Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb is
a black comedy about nuclear war. Kubrick's original intention was to
make a straight thriller about a possible nuclear "accident," and, as is
his custmary method, he began researching the topic in earnest --
subscribing to Aviation Week and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
conferring with NATO officials, etc. According to Kubrick:
"I started our being completely unfamiliar with any of the professional
literature in the field of nuclear deterrence. I was at first very
impressed with how subtle some of the work was -- at least so it seemed
starting out with just a primitive concern for survival and a total lack
of any ideas of my own. Gradually I became aware of the almost wholly
paradoxical bature of deterrence orm as it has been described, the
Delicate Balance of Terror. If you are weak, you may invite a first
strike. If you are becoming too strong, you may provoke a pre-emptive
strike. If you try to maintain the delicate balance, it's almost
impossible to do so mainly because secrecy prevents you from knowing
what the other side is doing, and vice versa, ad infinitum..."

According to Alexander Walker, Kubrick asked Alistair Buchan, head of
the Institute for Strategic Studies, to recommend some worthwhile
fiction on the subject. Buchan recommended a novel titled Red Alert by
an RAF navigator named Peter George.

Red Alert (published in England as Two Hours to Doom, and also published
under the pen name "Peter Bryant") is easily recognizable as the
template for Strangelove. The book takes place in three separate,
isolated locations (the War Room, Sonor Air Force Base, and the B-52
bomber "Alabama Angel"), and it explains in detail how a nuclear war
could happen by accident. In the novel, General Quinten, who is dying of
a terminal disease, orders his planes to attack Russia; he also debates
his actions with his executive officer, Major Howard, rationally and
coolly. At the end of the novel, the one bomb that does get dropped on
Russia doesn't detonate fully, and the superpowers enact a rapid

As Kubrick began working on a script, his ideas began to change. The
following are culled from two separate quotes from Kubrick (Walker,
p.34, and Nelson, p.81), but I believe I've assembled them in a fair and
accurate manner:

"As I tried to build the detail for a scene I found myself tossing away
what seemed to me to be very truthful insights because I was afraid the
audience would laugh. After a few weeks of this I realized that these
incongruous bits of reality were closer to the truth than anything else
I was able to imagine. After all, what could be more absurd than the
very idea of two mega-powers willing to wipe out all human life because
of an accident, spiced up by political differeces that will seem as
meaningless to people a hundred years from now as the theological
conflicts of the Middle Ages appear to us today?

"And it was at this point I decided to treat the story as a nightmare
comedy. Following this approach, I found it never interfered with
presenting well-reasoned arguments. In culling the incongruous, it
seemed to me to be less stylized and more realistic than any so-called
serious, realistic treatment, which in fact is more stylized than life
itself by its careful exclusion of the banal, the absurd, and the
incongrous. In the contect of impending world destruction, hypocrisy,
misunderstanding, lechery, paranoia, ambition, euphemism, patrioism,
heroism, and even reasonableness can evoke a grisly laugh."

After writing at least one draft of the script as a comedy -- this draft
can be found as part of the Voyager-Criterion's laserdisc supplement --
Kubrick brought in comic novelist Terry Southern to polish the script.
More contributions were made on-set by the actors, especially Peter

(Most versions of the film include a disclaimer at the very beginning,
where the Air Force states that the events that occur in the film could
not happen. This disclaimer does not appear on the Voyager-Criterion
laserdisc, which is the only video version approved personally by
Stanley Kubrick.)
What happens, is....

The opening shot of Dr. Strangelove shows a set of mountain peaks above