No one born after the 1980s has any idea about the nuclear Sword of Damocles that hung over us all in the 1950s and 1960s. We were all going to die! Duck and Cover cartoons created a grade-school horrorshow experience, complete with drills designed to help you protect yourself from nuclear Armageddon. Post-nuclear-apocalypse fiction dominated the reading public with such titles as Philip Wylie's Tomorrow (in which a lot of people survived by making adequate Civil Defense preparations), and Triumph, in which, despite the name, pretty much everybody dies. On the Beach by Nevile Shute was a best-selling novel in 1957, a long-story-arc comic strip illustrating the book and appearing on, in my local newspaper, the Opinion/Editorial page in about 1958 and an acclaimed movie in 1959. Spoiler alert: No one survives.
Into this depressing mix came a black humor (back when "black humor" had a different and non-racial meaning) movie, originally scheduled for a pre-release screening on Nov 22, 1963 but postponed to June 1964 because of the JFK assassination. The movie was called, to give it its full title, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
Dr. Strangelove is a both hilarious and scary story of how the world stumbles into total nuclear war, all because General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) takes it on himself to get back at the commies who are busy "polluting our precious bodily fluids" with fluoridation in the water. And the names! General Buck Turgidson, Major "Bat" Guano, Major "King" Kong (the inimitable Slim Pickens in a role turned down by Bonanza's Dan Blocker because it was "too pink").
Mere descriptions can't do this film justice. If you haven't seen it, click on over to Netflix and get it in your queue. You won't regret it. This is one of those films that I can watch again and again and it never gets old. It is also available on YouTube for streaming, but if you are like me, you'll want to watch it on the DVD, where you can see it all and get it all, in all its glory.
Directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick.
Dr. Strangelove on the IMDB.
Roger Ebert's Review from 1999.