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YMMV / Dr. Strangelove

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  • 8.8: David Nusair and Philip K. Scheuer are the only Rotten Tomatoes critics who don't like the film.
  • Adaptation Displacement: The film is much better-known than Red Alert, the 1956 novel it's based on.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
  • Anvilicious: Atomic weapons and the policies surrounding their use, especially mutually assured destruction and the missile gap, are absurd and dangerous.
    • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Especially during the Cold War, when this was released.
  • Award Snub: The film received four Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (three nominations for Stanley Kubrick) and Best Actor (Peter Sellers). It failed to win any of these.
    • To put it into perspective, Dr. Strangelove is widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, the best film of 1964, Kubrick's greatest film after 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as having one of the greatest screenplays of all time.
    • The War Room is near universally considered to be one of the best, if not the best, film sets of all time. Yet Ken Adam failed to receive even an Oscar nomination for its set design.
    • George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden and Slim Pickens weren't nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
  • Awesome Music:
    • The epic variation on "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" that plays over the bomber scenes.
    • We' again...don't know where...don't know wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen...
  • Crazy Awesome: Ripper himself. Bonkers as he may be, one has to hand it to him how he delivers his bull in such a straight way. And then the man keeps a machine gun in his golf bag.
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  • Crosses the Line Twice: A very dark comedy with plenty of examples, but Turgidson's joyful, infantile attitude on the brink of annihilation is particularly funny. Also works on a meta level on the part of Kubrick, as he chose to take Refuge in Audacity when he realized that the whole nuclear fracas was too absurd to be taken seriously and changed the tone of the movie from drama to satire.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: The movie has a strong anti-war, anti-military message... but the scenes of Major Kong and his bomber crew are pure awesome. SAC crews (that is, people who fly bombers) were some of the biggest fans of the movie. The way you're sort-of rooting for Kong and his crew, even though the completion of their mission would mean the end of the world, is actually neatly summed up by the film itself by Turgidson in a mood-swinging scene.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Do we even need to talk about Dr. Strangelove?
  • Evil Is Cool: Jack D. Ripper is still a memorable character considering some of his theories about the Russians weren't too far off and he's Crazy-Prepared for just about any situation thrown at him. Plus there's also the fact the he keeps a gun his golf bag and that he's willing to shoot himself if it means keeping his plans secret.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: When discussing the contents of the survival kit, Major Kong's original line was "Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in [Dallas] with this." President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas 2 months before the film premiered, so the line was dubbed over to say "Vegas" in post-production. Then on the first of October in 2017, that became a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment when the US's deadliest-ever mass shooting by a single killer occurred in Las Vegas.
  • Genius Bonus: Mandrake's last name; a common folkloric belief is that mandrakes grow only in ground into which has soaked the semen that is sometimes forced from the bodies of men hanged to death. Mandrake's role plays off General Ripper, who is strongly implied to have been driven insane by misconceptions about sex, and who is ultimately, as is mentioned in a throw-away line, the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler — what's more, Mandrake "blooms" as a person, taking authority to try and stop the impending catastrophe, after he unintentionally goads Ripper into shooting himself.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The "Dead Hand" is the real-life counterpart of the doomsday machine, developed during the Cold War just a few years after the movie, with claims that it's still in operation as recent as November 2015. Sleep tight though, it's only semi-automatic. They allegedly drew up blueprints for an automatic one, looked at them, and figured "no."
    • The logic behind it is actually less insane than at first sight. The device is supposed to protect against hasty decisions and false-alarms. The idea is that it only gets switched on during moments of diplomatic crisis and heightened tension - which means the Soviet (and later Russian) leadership doesn't need to keep their finger on the trigger every second with tension building up, they can trust that even if they mistake a real first strike for a false alarm they will still have retaliatory capability.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The drunken Soviet premier now seems like a parody of Boris Yeltsin, whose presidency came almost thirty years after the film's release.
    • While the paranoid fantasies about fluoride poisoning our "precious bodily fluids" parodied actual Conspiracy Theories about water fluoridation (theories which persist to this day), General Ripper's combined anxiety about his masculine vitality became much more relevant satire in The New '10s after Alex Jones, a far-right conspiracy theorist and talk radio host who hawks (among other things) "super male vitality" pills in his online store, rose to prominence.
  • Ho Yay: Ripper gets a brief moment with Mandrake where he puts his arm around him, and speaks in a father-like manner to him.
  • It Was His Sled: The whole film is about everyone trying to prevent the US bombers from successfully dropping a bomb and triggering the doomsday machine. Major Kong riding the falling bomb is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Turgidson. In most of the movie, he acts like a bombastic buffoon, until his shock when he realize the world may end.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • General Turgidson listening to the phone conversation has become a common GIF on forums and message boards for people observing a flame war.
    • And of course the trope-making Riding the Bomb from the climax.
  • Misaimed Fandom: On YouTube there are quite a few people who take General Ripper's speeches at face value, especially concerning conspiracies around water fluoridation.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The entire movie will make you realize how terribly easy it would be for the leaders of the modern world to cause The End of the World as We Know It. And how it could all happen entirely by accident.
    • It gets worse if you study the history of the Cold War and see how close we came to war entirely by accident multiple times, particularly due to malfunctions in the early warning systems used by both sides (think the plot of WarGames, but with the humans still actually in direct control of the arsenal).
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Dr. Strangelove only shows up in two scenes.
    • Miss Scott, Buck Turgidson's secretary and mistress, who only appears in one scene in a bikini.
  • Protagonist Title Fallacy: Strangelove is on the U.S. side and doesn't betray them, but he's hardly heroic, and doesn't play a big role, only actually doing anything in about 2 scenes.
  • Retroactive Recognition: James Earl Jones makes his film debut as one of bomber crew.
  • Signature Scene: Major Kong riding the bomb.
  • Slow-Paced Beginning: The film is fairly pedestrian and slow-paced for the first fifteen-to-twenty minutes, with a couple of good lines, until the viewers get to The War Room and suddenly it becomes hilarious, and stays that way for the rest of the film.
  • Strawman Has a Point: General Turgidson, the trigger-happy military advisor, has one in broad, though a number of his individual lines are silly. As the film reveals, the Soviets really do have a doomsday bomb that can depopulate the entire world, which they may use at any time and by their own admission will not (and possibly even cannot) decommission under any circumstances, and the Soviet Premier sounds like an unstable fellow at best in what we hear of his talks with the President on the hot line. Under those conditions, a preemptive nuclear strike to take out as much of the Soviet nuclear infrastructure as possible before they can launch a doomsday attack makes a certain kind of grim sense, even if the consequences of even a partial nuclear war will still be horrifying. Basically, the dilemma is the same as in the real life Cold War, but with the important additions that 1) the Soviet leaders really are irresponsible madmen who cannot be trusted, and 2) their capacity for destruction is infinitely greater than in the real 1964 (when their nuclear arsenal would still have killed untold millions if used, but not destroyed all mankind). In this extreme situation, horrible as it sounds, many a strategist would agree that Turgidson is actually making a better argument than the President, who for his part is desperately trying to de-escalate the situation.
  • Values Resonance:
    • Like many Cold War films, especially ones with such nuclear heavy themes, it was hard for young audiences who grew up after the fall of the Soviet Union to appreciate it. After the Ukrainian crisis many will find this film just as relevant today as it was then, as the idea of "our politicians are aggressive idiots, but still have the power to end the world" will likely be a popular sentiment for years to come.
    • The film's themes of conflict driven by sexual frustration and paranoia have become more relevant than ever with the rise of "incel" culture and the mainstreaming of copious conspiracy theories.
  • Watch It for the Meme: Major Kong riding the bomb.
  • "Weird Al" Effect: The Dr. Strangelove character is a spoof of the German Mad Scientist Stock Character from '50s films, as well as Rotwang from Metropolis.


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