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AFF Panel: Deconstructing ‘Dr. Strangelove’

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 25, 2013

Deconstructing ‘Dr. Strangelove’

Friday at 9 a.m. in the Driskill Hotel, Maximilian Room

Alvaro Rodriguez, Kirk Ellis

Panelists Rodriguez and Ellis, who know way too much about “Dr. Stranglove,” showed scenes from and discussed the film.


The part of the Major T. J. “King” Kong was offered to Dan Blocker (“Bonanza’s” Hoss) who turned it down.

The film was shot in late 1962 and was then completely re-edited after the John F. Kennedy assassination. The panelists also noted that it was less than a year later that LBJ’s infamous Daisy campagin commercial, which they called “very Kubrickian,” was aired.

Rodriguez and Ellis agreed that films have come more primitive since the days of “Strangelove,” due to modern studio invovlement. Whereas “Strangelove” was insular, showing decision-makers completely cut-off from the populace and reality, a modern studio, they said, would force filmmakers to show a normal family and how it was affected by the war as well. The movie, they said, took place in a “rarified space.”

They suggested that the closest thing we now have to the sensibility of the movie comes from the Coen brothers, in their cold visual style and careful craft.

The film was originally supposed to end with a massive pie fight in the war room. The scene was shot over two weeks, the actors ultimately covered head to toe and slipping around the room. The scene was cut, the panelists said, because it didn’t work, being the one overtly funny scene in the film. Kubrick wanted to get war, but ended up with the keystone cops.

Another interesting note is that, until Kubrick brough writer Terry Southern onto the film, one idea was to make it a “found footage” movie (think “The Blair Witch Project”) with aliens discovering it amongst the wreckage of the Earth’s destruction.

Like most films, the panelists noted, the tone of the movie was decided in the editing room.


“When people looked at the rushes for ‘Smokey and the Bandit,’ I’m sure they thought it was hilarious. ‘Dr. Strangelove’ is so funny because everybody played it so straight.”

“There’s a story that when Ronald Reagan was elected to the White House, he asked them to take him to the war room. He thought it was a real place because of the war room in ‘Strangelove.’ “

“If you take the sound away, this becaomes a very scary, noir-ish scene.”

“Nobody had attempted to do this kind of film since Preston Sturges.”

“We don’t have film-makers at this level today willing to push boundaries.”

“It’s easy for us to decry censorship, but the kinds of barriers (Kubrick and his contemporaries) faced made them very creative.”

” ‘Dr. Strangelove’ is a deeply serious film you can’t stop laughing at.”

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