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One need only look at the full title of Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film--Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb--to realize that the film is a dark satire of Cold War politics and doomsday, and a rather grotesque one at that, especially with the final scene in which Slim Pickens as Major T.J. "King" Kong sits astride a bomb ejected from a B-52, yelling "Yahoo!" waving his stetson as though he has just come out of the starting gate on the back of a bucking bronco at the rodeo. So, in some ways this film is not unlike Joseph Heller's black comedy, Catch-22, with military, officers who became corrupt or aviators and foot-soldiers who were subjected to either an inept or inattentive bureaucracy during World War II.
In Dr. Stangelove, set at the time of the threat from the Soviet Union in the 1960s, technology has become so complicated that it has gone beyond human control. The military, lost in their bureaucratic world are consumed with erotic thoughts and are detached from the reality of a possible nuclear attack as there has been a stand-off for some time. The officers are consumed in their personal pursuits and inattentive to more serious matters--General Buck Turgidson except for General Jack D. Ripper, a psychotic and paranoid man who believes that the Russians are conspiring to fluoridate the water in the U.S. and destroy his "precious bodily fluids." Ripper believes that "war is too important for the politicians" and has sealed off his department and has a large force of bombers that he keeps in the air twenty-four hours a day in order to guard against a nuclear attack. Now, he is so crazed that he has given the order for these planes to attack Russia, and he has destroyed all means of communication; finally, he shoots himself in order to keep from telling anyone the recall code prefix.
When Major T. J. "King" Kong receives the order from General Ripper, he gives his men a patriotic speech, a parody of the chauvinism of patriotism that speaks of not letting anyone at home down, etc. During his speech the song When Johnny Comes Marching Home plays in the background.
In the War Room, the president and his staff along with high-ranking military officers seek a solution. Without the code to call back the jets, they are on a collision course with the Russian defenses. Only Gen. Ripper knows the prefix code to call the planes and he has destroyed communication with the outside word and has himself barricaded in. General Turgidson, a character based upon Curtis LeMay, the extreme anti-Communist head of Strategic Air Command in the 1960s, explains to the President, who resembles Adlai Stevenson, a liberal who had run against Eisenhower, that without the code from Ripper to turn back the bombers, Russian will be attacked, but they can avoid annihilating everyone. They have two choices, he says,
One, where you got 20 million people killed, and the other where you got 150 million people killed.
Clearly, with respect to patriotism and warfare, the military men such as Major Kong and General Ripper deliver patriotic speeches about the men "doing their best" and for Kong, the men will not "let the good people at home down"; however, their true feelings are either violent or coldly calculating to their advantage with little concern for the masses. Ripper is mainly concerned about himself and "preserving his precious bodily fluids."
Dr. Strangelove is a mad scientist and former Nazi who still harbors dreams of a super-race who can emerge after the nuclear blast, 93 years later. He becomes so excited about the new world that he believes he can walk on his own.
With respect to humanity in general, technology has superseded their lives and is itself beyond human control. The President is weak and indecisive, the military cold and disengaged from the majority of the population..
in his black comedy, Stanley Kubrick satirizes ideological thinking represented by the deranged Dr. Strangelove, the expediency of many represented by General Turgidson, and he is especially outraged against the "malevolence of officialdom" as one reviewer describes it. Most of all, Kubrick is skeptical of the pretenses and underhandedness of humanity. His dark and satiric film that has characters based upon many contemporary figures in American politics and the armed forces is often described as a work "of comic anarchy."
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