Dr. Strangelove Reviews and Criticisms

Dr. Strangelove received world wide critical acclaim, but also criticism for its controversial topic. During the opening credits of the movie, in order to prevent any backlash from the United States Air Force, Kubrick included the following disclosure, “IT IS THE STATED POSITION OF THE U.S AIR FORCE THAT THEIR SAFEGUARDS WOULD PREVENT THE OCCURRENCE OF SUCH EVENTS AS ARE DEPICTED IN THIS FILM. FURTHERMORE IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT NONE OF THE CHARACTERS PORTRAYED IN THIS FILM ARE MEANT TO REPRESENT ANY REAL PERSONS LIVING OR DEAD.”[1] The Air Force insisted that the premise of the movie was false. “They said the commander of a strategic air command base could not on his own have ordered a squadron to initiate a war upon the Soviet Union, only the president or his surrogate could have relayed the attack code to such a commander. Air force officials also claimed that that Positive Control System was impossible to subvert; it was ‘fail-safe’”[2] In a letter published in the New York Times, Lewis Mumford called Dr. Strangelove “the first break in the catatonic cold war trance that has so long held our country in its rigid grip.”[3] Bosley Crowther, film critic for the New York Times, opposed the raving reviews set forth by his peers. He severely denounced the film’s satiric tone and deemed Dr. Strangelove the “most shattering sick joke I’ve ever come across.”[4] Mumford, a social critic, congratulated the film for delving into the topic matter and resented Crowther’s remarks: “what is sick is our supposedly moral, democratic which allowed this policy to be formulated and implemented without even the pretense of public debate.”[5] Homer Jack’s review of the film, ‘The Strange Love of Dr. Strangelove: A Movie Review”, he exclaimed, “Given the story and the cast, why all the enthusiasm, ask impatiently those who have not seen the film? The secret is in the treatment. A combination of melodrama, comedy, satire, and nihilism produce what has been wildly called ‘nightmare comedy.”[6]

[1] Boyer, Paul. Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half- Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1998.
[2] Whitfield, Stephen J. The Culture of the Cold War. 2nd ed., Baltimore: The JohnsHopkins University Press.

[3]Whitfield, 224.

[4] Henriksen, Margot A. Dr. Strangelove’s America: Society and Culture in the Atomic Age. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997.

[5]Henriksen, 329.

[6]Henriksen, 328.

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