Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying

Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George
Based on the book Red Alert by Peter George
Music by Laurie Johnson

Peter Sellers
Slim Pickens
Tracy Reed
George C. Scott
Keenan Wynn
Sterling Hayden
Budget: $1.8 million
Box office: $9.4 million

There are few movies that one HAS to see. Dr. Strangelove is at the top of the must-see movie list for any lover of cinema. It takes a darkly comedic look at the absurdity of the cold war between Russia and the United States. 


Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) is a commander for the United States Airforce who recently had a screw come loose. A man holding one of the most dangerous positions in the military should be of sound mind and body; Ripper is not the former. Ripper takes it upon himself to execute “Wing Attack Plan R.” Plan R gives the right for an officer to engage in a nuclear war with an enemy if that enemy has issued a sneak attack on the United States. He has his B-52 bombers set course for Russia, where they intend to drop their bombs. Part of Plan R states that once the plan is in motion, the only way to disengage is if a three-digit code is given to the plane. Otherwise, all communication is shut down. The code is only known to Commander Ripper. Not only is communication shut down for the aircraft, but also the case where crazy commander Ripper is located. 

Once this order goes out, a call is made to General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott). Gen. Buck takes the news directly to the war room, where he is met with all top military personnel, including the President of the united states, Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers). The group franticly tries to find a way to shut down Plan R; however, Buck is pushing for an all-out attack on Russia before they have a chance to retaliate. Ripper’s idea was to cause a war, so the “commie” party is wiped out once and for all. 

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Back in the office of Ripper, his Group Captain, Lionel Mandrake of the Royal Air Force (Peter Sellers), is attempting to call off the mission. Ripper, however, will not call off the task and even threatens Mandrake with a gun. When the Group Captain presses the reasoning behind Ripper’s plan, the Commander states that the Russians have been fluoridating our water supply, and that is why they only drink Vodka. 

Now then, Dimitri…': Why Dr Strangelove's phone call scene is a comic  masterpiece

With little to no options, President Muffley orders the Army to storm the base of Ripper, knowing that part of the Plan R order is to kill anyone who comes close to the base at all. This starts a battle between Ripper’s men and the United States Army. Neither side of the struggle fully understands exactly what is going on. The Army just has orders to storm the base and put Ripper on the phone with the President. 

While the battle rages on, Muffley calls Russia to speak with the Soviet Premier Dimitri Kissov. The goal is to warn them of the attack, so they know this is the act of one man alone. However, the attack will set into motion a Doomsday Device that will kill every living creature on the planet and make the earth inhabitable for the next 100 years. President Muffley cannot believe such a device exists, so he asks his scientific advisor, former Nazi German Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers), if it is possible. In fact, it is possible! 

Stanley Kubrick reportedly considered a 'Dr. Strangelove' sequel directed  by Terry Gilliam - The Verge

During the battle at Ripper’s base, his men surrender, and it becomes evident to him that torture for the three-digit code is in his future. Instead of just giving up the code, he takes his own life. Mandrake, however, deciphers Ripper’s notes just in time for an officer to come through the door and arrest him. Mandrake pleads to allow him to call the President to give them the code. In the meantime, Russia fires missiles at the bomber planes taking down three and damaging one more. 

The damaged plane is flown by Texas native Major T. J “King” Kong (Slim Pickens) and his crew (one of which is James Earl Jones). The plane suffered a fuel leak, significant damage to the bomb doors, and all communication to be lost in the missile attack. The remaining fleet of bombers received the code and turned back to fly home. Determined to finish what they started, Kong and his crew fly low to the closest target. To get the bomb doors open, Kong climbs on top of one of the nukes and rewires the bomb doors. He fixes the issue just in time to open the doors and ride the bomb down to the target in true Texan bull-rider fashion. The bombs explode, triggering the doomsday device, and all of humanity is killed. 

Not your typical comedy, the film has been called the best comedic film of all time by many critics. It does a fantastic job of painting the terrifying picture of the arms race and how close we came to all being destroyed out of fear that we would not be first. The best comedy scenes in the film are given by George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson. His ability to transform his face to provide an accurate and comedic portrayal of a military General, along with his abundance of chewing gum, is one of the funniest things ever caught on film. Sellers, who was supposed to play four roles in the film but after suffering an injury had to backpedal to three, giving the Kong role over to Slim Pickens (which I am sure we can all agree was a great decision) is nothing short of amazing in each of his parts. There is a reason why this film is in multiple “best of” categories. 

Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble

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