It is bewildering to imagine that at this current moment, there are several thousand weapons that are capable of obliterating the planet. What is also bewildering to consider is that people like you and me have access to these weapons. It is easy for someone to make a serious mistake and blow up the world.
Stanley Kubrick took this idea and turned it into a comedy: "Dr. Strangelove." Though the idea may be dated, "Dr. Strangelove" is an accurate and laughable representation of the human condition, one that raises several questions about how people act in extreme circumstances.
"Dr. Strangelove" is effective as a comedy because it showcases the dangers of acting foolishly. A mad general is able to send bombers to Russia with no interference from the government. The government is unable to call those planes back because of its very own security measures. The Russian president is unwilling to collaborate with America and threatens to use his doomsday device.
Sound insane? What we have in this movie is a large chain of events that lead to the bitter end, which progresses through increasingly frenzied actions.
Even though it is a comedy, the movie is too realistic at times. The U.S. Air Force had to release a statement to reassure the public that the Air Force has stricter security measures than depicted. Audiences were skeptical and even grew cynical.
Stanley Kubrick was not trying to be cynical when he made the movie. He was only trying to make viewers laugh, but he did open their eyes to some very serious problems. There is a scene at the end of the movie where a military officer refuses to take the change from a Coca-Cola vending machine to pay for Lieutenant Mandrake's urgent call to the President. His only worry is that the Coca-Cola company will be offended. He takes no heed of the looming threat of nuclear annihilation.
This self-interest is further exaggerated in the character of the Russian Ambassador. During the discussions in the war room, the ambassador takes the effort he could use to resolve the problem at hand, but instead uses it to take secret snapshots of the war room. To him, these snapshots are more important for his espionage career than the future of the human race.
"Dr. Strangelove" does give attention to the good qualities of people, such as persistence and determination, but uses them in a way to make things worse. The bomber's flight crew overcome their obstacles with such dexterity that they should be admired, but their victory means the downfall of humanity.
The crew's qualities, seen to be the essence of what makes America so successful, ultimately lead to the crew's and America's downfall. Their valour is only seen as the means for disaster and is portrayed in a comedic light.
The only successful comedy is the comedy that makes fun of the human condition, and that is something that "Dr. Strangelove" does so well. It is meant to be watched by every generation, to serve as a serious warning to the people in power, and at the same time as a friendly reminder to not let human foolishness get in the way.