How the U.S. Took on Dr. Strangelove and Tried to Make Americans Love the Bomb

From the Guardian:

Nuclear Armageddon has always had its funny side. But the US military wasn’t laughing in the early 1960s as Americans, freshly shaken by the Cuban missile crisis, lapped up Stanley Kubrick’s classic satire, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

The film – which portrays a psychotic air force general who sets in chain the nuclear obliteration of the Soviet Union – was one of a spate of popular novels and films about accidental atomic war which had the US air force worried that some viewers might believe it all possible.

So in an attempt to persuade Americans that there was no chance of some rogue general or crosswired computer unleashing an atomic war, Strategic Air Command (SAC) went into the film business itself.

The result, a 17-minute propaganda film called SAC Command Post, was never shown to the public and was all but forgotten until it was unearthed at the national archive by William Burr, a researcher from George Washington University.

Burr describes the film as intended to counter early 1960s novels and Hollywood films such as Fail-Safe, about a US president forced to drop an atomic bomb on New York after America accidentally attacks Russia, and Dr Strangelove.

[Read more at the Guardian]

3 Comments on "How the U.S. Took on Dr. Strangelove and Tried to Make Americans Love the Bomb"

  1. stephenmiller | Feb 12, 2010 at 11:21 pm |

    A minor correction: In the film Strangelove, the psychotic General's attack on the Soviets unleashes an armageddon device that destroys the WHOLE WORLD-

  2. Our creator(s) must have a strange sense of humor, made us smart enough to build a device that splits the atom, and stupid enough to build thousands of them and point them at each other. Is there any intelligent life on Earth? Maybe dolphins…

  3. For even more detail on this, I recommend Nick Turse's book, “The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives”.…

    He breaks down how the military influences how they are portrayed in movies (including full-on script revisions), and its a trip. Everything from the Secretary of War providing assistance to DW Griffith for his KKK fest, “BIrth of a Nation”, to Curtis LeMay basically creating the film “Strategic Air Command” in 1955, to the DOD banning the Clint Eastwood movie “Heartbreak Ridge” from being played on base because Eastwood wouldn't change his scenes to suit them, to the Navy sending recruiters to screenings of “Top Gun”.

    On the movie “Thirteen Days” the DOD wanted a whole laundry list of changes, from removal of the scene where a U-2 flight was shot down over Cuba (a historical fact – the pilot was rewarded by JFK with the Air Force Cross posthumously for his sacrifice), and they wanted the portrayal of Curtis LeMay “soften” to make him into less of an asshole than he actually was. The producers wisely just told them to go fuck themselves and got their needed military scenes by using digital effects.

    But that pales to the interference in the movie “Stripes” which was basically rewritten from start to finish by the Pentagon, to remove all mention of U.S. intervention in Latin America, jokes about rape & pillage were deleted, drug use in the barracks was cut, the Drill Sergeant character had his actions “softened” even though what was there wasn't even remotely as harsh as actual boot camp behavior is, and multiple other characters were eliminated entirely.

    In the original script for “Independence Day” the aliens were defeated by civilians, not the military, and the DOD threatened to pull support for the movie unless that entire plot point was changed.

    And that's just the movies. The warping of television is even more pronounced.

    There's a summary of this over at Tom's Dispatch which is quite illuminating too:

    Another good book on this is David L. Robb's “Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes & Censors the Movies”.

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