When people think about Stanley Kubrick and science fiction, they usually only think about ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘, and forget about the dark comedy, ‘Dr. Strangelove’. This is why we are featuring it on Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past.
Perhaps the reason people think the strange little black and white movie is science fiction is because it’s a period piece about an era that almost feels is totally in the past. But the truth is, in 1964, it was predicting one of the doomsday scenarios the world’s technology and politics would bring, and there is nothing more science fiction than that.
In general, I feel like ‘Dr. Strangelove’ is a movie people say they love, but haven’t seen it. They just go along with the conversation because they know the basic plot, and it’s a classic so of course they have to love it. If you’re one of those people, don’t worry. I was too for a bit. Fortunately, I was forced to sit down and watch it, and I hope you will do… because it is comedy and science fiction gold.
For those you really haven’t seen it, or have any idea, the plot is very simple. A rogue US general launches an attack on the Soviet Union, putting into effect mutually assured destruction as the other nation has a system that will unleash its nuclear bombs if any attacks happen on its soil. From there, government officials on both sides work together to stop the attack, knowing the world will be inhabitable for 93 years if it succeeds.
I know. Hilarious, right?
Okay, maybe not. The plot itself is terrifying, even in the era of post-Cold War. There are even fears now that Russia may have faulty systems that could accidentally launch nuclear bombs, which would lead to full-scale war.
Really, it’s the insanity of the characters involved showing just how silly the politics of war really is, and makes this movie a comic gem. From the title character himself, a poorly disguised Nazi with idle hands desperate to make Heil Hitler salutes, to the insane general that blames Russia for putting Flouride in the water and a pilot who rides the nuclear bomb down like a cowboy to Russia when the plane is unable to do it automatically, ‘Dr. Strangelove’ is a masquerade of the worst things humanity can offer to be in control of our nuclear codes. Plus, who doesn’t love Peter Sellers playing multiple parts? That’s right. No one.
Of course, the best part is that the US doesn’t even learn after the Earth is wiped out in a nuclear war. After planning on hiding in mine shafts, the government officials immediately start discussing the “mine shaft gap” with the Soviet Union, and make plans to make more.
So if you haven’t seen this classic, be sure to! If you have, you know you want to rewatch it. It never gets old.