Fifty years ago today, on January 29th, 1964, Stanley Kubrick’s film Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned t to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was released.
In light of the Cold War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kubrick (like millions of others) was deeply concerned at the thought of a possible nuclear war between America and Russia. He decided to make a movie about it, and read numerous books on the subject. At first, he considered making a straightforward thriller about a possible nuclear accident. As this rough idea evolved, Kubrick bought the rights for Peter George’s Red Alert (aka Two Hours to Doom) and began working on a screenplay.
As he researched the subject further, Kubrick began to see the total absurdity of an all out nuclear war, and opted to make “a nightmare comedy.” An original draft opened with extra-terrestrials viewing Earth after a nuclear holocaust. It was to be called The Delicate Balance of Terror. Kubrick then decided the film required a level of “inspired lunacy” within a realistic framework. He therefore brought in “Existentialist hipster” and controversial author of Candy, Terry Southern.
As the late film critic Alexander Walker described it, the result was:
“...the most perfectly written comedic screenplay of post-war cinema.”