What Kubrick began with “Lolita” (1962)—disrupting the conventions of film noir—he accomplished completely with “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). The film maintained the tone of noir but emerged as wholly original, its ideas at once farcical, semantic, factual, surreal, and nuclear-powered.
The building of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban missle crisis intensified Kubrick’s interest in the bomb. He began adapting the book “Red Alert” by Peter George: “As I tried to build the detail for a scene, I found myself tossing away what seemed to me to be very truthful insights because I was afraid the audience would laugh. After a few weekes of this, I realized that these incongruous bits of reality were closer to the truth than anything else I was able to imagine. And it was at this point I decided to treat the story as a nightmare comedy.”
The acclaimed writer Terry Southern collaborated with Kubrick on the screenplay. Peter Sellers memorably plays three of the film’s characters, presenting the schizophrenic politics of the human race. The film takes place in a real time, as if to imply that the world could be destroyed in its ninety-minute duration.
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