The Great Movies, Episode 2: Dr. Strangelove (1964)


The second installment of our library series The Great Movies screened last night with Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964). We had another great turnout for this Cold War comedy classic.


My co-worker Julia started us off with an introduction covering the 1947 “Doomsday Clock,” the Cold War itself, and more. Interestingly, last week (on January 26, to be exact), the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in Chicago decided to move the Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight (the time designated for complete disaster). Julia said, “That’s the closest it’s been to catastrophe since the testing of the H-bomb in the 1950s.”

Julia also mentioned that Kubrick wrote in his production notes, “We are pacified…by full stomachs, TV and comfortable homes, but we have become ‘walking dead.’ We’ve given up as individuals. We deny the threat and subconsciously experience our anxieties elsewhere.” Wow. I’d say Dr. Strangelove still has a little something to say to us today, perhaps…

I had forgotten just how wonderfully hilarious the film is, having seen it only once before when I was in college. It reminds me just how enormously talented Peter Sellers was, and how good George C. Scott was at comedy (even though Kubrick assured Scott that his over-the-top bits were just rehearsals for him to get into character). It also reminds me that Sterling Hayden remains one of my all-time favorite actors.

After the film, Julia asked how many people had seen it during its initial release in 1964 and two men raised their hands. We would’ve loved to hear more from those guys about how they felt about the film then and now. Julia also pointed out several other aspects of the film and its production, including some info and pictures from an unused alternate ending.

As with our first showing last month, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling of community that comes from showing these films to a large audience. It’s the laughter, yes, the sharing of our hopes, fears and ridiculousness, and also the sense that we’re not alone. For at least a couple of hours, we’ve shared something and we might just come back together next time and share again.

Many thanks to all who came out last night and a huge thanks to Julia for a great introduction to the film and a wonderful discussion afterwards.

We hope to see you at the next film, which will be Double Indemnity (1944) on Thursday, March 3 at 6:30pm at the Severna Park Library.


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