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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Dr. Strangelove: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Time to remember some of the classics

Major T.J. "King" Kong
...Heck, I reckon you wouldn't even be human bein's if you didn't have some pretty strong personal feelin's about nuclear combat...

...In them you'll find one .45-caliber automatic, two boxes ammunition, four days' concentrated emergency rations, one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizing pills, one miniature Russian phrase book and Bible, one hundred dollars in rubles, one hundred dollars in gold, five packs of chewing gum, one issue prophylactics, three tubes lipstick, three pair of nylon stockings ... Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas* with all that stuff.

[describing the contents of the emergency survival kit to his men]. [Pickens actually said "... have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff" but his line was looped in post-production because of sensitivity about the Kennedy assassination that had just occurred in Dallas.]
*Should be "Paris", don't you think? That's the only edit I'd make in the whole movie, especially since it's the only dub. This dub, editing, not knighting.

General "Buck" Turgidson

Pres. Muffley: General Turgidson, I find this very difficult to understand. I was under the impression that I was the only one in authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.

Gen Turgidson: That's right sir. You are the only person authorized to do so. And although I hate to judge before all the facts are in, it's beginning to look like General Ripper exceeded his authority.

...Well I don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip up sir.

The script

Context in this case, an exchange in the War Room between President Muffley, Ambassador DeSadeski, and General Turgidson shows how much study and work Kubrick put in Cold War strategy, and finding the humor in it of course. Notice the U.S. President allowing Soviet Ambassador DeSadeski in to the War Room as a confidence building measure - very useful in avoiding nuclear war - but too late. The strategies are exaggerations but not too different from what went on early in the Cold War. Don't let national identity get in the way of the application to any nuclear standoff. .
[U.S. President] Muffley:

I'm afraid I don't understand something, Alexiy. Is the Premier threatening to explode this if our planes carry out their attack?

[Soviet Ambassador] DeSadeski:

No sir. It is not a thing a sane man would do. The doomsday machine is designed to to trigger itself automatically.


But surely you can disarm it somehow.


No. It is designed to explode if any attempt is ever made to untrigger it.



[General] Turgidson:

Ahh.. it's an obvious commie trick, Mr. President.

[walks backwards towards the big board]

We're wasting valuable time.

[falls over backwards and does a somersault, and brings himself back onto his feet]

Look at the big board! They're getting ready to clobber us!


But this is absolute madness, ambassador. Why should you build such a thing?


There are those of us who fought against it, but in the end we could not keep up with the expense involved in the arms race, the space race, and the peace race. And at the same time our people grumbled for more nylons and washing machines. Our doomsday scheme cost us just a small fraction of what we'd been spending on defense in a single year. But the deciding factor was when we learned that your country was working along similar lines, and we were afraid of a doomsday gap.


This is preposterous. I've never approved of anything like that.


Our source was the New York Times.


Dr. Strangelove, do we have anything like that in the works?

[Stains and Turgidson, who have been listening to Muffley and DeSadeski Stains' station at the round table, slowly turn their heads in search of Strangelove.]


[in wheelchair]

A moment please, Mr. President.

[stomps one foot on the tile floor, pushes back from the table and begins wheeling towards the discussion between Muffley and DeSadeski.]

Under the authority granted me as director of weapons research and development, I commissioned last year a study of this project by the Bland corporation. Based on the findings of the report, my conclusion was that this idea was not a practical deterrent, for reasons which, at this moment, must be all too obvious.


Then you mean it is possible for them to have built such a thing?


[carefully plucks cigarette from his shaking right hand, which is in a black glove]

Mr. President, the technology required is easily within the means of even the smallest nuclear power. It requires only the will to do so.


But, how is it possible for this thing to be triggered automatically, and at the same time impossible to untrigger?


Mr. President, it is not only possible, it is essential. That is the whole idea of this machine, you know. Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the fear to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision making process which rules out human meddling, the doomsday machine is terrifying. It's simple to understand. And completely credible, and convincing.


Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines, Stainsy.


But this is fantastic, Strangelove. How can it be triggered automatically?


Well, it's remarkably simple to do that. When you merely wish to bury bombs, there is no limit to the size. After that they are connected to a gigantic complex of computers. Now then, a specific and clearly defined set of circumstances, under which the bombs are to be exploded, is programmed into a tape memory bank.


Strangelove. What kind of a name is that? That ain't no kraut name, is it, Stainsy?


He changed it when he became a citizen. It used to be Merkwurkdigliebe.


Hmm. A kraut, by any other name, huh, Stainsy?


Yes, but the... whole point of the doomsday machine... is lost... if you keep it a secret! Why didn't you tell the world, eh?


It was to be announced at the Party Congress on Monday. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.

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