Dr. Strangelove
1964
Dir: Stanley Kubrick
'Dr. Strangelove' brought together the talents of actor Peter Sellers and director Stanley Kubrick - along with George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden and Slim Pickens.

It brings to life the ultimate nightmare - a rogue US general sets off an unauthorised nuclear attack, and the President and all his staff and the entire armed forces must scramble to try to call back the bombers.

Roger Ebert said that it was 'arguably the best political satire of the century'.

It is perhaps important to imagine the climate in which the film was made.
The Cold War is now just part of history, but Strangelove was made only a year after the Cuban missile crisis, when the paranoia regarding the nuclear threat was very real.

Apparently, Kubrick had set out to make a serious drama, but whilst researching the subject, he found himself continually confronting the ludicrous and absurd, and realized that it would be almost impossible to make a serious drama without people laughing at it. So he embraced the absurdity, and made it as a black comedy.

Whilst his films often contain elements of humour, or at least irony, Kubrick takes the humour further than ever before.

George C. Scott apparently was not comfortable playing the humour so broad. So Kubrick filmed rehearsal takes where he encouraged Scott to overact. Scott was outraged when these 'rehearsals' were used in the final film, and swore never to work with Kubrick again.

Sellers plays three roles. He was originally cast in four roles, including the role that finally went to Slim Pickens. Apparently Sellers was never comfortable with the idea of adopting a Texas accent, and when he broke his ankle just before the shooting of these scenes, he was replaced.

It was actually the idea of Columbia Pictures executives that Sellers play multiple roles. He was paid $1m, 55% of the film's budget to do so. Kubrick was quoted saying 'I got three for the price of six.'

What is perhaps most interesting about Sellers' performances is that they cover three separate eras of Seller's life.

The portrayal of Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake apparently came easy to Sellers, who had served in the Air Force and perfected his impersonations of the officers.

The portrayal of Merkin Muffley is a much more restrained performance, a more subtle impression, perhaps closer to his performance in 'Being There'.

And the Fuhrer-loving scientist Dr. Strangelove seems like a character straight out of 'The Goon Show', the 50s BBC radio show.

He was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Rex Harrison.

Paul Spurrier