The US Air Force asked the film to state that such a sequence of events could never happen. We know, of course, that in the Cold War there was no nuclear accident. Although we are only now coming to realise quite how close the world came. But Dr Strangelove is the ultimate black comedy detailing how human systems can suffer from human failings, and how, when nuclear weapons are at stake, the endgame is extinction. That surely is still relevant more than twenty years after the end of the Cold War.
PS: Before Louis Burton Lindley Jr became an actor, he was riding on the rodeo circuit. Someone told him that he should take up another line of work because all he would ever get in the rodeo was ‘Slim Pickin’s’. When he showed up on the set of Dr Strangelove dressed as a cowboy and speaking in a thick Southern accent, the British crew thought he was Method acting, not knowing that it was how he always dressed and acted. His brother was the actor Easy Pickens (aka Samuel T. Lindley).
The film now introduces the most bizarre and absurd character of all. Partly based on Edward Teller, the man behind the hydrogen bomb, and partly on Werner von Braun, Hitler’s rocket scientist who had gone to the States to lead the American race to the moon, but mostly the invention of Kubrick and Terry Southern, Dr Strangelove is played with mad intensity by Sellers.
The US Air Force provided no assistance to the film of any sort and so Kubrick and Adam had to invent what the interior of a B-52 cockpit looked like by using technical manuals. They managed this with such accuracy that bomber crews later thought they had somehow infiltrated an American B-52 base. It is this combination of total realism and grotesque humour that gives Dr Strangelove much of its haunting appeal.