Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove: Documentary Reveals How a Cold War Story Became a Kubrick Classic

Stan­ley Kubrick direct­ed Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Wor­ry­ing and Love the Bomb, but view­ers only famil­iar with his more overt­ly lav­ish films—The Shin­ing, A Clock­work Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey—might not real­ize it at first. (Unless, of course, they paid atten­tion to its dis­tinc­tive Pablo Fer­ro-designed open­ing cred­its.) Kubrick­’s fifth fea­ture, released in 1964 and set in that same era, did not require the direc­tor and his col­lab­o­ra­tors to build an entire space sta­tion, nor to write dia­logue in the spe­cial­ized slang of the hooli­gans of Lon­don’s apoc­a­lyp­tic future, nor to release crash­ing waves of blood from ele­va­tor doors. A few rough-and-ready fly­ing and shoot­ing sequences aside, the phys­i­cal pro­duc­tion of Dr. Strangelove required only the accou­trements of the Unit­ed States military—mostly real, some imag­ined.

Yet more than a few of Kubrick­’s fans now hold up Dr. Strangelove as the direc­tor’s most intri­cate work. By my own high­ly per­son­al mea­sure of the sheer fre­quen­cy with which I can watch the movie (I attend near­ly every the­atri­cal screen­ing, no mat­ter what), it cer­tain­ly ranks as his rich­est.

This owes in large part to Kubrick­’s sig­na­ture per­fec­tion­ism, which forged Dr. Strangelove as much as it did the films that fol­lowed. Watch Inside: Dr. Strangelove (part one, part two, part three, part four, part five), and you can learn just what went into film­ing this sto­ry of a crazed gen­er­al, a gung-ho bomber, a frus­trat­ed RAF cap­tain, a Ger­man nuclear sci­en­tist in mor­tal com­bat with his own right hand, and the loom­ing prospect of mutu­al­ly assured destruc­tion. Inter­views with cast mem­bers, crit­ics, edi­tors, pro­duc­ers and oth­ers asso­ci­at­ed with the pic­ture reveal how this Cold War worst-case-sce­nario devel­oped into some­thing so very… Kubrick­ian. And into a Kubrick­ian com­e­dy, at that.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Rare 1960s Audio: Stan­ley Kubrick’s Big Inter­view with The New York­er

Stan­ley Kubrick’s Very First Films: Three Short Doc­u­men­taries

Peter Sell­ers Gives a Quick Demon­stra­tion of British Accents

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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