Fifty years ago today, director Stanley Kubrick unleashed upon the world his biting Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It became a giant hit, nabbing four Academy Award nominations and proving, with each passing year, one of the most durable satires of all time. But as with any Kubrick film, the production was long and complicated, with several strange detours and what-ifs; here are just a few of them.
It could’ve been a drama. The book Kubrick used as his starting point, Red Alert by Peter George (aka Peter Bryant), was not comic at all. But the filmmaker was never one to stick too close to his source material (ask Stephen King), and according to longtime collaborator Jan Harlan, he decided to make it a dark comedy in order to make it more memorable, and to make his points sharper. He brought in literary satirist Terry Southern to help create that flavor. (Kubrick even threatened a lawsuit to delay the release of Sidney Lumet’s Fail Safe, which was basically a straight thriller version of the same material.)