Dr. Strangelove

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Peter Sellers trying to control his autonomous right arm in the title role of Dr. Strangelove
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As you know, the Premier loves surprises.
—Soviet Ambassador de Sadesky
Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room.
—President Muffley

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a 1964 satirical film directed by Stanley Kubrick. It stars Peter Sellers playing three major roles (the meek President Merkin Muffley;[note 1][note 2] the half-broken man, half-broken machine Dr. Strangelove;[note 3] and the overly polite British Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake)[note 4] and features a much-parodied scene of Slim Pickens bull-riding an atomic bomb. It was less well known for being Darth Vader's James Earl Jones' first movie.

The movie depicts a series of fictional events leading to a World War III scenario involving mutually assured destruction (MAD) between the United States and the Soviet Union. Plot elements involve various Cold War themes, including McCarthyism and the influences of Nazi scientists. There is also a plethora of sexual undertones to the film, such as General Jack D. Ripper's ostensibly fluoride-fueled impotence, Dr. Strangelove's recommendation of a 10:1 female to male ratio for the post-apocalyptic world, the hyper-masculine overcompensation of military men, and the inability of the bomber crew to "perform" (drop the bomb) after much elaborate foreplay (in-flight build-up).[2]

The film's main thrust (so to speak), however, is to mock the nuclear arms race and tensions between the US and the USSR by showing the insanity of predicating one's entire national defense on the idea of the fittingly-acronymed MAD. The characters go from talking about "missile gaps" and "bomber gaps" to claiming vast communist conspiracies at every level of government (they're poisoning our precious bodily fluids!) to, after the guarantee of apocalypse, worrying about a "mineshaft gap" with the Reds. It's either the scariest comedy ever made, or the funniest disaster movie ever made.[note 5]



Don't be fooled by the black screen. It'll play.

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  1. "Merkin" is a pubic wig. Yes, really.
  2. Muffley was based on Adlai Stevenson, which is a tad bit ironic (perhaps intentionally) because of his role in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  3. The titular character, Dr. Strangelove, was based on a combination of four people: Herman Kahn of the RAND Corporation, mathematician John von Neumann of the Manhattan Project, Nazi Germany rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, and Edward Teller of H-Bomb fame.[1]
  4. Originally he was supposed to play four, but he felt he wasn't able to do a good enough Texan accent for the final role.
  5. And remember to answer to the Coca-Cola company, prevert!


  1. Paul Boyer, "Dr. Strangelove" in Mark C. Carnes (ed.), Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies, New York, 1996.
  2. Detailed analysis of sexual themes