, below are some show notes with some links and quotes for further reading. This film, and the process in which it was made, it fascinating, and I had a lot of fun exploring the myriad of articles on the web. Let me know if you find any of it interesting or have further resources to check out! And as always, leave your thoughts in the comments!

Show Notes

1. "Dr. Strangelove" by Roger Ebert

"Dr. Strangelove" (1964) is filled with great comic performances, and just as well, because there's so little else in the movie apart from faces, bodies and words. Kubrick shot it on four principal locations (an office, the perimeter of an Air Force base, the "War Room," and the interior of a B-52 bomber). His special effects are competent but not dazzling (we are obviously looking at model planes over Russia). The War Room, one of the most memorable of movie interiors, was created by Ken Adam out of a circular desk, a ring of lights, some back-projected maps, and darkness. The headquarters of Gen. Jack D. Ripper, the haywire Air Force general, is just a room with some office furniture in it.

Yet out of these rudimentary physical props and a brilliant screenplay (which Kubrick and Terry Southern based on a novel by Peter George), Kubrick made what is arguably the best political satire of the century, a film that pulled the rug out from under the Cold War by arguing that if a "nuclear deterrent" destroys all life on Earth, it is hard to say exactly what it has deterred.

2. "What I Learned Since I Stopped Worrying and Studied the Movie: A Teaching Guide to Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove" by Dan Lindley

John Pike, former director of space policy at the Federation of American Scientists, once said to me: “Everything there is to know about nuclear strategy can be learned from Dr. Strangelove.”

3. "Dr. Strangelove (1964): Nightmare Comedy and the Ideology of Liberal Consensus" by Charles Maland

In Kubrick's world view, modern man has made scientific and technological advances inconceivable to previous generations but lacks the wisdom either to perceive how the new gadgetry might be used in constructive ways or, more fundamentally, to ask whether the "advance" might not cause more harm than good.