Behind the scenes: Dr Strangelove

Rare on-set images give a glimpse of great minds at work as Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers film their 50-year-old classic Dr Strangelove.

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Peter Sellers (centre) shares a joke with cast and crew in Ken Adam’s famous war room set.

Peter Sellers (centre) shares a joke with cast and crew in Ken Adam’s famous war room set.

Stanley Kubrick originally intended a straight adaptation of Peter George’s novel Red Alert, a chilling thriller about a paranoid American general initiating a nuclear bombing mission over the USSR. But he saw the absurdity behind the retaliatory strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and decided to film it as a comedy.

In an acting tour de force, Peter Sellers plays the British officer attempting to apprehend the psychotic general (Sterling Hayden), the US President trying to smooth things over with his Soviet opposite opposite number, and the eccentric Dr Strangelove, a German émigré scientist with an autonomous Nazi arm and wild ideas about the post-apocalyptic world.

Much of the action of Kubrick’s jet-black satirical masterpiece occurs within the cavernous War Room at the Pentagon, a space indelibly imagined by production designer Ken Adam.

Stanley Kubrick directs gunmen during the scene in which US forces lay siege to their own airforce base.

Stanley Kubrick directs gunmen during the scene in which US forces lay siege to their own airforce base.

Kubrick on set.

Kubrick on set.

A pensive moment with Peter Sellers out of character. Sellers plays three roles: Royal Air Force captain Lionel Mandrake, US president Merkin Muffley and the eccentric German scientist Dr Strangelove.

A pensive moment with Peter Sellers out of character. Sellers plays three roles: Royal Air Force captain Lionel Mandrake, US president Merkin Muffley and the eccentric German scientist Dr Strangelove.

Kubrick shares his vision with camera operator Kelvin Pike and the director’s wife Christiane Kubrick. Kubrick married Christiane after casting her as the German singer in the moving finale of Paths of Glory (1957).

Kubrick shares his vision with camera operator Kelvin Pike and the director’s wife Christiane Kubrick. Kubrick married Christiane after casting her as the German singer in the moving finale of Paths of Glory (1957).

Kubrick behind the camera for the scene in which US general Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) cavorts with his lover, Miss Scott (Tracy Reed).

Kubrick behind the camera for the scene in which US general Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) cavorts with his lover, Miss Scott (Tracy Reed).

Framing a high-angle shot of Tracy Reed (playing Miss Scott) in Turgidson’s bed.

Framing a high-angle shot of Tracy Reed (playing Miss Scott) in Turgidson’s bed.

Kubrick watches through the viewfinder.

Kubrick watches through the viewfinder.

A leisurely moment between takes with Kubrick chatting to Peter Sellers (in the guise of President Muffley).

A leisurely moment between takes with Kubrick chatting to Peter Sellers (in the guise of President Muffley).

Actor Slim Pickens gets into position on the atomic bomb. Clutching his cowboy hat, Major T. J. ‘King’ Kong (Pickens) will ride the bomb as it is dropped onto its Soviet target – truly a horseman of the apocalypse.

Actor Slim Pickens gets into position on the atomic bomb. Clutching his cowboy hat, Major T. J. ‘King’ Kong (Pickens) will ride the bomb as it is dropped onto its Soviet target – truly a horseman of the apocalypse.

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