Age has not withered the queasy nightmare of Stanley Kubrick’s nuclear holocaust satire, starring Peter Sellers at the peak of his powers
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, more commonly known simply as Dr. Strangelove, is a 1964 political satire black comedyfilm that satirizes the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Unionand the United States. The film was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, stars Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and Slim Pickens. Production took place in the United Kingdom. The film is loosely based on Peter George‘s thrillernovel Red Alert (1958). (Wikipedia)
15 May 2019 | Peter Bradshaw | The Guardian
Stanley Kubrick’s nuclear holocaust suspense satire Dr Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is now rereleased nationwide, at the same time as the Kubrick retrospective at London’s BFI Southbank – a movie written by Kubrick with the journalist and counter-culture satirist Terry Southern, transforming the conventional thriller Red Alert by Welsh author Peter George.
Strangelove was released in 1964, two years after the Cuban missile crisis, and 31 years before a real-life Strangelove scenario in 1995, when Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin came close to pressing the red button after a US meteorological rocket investigating the northern lights off Norway had been interpreted by the Russian military as a hostile gesture.
A Kubrickian movie about that blood-chilling event is in order, although it has been discussed in Lucy Walker’s nuclear documentary Countdown to Zero.
Maybe it was Dr Strangelove that really did persuade us all to stop worrying about the bomb. Perhaps this film inoculated our minds with black comedy, absurdified and ironised the horror and made the unthinkable thinkable.
But I can never watch it without a bowel-liquefaction of fear. Somehow this is most acute when Peter Sellers, playing the stiff-upper-lipped RAF officer Lionel Mandrake is curtly informed by his crazy American commanding officer Brigadier General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) that the nuclear confrontation has begun – which is to say, Ripper has pre-emptively begun a war to prevent communists sapping America’s precious bodily fluids. “Oh hell – are the Russians involved, sir?” breathes Mandrake. It’s supposed to be bizarre, yet the quiet fear in Sellers’s voice is very real.
Hayden was well qualified for this satirical role. As an intelligence officer in the second world war, he had served with the Tito partisans and in 1946, in a spirit of martial gallantry and admiration for them, had briefly joined the Communist party.
The house un-American activities committee forced him to name names, with the FBI privately threatening that refusing would mean he would lose custody of his children in his ongoing divorce case. Hayden regretted complying and the role of Jack D Ripper was his way of hitting back, just a little, at the red-scare bullies.
This was arguably Sellers’ finest hour on screen, with his bravura multi-personality performance, playing Mandrake and also the insidiously bland mandarin President Merkin Muffley, and, most egregiously of all, the ex-Nazi scientist inspired by the V-2 rocket scientist Wernher von Braun.
He is Doktor Merkwürdigliebe, who has anglicised his name as Strangelove: the wheelchair user and strategic visionary who has a habit of addressing the president as “Mein Führer” and, as the nuclear immolation nears, starts discussing how an American master race might be bred down in a mineshaft while waiting for the post-strike radiation to clear.
Energised by this fascistic new idea, and its sexual opportunities, he then experiences an extraordinary personal miracle. (Only when watching this film again this week did I sense that Sellers drew for inspiration here on his Goon Show comrade Spike Milligan.)
The “war room” scenes are extraordinary. Ken Adam’s spectacular design has governed everyone’s idea about how and where these decisions must surely be made – in Bond-villain-type stage sets. (The recent TV version of The Man in the High Castle contained a scary homage, with the huge, dark, eerily uplit round table round which the postwar Nazis discuss their plans for a global nuclear strike.)
And Strangelove does an efficient job of reminding us about the mentality of war – the “Pearl Harbor” thinking that the mad but nonetheless prescient Ripper knew would take hold once he had lit the fuse. The authorities start planning the pre-emptive strikes against the enemy’s military capabilities, which might well be mobilised, because of their own meaningless and unprovoked attack.
Age has not withered that final queasy nightmare of the mushroom clouds, set to Vera Lynn’s hopeful We’ll Meet Again – underscoring how the certainties of the second world war ceased to hold their meaning in the nuclear age.
1. THE MOVIE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A DRAMA.
The international climate of the early 1960s piqued Stanley Kubrick’s interest in writing and directing a nuclear war thriller. Kubrick began consuming piles of literature on the topic until he came across former Royal Air Force office Peter George’s dramatic novel Red Alert. Columbia Pictures optioned the book, and Kubrick began translating the bulk of the novel into a script.
During the writing process, however, the director found himself struggling to escape a persistent comedic overtone because he found the vast majority of the political calamities described in the story to be inherently funny. Eventually, Kubrick abandoned the idea of fighting the adaptation’s dark sense of humor and embraced it wholeheartedly.
2. DR. STRANGELOVE DOESN’T EXIST IN THE ORIGINAL BOOK.
Tone aside, the plot of Dr. Strangelove is strikingly similar to that of George’s novel. There’s one notable exception: Dr. Strangelove doesn’t appear in the novel—Kubrick and writer Terry Southern created the new character.
3. THE STUDIO DEMANDED THAT PETER SELLERS PLAY MULTIPLE ROLES.
Columbia Pictures slapped Kubrick with a few conditions at the dawn of Dr. Strangelove’s production. The studio’s chief demand was that Peter Sellers, with whom Kubrick had worked on Lolita and who the director had planned to cast again, play multiple roles in the new movie. (Sellers played a character with a propensity for disguises in Lolita, which Columbia speculated helped fuel the movie’s success.)
4. SELLERS WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY MAJOR KONG.
Originally, Sellers was cast as four characters in Dr. Strangelove: Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, and the titular mad scientist (all of whom he played in the movie), as well as Major Kong. After Sellers injured his leg and had trouble with the Texas accent, Kubrick brought in Slim Pickens to play Kong.
5. TWO OTHER FAMOUS COWBOYS WERE APPROACHED TO PLAY KONG.
Before landing on Pickens, the production team sought fellow Western mainstays John Wayne and Bonanza star Dan Blocker for the part of Major Kong. Wayne never replied to Kubrick’s messages, and Blocker’s agent passed on the project. Co-writer Southern later remembered the agent sending a telegram that read, “Thanks a lot, but the material is too pinko for Dan. Or anyone else we know for that matter.”
6. NOBODY TOLD SLIM PICKENS THEY WERE MAKING A SATIRE.
Before being cast as Dr. Strangelove’s gung-ho bomber pilot Major. T. J. Kong, actor Slim Pickens had starred almost exclusively in Westerns, with nary a comedy part to his name (much less a political satire). This didn’t pose much of a problem, however, as Kubrick deemed the actor’s natural cadence and decorum to be perfect for the cowboy soldier.
Kubrick led Pickens to believe that the film was supposed to be a serious war drama, prompting him to carry himself as he might in any of his Western pictures. Furthermore, according to James Earl Jones (who made his film debut in Dr. Strangelove) and Kubrick biographer John Baxter, Pickens behaved, and dressed, identically onscreen and off … not because he was “staying in character,” but because he apparently always acted like that.
7. KUBRICK LIED TO GEORGE C. SCOTT IN ORDER TO GET FUNNIER TAKES.
Unlike Pickens, George C. Scott—who plays bombastic General Buck Turgidson—was well-aware that Dr. Strangelove was a comedy, but was nevertheless hesitant about playing his character too “big.” Kubrick coaxed Scott to deliver broad, animated performances as Buck, promising him that they were merely an exercise and would not be used in the final cut. Of course, the takes that went to print were among the actor’s wackiest. Scott felt terribly betrayed, and vowed never to work with Kubrick again. Although Dr. Strangelove remained their sole collaboration, Scott did eventually come to appreciate the film and his performance.
8. KUBRICK GOT HIS WAY WITH SCOTT BY BEATING HIM AT CHESS.
When Kubrick wasn’t duping Scott into performing against his instincts, the two were wagering on the outcome of chess matches. Both the director and his star were expert chess players, and would settle arguments about creative differences with on-set competitions. (Kubrick often won.)
9. PRESIDENT MERKIN MUFFLEY ORIGINALLY HAD A COLD.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, some performances were a bit toounruly for Kubrick’s tastes. In developing his part as U.S. President Merkin Muffley, a wimpy and diplomatic foil to Buck Turgidson’s vociferous “man’s man,” Sellers and Southern experimented with giving the character a bad cold. Sellers’s imitation of comically agonizing cold symptoms consistently cracked up the rest of the cast and became too much of a distraction from the film’s forward momentum.
10. KUBRICK WAS SURPRISED THAT VERY FEW PEOPLE CAUGHT ON TO THE FILM’S MANY SEXUAL INNUENDOS.
It wasn’t until around two months after the release of Dr. Strangelove that Kubrick heard anyone mention the movie’s vast array of visual and verbal sexual euphemisms. The first person to contact him about the in-movie prevalence of double entendre was Cornell University art history professor LeGrace G. Benson; Kubrick replied two weeks later with a letter of gratitude.
11. DR. STRANGELOVE WAS BASED ON FOUR (NOT FIVE) FAMOUS GERMAN SCIENTISTS AND POLITICAL FIGURES.
The movie’s wheelchair-bound namesake, an ingenious but maniacal former Nazi scientist, drew from a collection of real-life influences. The character was modeled chiefly after rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun, with traces of RAND Corporation military strategist Herman Kahn, Manhattan Project kingpin John von Neumann, and hydrogen bomb designer Edward Teller. Some later critics have claimed that Henry Kissinger also helped inspire the character. However, Sellers always denied this speculation, and as Slate notes, Kissinger was still a fairly obscure Harvard professor in 1964.
12. GENERAL RIPPER’S FLUORIDATION CONSPIRACY THEORY CAME FROM A REAL-LIFE RADICAL GROUP.
General Jack Ripper’s conspiracy theory about water fluoridation, which prompts him to instigate global warfare, wasn’t Kubrick’s creation. Founded in 1958, the John Birch Society promoted an anti-fluoridation agenda throughout small-town America. In several areas of the country, water fluoridation was banned, and advocates of the practice were threatened with arrest and incarceration.
13. ONE LINE OF DIALOGUE WAS CHANGED BECAUSE OF JFK’S ASSASSINATION.
Dr. Strangelove held its first test screening on November 22, 1963, the same day that John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. Recognizing that the tone of the dark, politically charged satire might seem too abrasive for American audiences in light of the tragedy, Columbia Pictures delayed the film’s release from December 1963 to January 1964.
On top of this, Strangelove employed sensitivity by tinkering with a line spoken early on in the film by Major Kong. While rifling through a pack of military supplies that included chewing gum, lipstick, nylon stocking, and prophylactics, Kong (originally) remarked, “A fella could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all this stuff.” A sloppy lip-dub replaced the word “Dallas” with “Vegas” as not to allude callously to the site of Kennedy’s murder.
14. KUBRICK OPENED A LAWSUIT AGAINST A RIVAL FILM DURING PRODUCTION.
Four years after Peter George penned Red Alert, Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler came out with similarly themed but more commercially successful novel Fail Safe. Shortly after the second novel’s publication, the film was optioned for adaptation. Curiously enough, the studio in question was Columbia Pictures, the very company that was producing Dr. Strangelove at the time.
While George was engaging in his own legal battle with authors Burdick and Wheeler for alleged plagiarism of his 1958 story, Kubrick threatened the Fail Safe adaptation, directed by Sidney Lumet, with similar legal action. In truth, Kubrick only wanted to push the rival’s release back far enough that it wouldn’t interfere with the performance of his own picture. Fail Safe was ultimately released in October of 1964, nine months after Dr. Strangelove.
15. THE MOVIE WAS SUPPOSED TO END WITH A PIE FIGHT.
Perhaps the most legendary deleted scene in the history of cinema, Dr. Strangelove’s original ending involved the entire war room staff engaging in a madcap pie fight. The segment in question begins with Soviet Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky, disgruntled over his mistreatment at the hands of General Turgidson, hurling a custard pie at the American officer, but missing and hitting President Muffley instead.
What comes next is a rally cry by Buck (“Gentlemen, our beloved president has been infamously struck down by a pie in the prime of his life! Are we going to let that happen? Massive retaliation!”), followed by fast-motion warfare that is ultimately halted by the yells of an infuriated Dr. Strangelove.
Conflicting rumors attribute the scrapping of the scene to the Kennedy assassination (with Turgidson’s “our beloved president” line coming off as inappropriate in the context of JFK’s death) and Kubrick’s feeling that the scene simply didn’t work creatively. The idea was scrapped following the November 22 test screening and has been shown publicly only once: at a screening of the film at London’s National Film Theatre in 1999, immediately following Kubrick’s death.
16. SELLERS’S COMEDY PARTNER ALLEGEDLY SUGGESTED THE SOMBER ENDING.
Prior to his work on Lolita or Dr. Strangelove, Sellers was known best as one third of a British radio comedy group that led The Goon Show. Rumor has it that Sellers’s fellow Goon, Spike Milligan, paid an impromptu visit to the Strangelove set one day during production to spend time with his friend. It was during Milligan’s pop-in that he apparently suggested to Kubrick the idea of juxtaposing footage of nuclear explosions with the bittersweet melodies of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again.”
17. DR. STRANGELOVE INSPIRED ACTUAL CHANGES IN INTERNATIONAL POLICY.
While certain critics, politicians, and military personnel alike dismissed Dr. Strangelove as farce and fallacy, the terrifying plausibility of the events at play in the movie struck a nerve with Washington D.C. Government agencies including the Pentagon’s Scientific Advisory Committee for Ballistic Missiles examined the film and Peter George’s Red Alert as a means to qualify the likelihood and prevent a Strangelove-like scenario in the real world. As early as the mid-1960s, procedure was shifted so that no one government individual would have access to the complete code needed to unlock a nuclear weapon.
By the 1970s, the Air Force began employing coded switches that would disallow the unauthorized instigation of nuclear arms, as represented by the actions of General Ripper in the film.
President Merkin Muffley
- Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!
- Note: ranked #64 in the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema.
[on the phone with the Russian Premier] Hello? Uh, hello? Hello, Dmitri? Listen, I can’t hear too well, do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little? A-ha, that’s much better. Yeah, yes. Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri. Clear and plain and coming through fine. I’m coming through fine too, eh? Good, then. Well then, as you say, we’re both coming through fine. Good. Well, it’s good that you’re fine, and – and I’m fine. I agree with you. It’s great to be fine. [Laughs] Now then, Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the bomb. The BOMB, Dmitri. The hydrogen bomb. Well now, what happened is, uh, one of our base commanders, he had a sort of – Well, he went a little funny in the head. You know. Just a little funny. And uh, he went and did a silly thing.
Well, I’ll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes…to attack your country.
Well, let me finish, Dmitri. Let me finish, Dmitri. Well, listen, how do you think I feel about it? Can you imagine how I feel about it, Dmitri? Why do you think I’m calling you? Just to say hello?
Of course I like to speak to you! Of course I like to say hello! Not now, but any time, Dmitri. I’m just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened.
It’s a friendly call. Of course, it’s a friendly call. Listen, if it wasn’t friendly, you probably wouldn’t have even got it. They will not reach their targets for at least another hour. I am, I am positive, Dmitri. Listen, I’ve been all over this with your Ambassador. It is not a trick. Well, I’ll tell you. We’d like to give your Air Staff a complete rundown on the targets, the flight plans, and the defensive systems of the planes.
Yes, I mean, if-if we’re unable to recall the planes, then, I’d say that, uh, well, uh, we’re just gonna have to help you destroy them, Dmitri. I know they’re our boys. All right, well listen, now, who should we call? Who should we call, Dmitri? The what, the People, you, sorry, you faded away there. The People’s Central Air Defense Headquarters. Where is that, Dmitri? In Omsk. Right. Yes. Oh, you’ll call them first, will you? Uh, huh. Listen, do you happen to have the phone number on you, Dmitri? What? I see. Just ask for Omsk information.
I’m sorry too, Dmitri. I’m very sorry. All right, you’re sorrier than I am. But I am sorry as well. I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri. Don’t say that you’re the more sorry than I am because I am capable of being just as sorry as you are. So we’re both sorry, all right? All right.
- The whole point of the doomsday machine…is lost if you keep it a secret!
- Sir! I have a plan… [stands from his wheelchair] Mein Führer, I can WALK!
Base Commander Jack D. Ripper
- Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war? … He said “War is too important to be left to the generals.” When he said that, fifty years ago, he may have been right. But today war is too important to be left to the politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communistinfiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
- Do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk, ice cream? Ice cream, Mandrake? Children’s ice cream!…You know when fluoridation began?…1946. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It’s incredibly obvious, isn’t it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice. That’s the way your hard-core Commie works. I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love… Yes, a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I — I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence. I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women, er, women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake…but I do deny them my essence.
- Mandrake, come over here, the Redcoats are coming!
Major T. J. “King” Kong
- Well, boys, I reckon this is it — nuclear combat toe to toe with the Roosskies. Now look, boys, I ain’t much of a hand at makin’ speeches, but I got a pretty fair idea that something doggone important is goin’ on back there. And I got a fair idea the kinda personal emotions that some of you fellas may be thinkin’. Heck, I reckon you wouldn’t even be human bein’s if you didn’t have some pretty strong personal feelin’s about nuclear combat. I want you to remember one thing, the folks back home is a-countin’ on you and by golly, we ain’t about to let ’em down. I tell you something else, if this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I’d say that you’re all in line for some important promotions and personal citations when this thing’s over with. That goes for ever’ last one of you regardless of your race, color or your creed. Now let’s get this thing on the hump — we got some flyin’ to do.
- Survival kit contents check. In them you’ll find: one forty-five caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days’ concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella’ could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.
- I been to one world’s fair, a picnic, and a rodeo and that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard! (re Wing attack plan R)
- Turgidson: General Ripper called Strategic Air Command Headquarters shortly after he issued the go code. I have a phone transcript of that conversation if you’d like me to read it.
- Muffley: Read it!
- Turgidson: Ahem… The Duty Officer asked General Ripper to confirm the fact that he hadissued the go code, and he said, uh, “Yes gentlemen, they are on their way in, and nobody can bring them back. For the sake of our country, and our way of life, I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them. Otherwise, we will be totally destroyed by Red retaliation.” Uh… “My boys will give you the best kind of start, 1400 megatons worth, and you sure as hell won’t stop them now.” Uhuh. Uh… “So let’s get going, there’s no other choice. God willing, we will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural… fluids. God bless you all.” And he hung up.
- [Pause as he realizes the implications of General Ripper’s words]
- Turgidson: Uh, we’re… still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase, sir.
- Muffley: There’s nothing to figure out, General Turgidson. This man is obviously a psychotic.
- Turgidson: We-he-ell, uh, I’d like to hold off judgment on a thing like that, sir, until all the facts are in.
- Muffley: General Turgidson! When you instituted the human reliability tests, you assured me there was no possibility of such a thing ever occurring!
- Turgidson: Well, I, uh, don’t think it’s quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.
- Muffley: General Turgidson, I find this very difficult to understand. I was under the impression that I was the only one in authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.
- Turgidson: That’s right sir. You are the only person authorized to do so. And although I hate to judge before all the facts are in, it’s beginning to look like General Ripper exceeded his authority.
- Turgidson: Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth, both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless distinguishable, post-war environments: one where you got 20 million people killed, and the other where you got 150 million people killed!
- Muffley: You’re talking about mass murder, General, not war.
- Turgidson: Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops! Uh, depending on the breaks.
- Muffley: I will not go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler.
- Turgidson: Perhaps it might be better, Mr. President, if you were more concerned with the American people, than with your image in the history books.
- Russian Ambassador: When it is detonated, it will produce enough lethal radioactive fallout so that within ten months, the surface of the Earth will be as dead as the moon!
- Turgidson: Ah, come on DeSadeski, that’s ridiculous. Our studies show that even the worst fallout is down to a safe level after two weeks.
- Russian Ambassador: You’ve obviously never heard of cobalt thorium G!
- Turgidson: (pauses) Well, what about it?
- Russian Ambassador: Cobalt thorium G has a radioactive halflife of ninety three years. If you take, say, fifty H-bombs in the hundred megaton range and jacket them with cobalt thorium G, when they are exploded they will produce a doomsday shroud. A lethal cloud of radioactivity which will encircle the earth for ninety three years!
- Turgidson: Ah, what a load of commie bull. I mean, after all…!
- Muffley: I’m afraid I don’t understand something, Alexei. Is the Premier threatening to explode this if our planes carry out their attack?
- Russian Ambassador: No, sir! It is not a thing a sane man would do. The doomsday machine is designed to trigger itself automatically.
- Muffley: But surely you can disarm it somehow.
- Russian Ambassador: No, it is designed to explode if any attempt is ever made to untrigger it.
- Turgidson: It’s an obvious Commie trick, Mr. President. We are wasting valuable time! (stumbles) Look at the big board, they’re getting ready to clobber us!
- Muffley: But this is absolute madness, Ambassador. Why on earth would you build such a thing?
- Russian Ambassador: There were those of us who fought against this. But in the end, we could not keep up with the expense involved in the arms race, the space race, and the peace race. And at the same time, our people grumbled for more nylons and washing machines. Our Doomsday scheme cost us just a small fraction of what we’d been spending on defense in a single year. But the deciding factor was when we learned that your country was working along similar lines, and we were afraid of a Doomsday gap.
- Muffley: This is preposterous! I’ve never approved of anything like that!
- Russian Ambassador: Our source was the New York Times.
- Dr. Strangelove: I would not rule out the chance to preserve a nucleus of human specimens. It would be quite easy…heh, heh…at the bottom of ah…some of our deeper mineshafts. Radioactivity would never penetrate a mine some thousands of feet deep, and in a matter of weeks, sufficient improvements in dwelling space could easily be provided.
- Muffley: How long would you have to stay down there?
- Dr. Strangelove: Well let’s see now ah…cobalt thorium G….Radioactive halflife of uh,…I would think that uh… possibly uh… one hundred years.
- Muffley: You mean, people could actually stay down there for a hundred years?
- Dr. Strangelove: It would not be difficult, Mein Führer! Nuclear reactors could, heh…I’m sorry, Mr. President. Nuclear reactors could provide power almost indefinitely. Greenhouses could maintain plant life. Animals could be bred and slaughtered. A quick survey would have to be made of all the available mine sites in the country, but I would guess that dwelling space for several hundred thousands of our people could easily be provided.
- Muffley: Well, I, I would hate to have to decide…who stays up and…who goes down.
- Dr. Strangelove: Well, that would not be necessary, Mr. President. It could easily be accomplished with a computer. And a computer could be set and programmed to accept factors from youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross-section of necessary skills. Of course, it would be absolutely vital that our top government and military men be included to foster and impart the required principles of leadership and tradition. Naturally, they would breed prodigiously, eh? There would be much time, and little to do. Ha, ha. But ah, with the proper breeding techniques and a ratio of say, ten females to each male, I would guess that they could then work their way back to the present Gross National Product within say, twenty years.
- Muffley: But look here doctor, wouldn’t this nucleus of survivors be so grief-stricken and anguished that they’d, well, envy the dead and not want to go on living?
- Dr. Strangelove: No, sir…excuse me…When they go down into the mine, everyone would still be alive. There would be no shocking memories, and the prevailing emotion will be one of nostalgia for those left behind, combined with a spirit of bold curiosity for the adventure ahead! [involuntarily gives the Nazi salute and forces it down with his other hand]Ahhh!
- Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn’t that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?
- Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious…service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.
- Russian Ambassador: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.
- Peter Sellers – Group Captain Lionel Mandrake/President Merkin Muffley/Dr. Strangelove
- George C. Scott – Gen. ‘Buck’ Turgidson
- Sterling Hayden – Gen. Jack D. Ripper
- Keenan Wynn – Col. ‘Bat’ Guano
- Slim Pickens – Maj. T.J. ‘King’ Kong (a role originally performed by Peter Sellers, until he broke his leg on-set in a fall—Pickens was an emergency replacement)
- Peter Bull – Russian Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky
- James Earl Jones – Lt. Lothar Zogg