Produced at the height of the Cold War, Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove tells the story of how one man's insanity triggers an all-out nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Yet, despite such grim subject matter, Dr. Strangelove is unmistakably a comedy, and features a number of prodigiously funny moments.
George C. Scott is Gen. Buck Turgeson, an intensely patriotic advisor to the President who, at one point, suggests that the United States fully commit to a war with the Russians, justifying it by way of a study that claimed the U.S would suffer only “modest and acceptable civilian casualties” in such a war…a mere 10-20 million dead, tops. When this ‘acceptable’ number of the General’s horrifies the President and his staff, Turgeson curtly replies, “Look, I’m not saying we won’t get our hair mussed a bit”.
Scott, arrogant as all hell, is hilarious in this scene, but its Peter Sellers who delivers Dr. Strangelove's funniest, and most oft-quoted, line. Scott's Gen. Turgeson has just caught Russian Ambassador de Sadesky (played by Peter Bull) with a spy camera, and as the two of them are wrestling around on the floor, Peter Sellers, as President Merkin Muffley, walks over and chastises them, saying “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here…this is the war room!”
Still, not everything in Dr. Strangelove is a laughing matter. To coincide with the jokes on the ground, director Stanley Kubrick also brings us on-board a bomber piloted by Maj. T.J. ‘King’ Kong (Slim Pickens). In order to ensure that the scenes on the bomber rang true, Kubrick never informed Pickens or the other actors (including a young James Earl Jones) that Dr. Strangelove was going to be a comedy. As a result, the tension aboard that aircraft remains genuine, and their bombing run, which, if successful, will bring about the end of the world, is filled with excitement and peril.
Well, nuclear devastation can’t be all fun and games, can it?
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