Dr Strangelove Dr Strangelove

Canadian artist Kristan Horton has imitated stills from DR STRANGELOVE using household objects.  The project has resulted in a book, Dr Strangelove Dr Strangelove.  The picture below is an example:

A big plane, like a 52- you should see it some time!

A big plane, like a 52- you should see it some time!

Of course, no note about Dr Strangelove would be complete without reference to the chilling fact that the Soviets actually built, and the Russians apparently still maintain, a “Doomsday machine” of the sort described in the movie, though of a different sort than the one described in the movie.  The apparatus, located at Kosvinsky in the Urals, is an underground command post that combines features of the Dr Strangelove‘s Soviet Doomsday Machine (it is automatically triggered when a system called Perimetr detects an unauthorized thermonuclear event in Russian territory, and it was kept secret) and of the movie’s American Wing Attack Plan R (it allows a single military officer to launch a nuclear counterattack in case a first strike has eliminated the usual command and control system.)   Last August, P. D. Smith published a book about the Kosvinsky complex called Doomsday Men: The Real Dr Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon.   The Times Literary Supplement reviewed Smith’s book, and Slate ran an article about it.

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7 Comments

  1. cymast

     /  November 19, 2008

    I did not actively know the Soviets really did build and still maintain a “Doomsday machine.” But that does make “sense” within the context of nuclear warfare nonsense.

    I expected to interpret the photos as kitschy. Instead I found them quite moving. It’s hard to describe. The original stills depict people, or the result of a collaboration of people. Horton’s re-reations are devoid of people, but give the sense that a empathetic entity benevolently put together scenes of Earth with artifacts after people destroyed Earth with nuclear war. It feels like I’m viewing a tribute.

    I feel similarly at the end of the movie Dr. Strangelove.

  2. acilius

     /  November 19, 2008

    I felt exactly the same way looking at Horton’s photos.

    At the end of DR STRANGELOVE, I feel differently- I feel exhilarated, that it is possible to change the world in a way that will avoid nuclear war and that I could be part of that change. All the nuclear war movies of the early 60s tried to give that feeling, that’s why ON THE BEACH ends with a shot of a banner reading “It’s not too late!” and FAILSAFE has its fictional president tell his Soviet counterpart “We’re not helpless. We created this problem, we can solve it” (or words to that effect.) But for me, only DR STRANGELOVE succeeds.

  3. cymast

     /  November 19, 2008

    I guess I’ve already written-off humanity, so sentiments like “It’s not too late!” are just sentiments to me. But I agree there is also a feeling of exhilaration at the end of DR. STRANGELOVE. The visual imagery is too powerful to not experience that. Like riding a rollercoaster.

  4. acilius

     /  November 19, 2008

    The visual imagery definitely. I would also say that the sheer sustained lunacy of it is exhilarating. Most characters at first seem very respectable, commanding, eminently sane, then they all turn out to be preposterous little boys. That’s whwere my hope comes from, that the power that is driving our planet to ruin and our species to extinction is in fact so ridiculous that we would laugh it out of existence if we got a good look at it.

  5. cymast

     /  November 19, 2008

    So how long has humanity been looking at: “the power that is driving our planet to ruin and our species to extinction is in fact so ridiculous”? How long does it take to get a “good look”? At one point I thought you had considerably less faith in humanity than I did- and my faith was negligible. I now see you are indeed a humanist. That’s probably the only thing that could make me ponder humanism with an ounce of sympathy.

  6. acilius

     /  November 19, 2008

    “I now see you are indeed a humanist. That’s probably the only thing that could make me ponder humanism with an ounce of sympathy.”

    What a nice thing to say! Thank you very much.

  7. cymast

     /  November 19, 2008

    You’re welcome very much!

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