Dr. Strangelove (1964)

“Dr. Strangelove” proposes that a film about the possibility of an accidental nuclear war can, in fact, be funny.

This dark cold war comedy presents Peter Sellers playing multiple characters. In this scene, his flat American accent and bald spot makeup portray the US President (some say Sellers modeled himself to look and sound like Adlai Stevenson — the man who ran unsuccessfully against Eisenhower twice). The President is in the “situation room” trying to calm down his Russian counterpart as a result of a little mishap that occurred in our country’s nuclear arsenal. George C. Scott appears on the other side of the table as one of the Joint Chiefs.

Does any of this sound familiar in terms of present-day headlines? Has anything really changed?

And lest this seem like a pure fantasy we need to be reminded of the 1983 incident of a real (and nearly disastrous) snafu on the Russian side. Stanislav Petrov, a 44-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, by virtue of trusting his gut rather than the technology at his disposal (which later was shown to have been faulty), arguably prevented the outbreak of nuclear war.

Footnote: An LA Times article details some of the little-known facts regarding last-minute changes made to Strangelove as of result of it being intended for release around the time of the assassination of President Kennedy.

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