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From Odd John to Strange Love 
Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Bomb

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Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Director: Stanley Kubrick; written by Peter George, Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern
Columbia Pictures (1964) 

General “Buck” Turgidson: Hmm . . . Strangelove? What kind of a name is that? That ain’t no Kraut name is it, Stainesey?

Mr. Staines: He changed it when he became a citizen. Used to be ‘Merkwürdigliebe.’

General “Buck” Turgidson: Well, a Kraut by any other name, uh Stainesey?

The German word “Gemeinschaft” means “A spontaneously arising organic social relationship characterized by strong reciprocal bonds of sentiment and kinship within a common tradition.” In this context the discussion of the post-apocalypse society living in mine shafts at the end of the film presents an interesting double-entendre. Dr. Strangelove’s remarks about the participants in the new society spontaneously accepting new social norms and having “bold curiosity for the adventure ahead” is especially germane. Also, General Turgidson’s admonition to “not allow a mine shaft gap” at the end is a particularly vivid pun.[1]

Toward the end of my reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s queer utopia, Odd John, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb put in a brief appearance.[2] I think a closer look at how the movie appears in the light of our reflections would be interesting.

I would suggest that despite its status as a classic “black comedy,” and whatever the intentions of its creators to reveal the modern world as a dystopia, the film can be seen as presenting a series of increasingly perfected — though somewhat claustrophobic — utopian Männerbunde.[3]

Each is a group of men (with one small exception to the rule[3]), cut off from the rest of the world, operating by its own rules. As we’ll see, the B-52 is a closed tube in the upper atmosphere, with oxygen masks for emergencies; we only see it open up when Maj. Kong forces open the bomb bay doors to his doom. Burbleson Air Force Base is, cinematically, nothing but Gen. Ripper’s office — even his en suite bathroom is unseen — with some second unit cut-aways to show the storming attack. Then there’s Gen. Turgidson’s motel room, followed by The War Room, which is obviously sealed off and perhaps underground; Turgidson freaks when the Russian Ambassador enters (“He’ll see the Big Board!”); then Strangelove’s mine shaft vision.

Each unit includes one outsider, like “Fido” at John’s colony: RAF Captain Mandrake, Turgidson’s female “assistant,” James Earl Jones as the anachronistic black pilot,[5] and the Russian Ambassador whose appearance in the War Room freaks out Turgidson.

Additionally, each utopian segment ends with a symbolic ejaculation, a destructive opening to the outside: the iconic scene of Maj. Kong riding the bomb down, “Bat” Guano shoots the Coke machine and gets a spurt of soda in the face; Turgidson’s last words in the motel room are “Blast off!”; a climactic pie-fight was cut from the War Room scene, which now ends with the compulsively saluting Strangelove rising erect from his wheelchair; his utopian vision ends with the equally iconic montage of phallic mushroom clouds.

Each, in some sense, fails, but as we’ve seen with Odd John, this is just a genre convention of utopian writing; the final group will succeed beyond its own imagination. And each climaxes with a big smile.[6]

For once, TV Tropes has got it exactly wrong:

World Gone Mad: Every single group of people are various sorts of insane, incompetent, and/or incapable of focusing on the important subject at hand. Except for the bomber crew, who are all well-trained and manage to adapt to the various obstacles in their path. Too bad they’re the one group that desperately needs to fail.

1. Burpleson Air Force Base

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Colonel! Colonel, I must know what you think has been going on here! […]

Colonel “Bat” Guano: I think you’re some kind of deviated prevert. I think General Ripper found out about your preversion, and that you were organizing some kind of mutiny of preverts. Now MOVE!

Or in practice, the executive office of Base Commander Gen. Jack D. Ripper. Apart from a couple cutaways during the Army’s attempt to retake the base, and the business with the Coke machine and the telephone booth in the corridor, we are entirely with Gen. Ripper’s private realm. Although the rugby balls and Greek grammars have been replaced with bombs, rifles, and bullets

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Shoot it off! Shoot! With a gun! That’s what the bullets are for, you twit!

the atmos’ is more like a British public school. Gen. Ripper commands not men but “my boys.”

General “Buck” Turgidson: [reading Gen. Ripper’s last communication] “My boys will give you the best kind of start, 1,400 megatons worth, and you sure as hell won’t stop them now.”

There’s even intra-mural rivalry:

General Turgidson, with all due respect for your defense team my boys can brush them aside without too much trouble.

And while the base troops do eventually surrender – “My boys let me down” [7] – we’ll see that at least one plane in the Attack Wing will get through.

General “Buck” Turgidson: Mr. President, if I may speak freely, the Russkie talks big, but frankly, we think he’s short of know-how. I mean, you just can’t expect a bunch of ignorant peons to understand a machine like some of our boys. . . . if the pilot’s good, see, I mean, if he’s really…sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low [he spreads his arms like wings and laughs], you oughtta see it sometime, it’s a sight. A big plane like a ‘52. VRROOM! There’s jet exhaust, fryin’ chickens in the barnyard.

President Merkin Muffley: Yeah, but has he got a chance?

General “Buck” Turgidson: Has he got a chance? Hell, Ye…ye…

So Peter Sellers’ role as Group Captain Mandrake, ex-RAF pilot, is quite appropriate here. He’s a slightly slow on the uptake senior boy, getting some private tutoring from the Headmaster;[8] it’s a reversal of the Boy’s Own Mag world of Stalky & Co., where the playing fields of Eton have simply become the theatre of war.

Base Commander Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake, in the name of Her Majesty and the Continental Congress come here and feed me this belt, boy!

The lesson Ripper imparts is, of course, his famous “purity of essence” meme, the original “conspiracy theory.”[9] Along the way, though, he gives Mandrake a history lesson that will become important at the end:

General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war?

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: No, I don’t think I do, sir, no.

General Jack D. Ripper: He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

As Trevor Lynch has noted here on several occasions: in the modern world, only madmen are allowed to articulate the truth.[10]

Burpleson is ultimately taken back by the Army, and General Ripper, true to the public school ethos, “does the right thing, old chap” and commits suicide.[11] This is the darkest utopia (note the cinematography) but even so, it’s, as we’ve said before, only a genre convention, not an admission of defeat.[12] Indeed, we’ll see that Ripper’s vision — rule by the elite — will come to pass.

To lighten the mood, and provide the real ending, we have Mandrake’s monkeying around with the pay phone, and “Bat” Guano’s encounter with the Coke machine. It’s the audience that can be expected to smile when “Bat” fires his rifle and gets a Coke facial in return — “a Coke and a smile,” as the ad would say a few years later.[13] Meanwhile, the utopian, anti-economic scarcity note is again sounded as Mandrake doesn’t have enough money for the phone, and “Bat” sneers at the idea of “going into combat with loose change in my pocket.”

1a. The Motel Room

The Motel Room is an odd little scene, that does little but show us Gen. Turgidson being summoned to the War Room in the midst of a tryst with his “assistant.” It’s as much a closed environment as Ripper’s office — later we’ll see Ripper enter the bathroom to shoot himself, here Turgidson enters the scene from the bathroom. More connections: Premier Kissoff will be caught in a similar tryst during the War Room scene, and the General’s “assistant” will turn up in the Playboy centerfold viewed by a crew member onboard “The Leper Colony” (her ass covered with an issue of Foreign Affairs, nudge nudge) and presumably is the unwanted caller to Turgidson in the War Room,

General “Buck” Turgidson: I told you never to call me here, don’t you know where I am? . . . Well look, baby, I c-, I can’t talk to you now . . . my president needs me!

but otherwise it has little to do with the rest of the film. I suspect it’s here to establish Gen. Turgidson’s, and by extension the rest of the “boys’” hetero cred; otherwise we might be suspicious, since he contemns Kissoff for his tryst as a “degenerate” (another “prevert” for the “Leper Colony” no doubt) and other than shouting “Blast off!” he doesn’t seem to have much interest in Miss Foreign Affairs, prefering to answer the call of his President.

2. “The Leper Colony”

The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.

The B-52 and the War Room are the most famous segments. I say “the” B-52 since although Ripper clearly orders a “wing attack” and we see dozens of vectors on The Big Board,[14] but only one plane is ever shown. The B-52 is code-named “The Leper Colony,” which “designates the crew as incompetent, even degenerate,”[15] but also sounds Odd John’s themes of island utopias of physically deformed social outcasts that seem retarded but get lots of high-tech things done.

Major T. J. “King” Kong: Stay on the bomb run boys, I’m gonna get those bomb doors open if it harelips everyone on Bear Creek.[16]

As IMDB noted above, the crew is actually quite competent, even heroic and self-sacrificing; an ideal Männerbund. It’s impossible not to be rooting for them, and unlike IMDB, I think Counter-Currents readers, at least, will find their goal quite admirable. And what Aryan male wouldn’t want to go out riding an ICBM onto Laputa?[17]

The precise function of Plan R, and the CRM 114 coding device, which is not to be able to receive, recalls Odd John’s use of psychic techniques to confuse anyone — as here, both Soviets and Brits — nosing around the island. We can’t tell from the angle but he might be taking his iconic bomb ride on the one designated “Dear [Odd?] John.”

3. The War Room

The culminating utopia, in many senses, is of course the War Room. Several of the themes we’ve noted are tied together here. It’s a macho environment where women only intrude from the outside: first, Gen. Turgidson receives an unwanted call from (presumably) the woman — his secretary, not his wife — we saw him with earlier (in another closed environment — a motel room — where another unwanted call sends him to the War Room).

General “BuckTurgidson: I told you never to call me here, don’t you know where I am? . . . Well look, baby, I c-, I can’t talk to you now… my president needs me!

Then, to bring the Russian premier to the Hot Line requires the Ambassador to reveal his secret rendezvous:

Russian Ambassador: Our Premier is a man of the people, but he is also . . . a man, if you follow my meaning.

Gen. Turgidson erupts with outrage at the Premier being a “a degenerate atheist commie!” which is odd, since, apart from the hypocrisy, the Ambassador’s comment should be lessening the homoerotic implications of Turgidson’s spurning his girlfriend to serve his President’s needs.

Perhaps he is offended by the implication of Kissoff (note the name) actually consummating the act, since Turgidson never seems to:

General “Buck” Turgidson: I know how it is, baby. Tell you what you do: you just start your countdown, and old Bucky’ll be back here before you can say “Blast off!

Maj. Ripper earlier clarified the code of the Männerbund:

Base Commander Jack D. Ripper: 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.

Only in the “modern world” would this be construed as madness or, heavens, “repressed.”[18]

But don’t get them wrong; when needed, under the appropriate conditions, these boys can get the job done!

President Merkin Muffley: Is there really a chance for that plane to get through?

General “Buck” Turgidson: Mr. President, if I may speak freely, the Russkie talks big, but frankly, we think he’s short of know-how. I mean, you just can’t expect a bunch of ignorant peons to understand a machine like some of our boys. . . . if the pilot’s good, see, I mean, if he’s really. . . sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low [he spreads his arms like wings and laughs], you oughtta see it sometime, it’s a sight. A big plane like a ‘52. VRROOM! There’s jet exhaust, fryin’ chickens in the barnyard.

President Merkin Muffley: Yeah, but has he got a chance?

General “Buck” Turgidson: Has he got a chance? Hell, Ye . . . ye . . .

And a good thing, because they will be called on to perform heroic service. That’s because despite all the cheers and smiles all around, the recall efforts end in failure, and “The Leper Colony” gets through. But wait, this isn’t the end, really; there’s more! This leads us to the Final Utopia, Strangelove’s “post-war future.”

4. Strangelove’s “Astonishingly good idea”

As all the Gloomy Guses sit around waiting for the Doomsday Machine to blanket the Earth in a “radioactive shroud,” something remarkable takes place. Despite “acting as cartoonishly evil as possible,” Strangelove is suddenly revealed as the smartest, and sanest, man in the room.

[T]here’s a brief scene with the president demanding to know who would create a doomsday device; the camera lingers on Strangelove, calmly smoking in the shadow, the president off-screen. A few minutes later, Strangelove casually suggests the mine shaft survival plan, a new system of government, including who lives and who dies. For all intents and purposes, he takes over the US government right then and there, in front of its actual leaders, who are oblivious. Nobody said the Only Sane Man has to be a good person.

Just like Odd John,

He looks and speaks like a Looney Tunes character, but everything he says is coldly rational.

Strangelove’s dark glasses recall John’s “eyes like caves.”[19] Although his mechanical arm with a life of its own references both Rottwang and Robot/Maria from Metropolis (another curdled utopia); not only mad scientist but like Robot/Maria he seems to have two natures, embodied in the mechanical arm, not unlike Odd John’s ability to operate on two levels of consciousness, personal and communal.[20]

While we might imagine his arm was injured in an experimental accident, like Rottwang, or that he was crippled in the war, like Baron Evola, none of this is made explicit; Strangelove, like one of the freaks in John’s troupe, could have just been born that way. In any event, the prospect of nuclear annihilation — “brighter than a thousand suns” — literally erects him, just as Baron Evola asked to be wheeled to a window so that he could die like his Aryan ancestors, upright and facing the rising sun.

But is it the end; death and destruction? Before that climax, Strangelove has narrated his seemingly well-rehearsed utopian dream, which deserves to be quoted in full:

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.

It’s all there, the whole National Socialist utopia, complete with self-selected elite and selective breeding.

While Strangelove is conventionally seen as a “black comedy” in which the post-war doctrine of “mutual assured destruction” (MAD) is ruthlessly satirized, we can see, in the light of our earlier reflections on the utopian genre, that once Kubrick or his co-writers settled, likely unconsciously, on the multi-utopian structure, he was committed to the fact that the logic of utopia leads to an apparently – but only apparently – disastrous conclusion.

The final segment then, is not really a fiery Götterdämmerung, at least not for Strangelove and Co.[21] It is not Strangelove’s comeuppance, but his triumph.

We Will Meet Again: The memorable final montage plays the song of the same name over images of atomic explosions, implying the two superpowers are destined to trade blows ever after.[22]

A sappy WWII Brit tune; we’ve met the Nazis again; we [today] will all meet again — this time the “Allies” will wipe out each other, and the only German (“a Kraut by any other name”) in the room is the only one still standing.

We don’t know how much time passes from Strangelove’s exultant “Mein Fuhrer, I can walk”[23] and his initial baby steps,[24] to the Doomsday machine going off. Strangelove & Co. are presumably already protected in the War Room, and may have had time to put together some version of Strangelove’s mineshaft utopia.[25]

If so, Kubrick’s film has foreshadowed Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (which returns the favor by ending with a hapless soldier riding a V-2) which Dale Carter has analyzed[26] as presenting the posthumous triumph of the Third Reich in the form of the Kennedy-led space race:

In this book, Carter draws on Thomas Pynchon’s novel ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ to define the post-World War Two period as the ‘Rocket State’, a social form salvaging elements of the defeated Nazi ‘Oven State’ to create a totalitarian capitalist order. The rocket, based on Nazi military technology, is a central element of this as the launch vehicle for both nuclear weapons of mass destruction and the Apollo programme, highest point of the propagandist spectacle or, as Carter calls it ‘the Orpheus Theater’ where at the conclusion of Gravity’s Rainbow the spectators watch the screen as the rocket heads towards their destruction.[27]

Much as Strangelove & Co. must have watched the Big Board, we watch the final montage. Muffley himself recognizes the ominous parallels:

Muffley: I refuse to 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.

Each utopia has superficially failed, but each sets up the final one (the final solution?) which has succeeded, although the logic of the utopian genre requires, as we saw, that this one too apparently fail, spectacularly.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.[28]

Fail Safe?[29]

In a final, ironic — or rather, utopian — reversal, the bombs are dropped on the Allies, and after this new “holocaust” all the messy aspects of eugenics — exterminating the unfit — are left behind, leaving only the pleasurable eugenic tasks of Kraft durch Freude, with the males called upon to perform heroic services on specially selected females. Everyone is smiling in anticipation, and even Ambassador de Sadesky joins in:

Russian Ambassador: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.

See, if you squint at Dr. Strangelove through the utopian lens we’ve provided, where the apocalypse is just a genre convention, it’s clear that the Nazis come back, and this time they win![30] I like to think this would bring a smile to Savitri Devi herself.[31]

Notes

1. An anonymous bit of “Trivia” at the Internet Movie Database, here.

2. “‘The Wild Boys Smile’: Reflections on Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John,” especially footnote 10 of Part Three, here.

3. Each of the main three would have featured Peter Sellers, playing the “Only Sane Man” each time, “but a sprained ankle prevented him from getting into and out of the B-52 set, so Slim Pickens was added to the cast to play ‘King’ Kong.” TV Tropes, Acting For Three: Peter Sellers.

4. “Fanservice: Precisely one female character appears in this movie. General Turgidson’s mistress and secretary, heard in one scene and seen in a bikini in another. She is also a Playboy centrefold.” – TV Tropes

5. Like the “Tuskegee Airmen,” black pilots are a modern Liberal myth; see Paul Kersey’s Stuff Black People Don’t Like, passim, such as “Black History Month Heroes — Sky Marshal Tehat Meru of Starship Troopershere.

6. Kong’s “yippe-yi-ay” on the bomb, Turgidson’s “Blast off!” to his secretary, Strangelove’s iconic Risus sardonicus. Ripper’s suicide would not seem to fit; this is why, as noted, the segment has two endings. When “Bat” Guano takes the Coke stream to the face, the audience can be expected to laugh — it’s a “black comedy” after all — and this ties in with what Murphy said about the Wild Boys’ smiles — they invite the audience into participation.

7. “A Father to His Men: When the base falls Ripper feels let down and remarks that the soldiers were like his children. It rings as true as anything else he says. Mandrake manages to obliquely mock him.

Mandrake: I’m sure they all died thinking of you, every man jack of them . . . Jack.” – TV Tropes

On the contrary, I would suggest that “man jack” suggests the utopian union of Jack Ripper and his boys, symbolized by Mandrake, as does Mandrake’s fake nostalgia for earlier helping Ripper with the machine gun: “You said, ‘feed me’ and I fed you Jack . . .”

8. And we know where that’s going: “No Sense of Personal Space: As Ripper gets drunk, he starts getting uncomfortably close and hands-on toward Mandrake, suggesting a possible explanation for his sexual issues.”

9. At the time a well-known hobby horse of the Right, it’s surprising how it continues to be a kind of cargo cult on the Left. Concern about using early PR techniques “after the war” as Ripper correctly notes, to convince local governments to allow a poisonous industrial waste product into the water supply, seems tailor made for the Left, especially after all the Rachel Carson business and modern concerns with GMOs etc. Apparently, the “commie plot” angle led it to become a shibboleth, like the “innocence” of Hiss or authenticity of “folk” music, constantly invoked as a test of loyalty (oddly enough, the Right had the same idea about loyalty tests). Only Alexander Cockburn, Stalinist that he was, seemed to have the guts to challenge the Left. Indeed, good-thinking sites like HuffPo now attack anti-GMO activists as “creationists of the Left;” GMOs, fluoridation and even circumcision, if not climate change, seems to be one of those “scientific facts” only known to American Leftists, puzzling the rest of the world.

10. “Dangerously Genre Savvy: General Ripper may be demented but he knows his trade; he’s shown as an experienced and competent leader who invokes, anticipates and discusses very relevant tropes.” – TV Tropes.

11. Even a light-hearted romp by a Catholic author ends with Lord Peter himself recommending, successfully, suicide to the club bounder in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928).

12. The bathroom suicide recalls the one in Advise and Consent which we discussed here.

13. The comedy is so deliberate that “the actor’s head was too high when the stream began to spew toward him, and he can be seen lowering his face down into it to produce the full comedic effect.” – IMDB, “Goofs.”

14. “Bombers on the Screen: The primary purpose of The Big Board.” – TV Tropes.

16. No one since seems to understand WTF Kong is talking about, but I note the connection to the harelipped “Tooth Fairy” in Manhunter, which I referenced before in discussing the ugliness and deformity of Odd John’s horde.

17. “La puta” of course is “the whore,” in line with the obsessive sexual symbolism of the film, but also a reference to Swift’s airborne utopia of scientific cranks; as we’ll see next, taking out Laputa will make way for Strangelove’s very different, solidly based ge-mineshaft utopia.

18. See Andy Nowicki’s meditations on the demeaning subtext of the macho “Game” theorists; for example, “Trouble in Twilight” here.

19. “Cool Shades: Dr. Strangelove’s teashades.” – TV Tropes.

20. “Evil Hand: Dr. Strangelove has one, which seems to act on Strangelove’s violent and Nazi subconscious. The portrayal was so influential that the real life condition “alien hand syndrome” is also known as “Dr. Strangelove Syndrome”. – TV Tropes.

21. Cf. the iconic boys’ book, Kipling’s Stalky and Co.

22. TV Tropes, Dr. Strangelove.

23. Strangelove’s lapse into German links him to the equally deceptive failure at the end of Hesse’s Demian: “In the very last sentence of the novel Sinclair addresses Demian, his recently departed friend and mentor, as ‘mein Führer’.” Mark Harmon, review of Gunnar Decker’s Hesse: Der Wanderer und sein Schatten in the TLS (14 September, 2012); available here.

24. “Physicist Isidor Rabi noticed Oppenheimer’s disconcerting triumphalism: “I’ll never forget his walk; I’ll never forget the way he stepped out of the car . . . his walk was like High Noon . . . this kind of strut. He had done it.” — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Robert_Oppenheimer.

25. Itself an obviously phallic notion: satirizing the “missile gap” — a lie about the aged Eisenhower that helped put virile Kennedy in the White House; Turgidson demands that “Mr. President, we must prevent a mineshaft gap!”

26. Dale Carter, The Final Frontier: The Rise and Fall of the American Rocket State (New York: Verso 1988).

27. An outdated webpage at http://www.oocities.org/redgiantsite/moon.html which also includes an excerpt from Carter’s book.

28. Samuel Beckeyt, Worstward Ho (1983).

29. In a replay of the whole “Incredibly Strange Creatures” kerfuffle that we referenced before, “Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove were both produced by Columbia Pictures. . . . Director Stanley Kubrick, adapting Peter George’s novel Red Alert, insisted the studio release his movie first (in January 1964). “Fail-Safe” so closely resembled Red Alert that George filed a plagiarism lawsuit. The case was settled out of court.” —http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fail-Safe_%281964_film%29#Lawsuit.

30. Albeit an underground triumph, which does fit in with many “Nazi survival” mythologies.

31. Although she wouldn’t like that bit about “animals raised and slaughtered.”

 

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2 Comments

  1. Mark Thibodeau
    Posted March 17, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    The power of the use of Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again in this context is the fact that, for the first time in the history of warfare (or mankind), after all-out nuclear war, we most definitely will NOT be meeting again.

  2. Mike W.
    Posted December 23, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    I first saw this film when it came out back in mid 1964. It’s one you’ll never forget and definitely black comedy at its best or worst. However, that depends on your own perspective and personal philosophy of life. Fortunately it was balanced by the not so funny “FailSafe” which coincidentally came out in the same year and scared many theatre goers, including myself. Keep in mind that it was only two years before in October, 1962 when the US & USSR locked horns in what became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. For the last two weeks of that month, mutual assured destruction looked inevitable. Somehow, we who were living at that time survived and the Cold War returned to the status quo.
    Dr. Strangelove is a movie I’ve watched many times over and have never grown tired of it. Perhaps, it’s nostalgia or just down right humorous. Anyway you look at, it describes an era when you always knew in that back of your mind that today could be the last, in spite of the fallout shelter and our ICBMs. Funny thing is fifty years later and older, the same thought is still with me, just a little more pervasive.

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