Welcome to the fifth and final installment in my ongoing examination of Stanley Kubrick's classic "nightmare comedy" Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. During the first part of this series I briefly ran down some of the popular conspiracy theories surrounding Kubrick as well as addressing an incident that occurred during the Cuban missile crisis that may have partly inspired Strangelove. With the second installment I addressed the characters in terms of both their symbolism and real life inspirations (as well as noting interesting tidbits about the individuals who played them, such as the fact that actor Sterling Hayden had been an OSS asset during WWII).
Now with these disclaimers out of the way let us pick up with Ripper's celebrated explanation of where his theories concerning fluoridation as a communist plot derived from:
Mandrake: Uh, Jack, Jack, listen... tell me, tell me, Jack. When did you first... become... well, develop this theory?
Ripper: Well, I, uh... I... I... first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love.
Ripper: Yes, a uh, a profound sense of fatigue... a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I... I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence.
Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh... women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh... I do not avoid women, Mandrake.
Ripper: But I... I do deny them my essence.
|Ripper and Mandrake
Ripper's apparent avoidance of a release has some interesting implications from the occult perspective. In some Tantric and sex magick practices physical ejaculation is withheld. Indeed, in some traditions this physical reaction is not even considered a true orgasm.
"Crowley knew that the crux of tantric ritual lay in its connection with the magically induced ecstasies of sexual orgasm. Orgasm, in Reich's sense of fulminant paroxysm involving the entire organism, it is sometimes set against the Tantric concept of (a) a total orgasm, or (b) a total absence of orgasm; both these interpretations have been read into Tantric texts.
"In either case, orgasm is commonly regarded as a psychophysical phenomenon. This is incorrect. Reich emphasized the distinction between ejaculation and orgasm, the one being physical, the other being, strictly speaking, metaphysical. Ejaculation without orgasm is a common occurrence, and, as Reich pointed out, total orgasm is a far less frequent phenomena. It is undoubtedly even less frequent than he supposed. The Tantric conception of orgasm in it's directly sexual sense (for it has others), is of a more comprehensive order; it may, in fact, be described as parasexual. It Involves the Kundalini sakti; of which the sexual aspect is its most material form. The actual production of semen is the end-product, if not the waste-product, left over from an improperly and incompletely absorbed current of consciousness."
(The Magical Revival, Kenneth Grant, pg. 37)
|one interpretation of the Kundalini
"None of this is helpful, however, if the individual participants are not themselves completely prepared for the ritual. This means that the operators must be demonstrably well-trained in various yogic-type exercises, from pranayama and asana and the basic forms of yogic meditation up to and including the ability to raise Kundalini. While it is not necessary for the participants to be adept at Kundalini yoga, it is required that they have some basic ability in this regard otherwise the rituals are empty gestures with no force behind them. The ability to meld mental concentration with physical, psycho-sexual response is the key toward successful completion of this type of ritual. It is a balancing act between the body's normal processes and reactions and the exertion of mental control over the same processes, made more difficult because the same requirement is demanded of the partner. In the case of a male and female operator both must be capable of at least the basic level of mental and physical control; is not useful that only one member of the couple have this ability unless the goal of the ritual is to 'vampirize' the power of the less-advanced partner.
"As mentioned earlier, one of the essential aspects of the type of training required for Tantric-type operators is the ability to take conscious control of the autonomic nervous system, represented by the reptilian or serpent brain. In Tantric terms, however, this is considered raising the serpent from the base the spine – the Goddess Kundalini – until it reaches the brain where it meets the Lord Shiva and the alchemical wedding or Gnostic marriage takes place. There are inherent dangers in this type of practice, whether you use Western or Asian terminology to describe it, and the image of the serpent – one of the most venomous creatures on earth but also the one that sheds its skin and becomes a symbol of transformation – is instructive in this regard..."
(The Dark Lord, Peter Levenda, pgs. 224-225)
The dangers of raising the Kundalini without the proper training can be quite severe. The Lucid Movement notes:
"The biggest danger in activating Kundalini without being truly prepared is a shock and complete breakdown because of the fact that our whole worldview changes abruptely. In our western society we are neither socially nor religiously programmed for such experiences and a sudden deprogramming of all our values is painful and disillusioning. Everyone who is actively working on an opening of their chakra energies should understand that it will cause huge changes in their personality and a complete rearranging of their value system. An opening of the chakras means starting a new life. If we open our root chakra without knowing its purpose, we might end up in fear and paranoia, having the feeling that our survival is threatened. Opening the heart chakra means a reliving of traumatic experiences without the possibility to push negative emotions away. And opening our third eye without being grounded can make us completely sink into our own realities and losing all connection to the physical world. After all, the Kundalini burns all our negativity before refilling us with wisdom and energy."As was noted in part two of this series, it is hinted at throughout the film that Ripper is a closet homosexual and that his "loss of essence" is related to this. But in the context of the above-mentioned traditions, one possible interpretation of Ripper's break down could be his unwitting raising of the Kundalini following a deeply unfulfilling sexual experience with a woman. Ripper hints at this, telling Mandrake that after one romp he felt a "profound sense of fatigue" (which would seem to imply that he lost his erection during the act).
After much reflection on this experience Ripper devised his theory concerning "loss of essence" and presumably became sexual active with women again. But he does not physical climax during these encounters, which some hold as a discipline necessary to raise the Kundalini. What's more, many traditions insist that raising the Kundalini without the proper training can result in various forms of derangement. Certainly Ripper would not have been remotely prepared to deal with such an experience and attempting to launch a nuclear war between the US and USSR would indicate a degree of derangement beyond normal sexual hang-ups. But I digress.
Shortly after Ripper's revelations concerning his bodily fluids his troops, who have been defending Burpelson Air Force Base from an assault by US Army forces, surrender. Ripper is initially disappointed deeply, then riddled with paranoia over the prospect of being tortured for the recall codes to the B-52s. While Mandrake pathetically tries to coax the codes out of Ripper the general retires to a restroom where he commits suicide with a pistol, ensuring he will not divulge the codes.
Undeterred, Mandrake begins to examine notes Ripper left behind for clues concerning the recall codes. Just as he's begun to decipher the mad ramblings the lock to Ripper's office is shot off and in marches Colonel "Bat" Guano (Keenan Wynn). After finding Ripper's body Guano opts to arrest Mandrake, who protests and asks Guano what he thinks is going on. Guano famously responds: "I think you're some kind of deviated prevert. I think General Ripper found out about your preversion, and that you were organizing some kind of mutiny of preverts. Now move!"
Guano's reference to a "mutiny of preverts" is interesting in the context of Strangelove's ties to the JFK assassination. In part two of this series I noted that Ripper was likely based upon the real life figures of General Edwin Walker and General Curtis LeMay, both of whom were linked to the assassination, while in part three it was noted that there have long been allegations that several of the plotters were either gay or bisexual. Beyond this, there have been disturbing indications of a sex trafficking/pedophile network also being involved with the plotters, as I noted before here. But moving along.
|Generals Edwin Walker (top) and Curtis LeMay (bottom)
As a testament to how effective military propaganda was during this era, Guano initially refuses this action to avert nuclear armageddon on the basis that it would constitute a defacement of private property, presumably a far more important principle in Guano's mind than the lives of the American public. Even after Mandrake bullies him into shooting off the lock he threatens the British officer, telling him that if his claims are baseless he'll have to "answer to the Coca-Cola company."
Interestingly, while much of the pay phone sequence is unfolding a poster promoting "Civil Defense" looms in the background. The concept of civil defense first began to emerge during World War I and was closely related in the early days to what is generally referred to as "industrial security." During WWI the military and FBI crafted an intelligence network that included numerous private groups such as the security departments of major corporations and nation wide private detective firms such as the Pinkerton and Burns agencies as well as various "super patriot" groups of varying repute like the American Legion and American Protective League. I've written much more on this network before here.
Both civil defense and industrial security were primarily concerned with industrial sabotage at the onset of World War I, but once the Bolshevik Revolution broke out things began to change. Among other functions (some of which existed in a hazy area of legality) taken up by either was anti-Communist propaganda. The American Security Council, a power mid-20th century lobby group that Curtis LeMay and various other individuals addressed in this series belonged to, was at the forefront of these propaganda efforts.
Thus, Kubrick's use of a civil defense poster in the background throughout the pay phone sequence may be a sly dig at the propaganda put out by the ASC and similar organizations during this era. Certainly Colonel Guano's world view is reflective of an individual who has been heavily indoctrinated along such lines.
|note the "Civil Defense" poster displayed prominently in the background throughout the "phone booth" sequence
It is soon revealed that all B-52s have either been recalled or shot down save for the one piloted by Major Kong (Slim Pickens). Earlier in the film Kong's B-52 had been hit by a Soviet missile that damaged the plane's radio and thus making it impossible to relay the recall code to the aircraft. Kong, a crack pilot, takes evasive maneuvers while his crew determines a target of opportunity after fuel losses prevent them from reaching either their primary or secondary targets.
President Muffley (Peter Sellers) urges the Soviet premier to dispatch everything he has to Kong's two official targets while General Turgidson can barely contain his glee over one of his boys pulling through. The Soviets of course do not intercept Kong's B-52 but the bomb bay doors are malfunctioning and unable to open. What follows is a glorious send up by Kubrick of conventional action films of the era in which the All American Kong races to fix the wiring in the bomb bay while the bombers races towards its target. No doubt many viewers were on the edge of their seats during this sequence even though Kong opening the bomb bay doors and delivering his "payload" will result in the triggering of the doomsday machine.
I suspect on some level this sequence is meant as a mockery of the jingoism promoted by American war films during this (or practically any) era. The iconic shot of Kong riding a nuclear bomb bronco style and its symbolism was already addressed in part two of this series.
From the time of Strangelove's initial release, the placement of this scene has baffled movie lovers. After the tense scenes inside the B-52 its almost anti-climatic to cut back to the War Room and several lengthy monologues. Some have even argued that the scene is out of sequence, occurring before Kong's bomb is dropped, but this not necessarily true as the doomsday machine was meant to destroy the Earth's atmosphere rather than launch a series of nuclear strikes. Many critics simply chalked up Kubrick's decision to end Strangelove with this scene (which was not meant to be the original ending, but more on that in a moment) as a desire to wrap the film up with some of its biggest laughs. And to be sure, Peter Sellers' dialogue as Strangelove in this scene is hysterical, but the implications it has for the American deep state are also quite terrifying.
As the scene opens everyone in the War Room is seemingly having a dark night of the soul when Strangelove emerges from the shadows with a plan. Throughout the course of the film Dr. Strangelove has been depicted as an impotent, decaying figure bound to a wheelchair and barely even in control of his own body. And yet, by the end of the scene he will emerge from his wheelchair with a triumphant proclamation of "Mein Fuhrer --I can walk!"
Both President Muffley and General Turgidson, along with the Soviet ambassador and virtually everyone else in the War Room, gather in a circle around Strangelove to hear his plan. As was noted in part two of this series (and expanded upon in parts three and four), Muffley and Turgidson are meant as stand-ins for the two primary factions of elites in the American power structure: the Anglo-American Establishment (what conventional conspiracy theorists are talking about when they rail against the international bankers, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderbergers, etc) and the military-industrial complex, respectively. Else where the Soviet ambassador (Peter Bull) is an obvious stand-in for the Communist Bloc. Thus, the three major international power brokers of this era --the Anglo-American Establishment, the American military-industrial complex and the Soviet-dominated Communist Bloc --are present and attentive throughout Strangelove's musings.
|Dr. Strangelove surrounded by the metaphorical international power structure
Indeed, Strangelove hints that the current nuclear holocaust unfolding is not such a bad thing and that the master race that shall emerge from the mine shafts in a 100 years will represent a major stage in human evolution. As he is outlining this scheme, Strangelove can not help but address President Muffley as "Mein Fuhrer" and breaking out a Nazi salute from time to time. At one point Strangelove, who presumably suffers from alien hand syndrome, even begins strangling himself in the midst of discussing his plan. This is an apt allusion to the Social Darwinist struggle he proposes to instigate between the nation's elites and the great masses of humanity.
In Strangelove's brave new world women are reduced to little more than breeders. He calls for ten women to every man and that they be instructed in the proper "breeding techniques." This is a logical out come of the subtle misogyny hinted at throughout the film in the nation's corridors of power. Strangelove's lone female character, Miss Scott (Tracy Reed), is presented as little more than a sexual object (and is even displayed in a Playboy centerfold at one point). Women are objects to these men and conscripting them into their own personal harems as a matter of national security simply pulls off the veneer.
Turgidson likely would have needed little convincing of the rightness of Strangelove's plan, but he becomes positively spellbound when told that the tradition monogamous marriage will come to an end. Later on he demands that President Muffley look at the mine shaft situation from a "military perspective" and warns of a "mine shaft gap" if the United States does not begin stashing away tools of war immediately in the nation's deepest mines. Presumably this will allow the future generation of supermen to re-instigate the Cold War and the arms race as soon as the Earth's atmosphere is (temporarily) inhabitable again.
Even the Soviet ambassador can not contain his enthusiasm for this plan, telling Strangelove: "I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, doctor." Shortly thereafter he withdraws from the group to take pictures of the War Room with a hidden camera. While many will see this as evidence of communist conspiracies I think it is more likely that Kubrick is commenting on the inability of the Soviet Union to do little more than imitate the United States during the Cold War. In this case, the insinuation is especially ominous as it would seem to include the United States's embrace of Nazism. This interpretation would be further bolstered by the film's original ending, a pie fight in the War Room which leads Muffley and de Sadeski to play a round of patty cake and praise Dr. Strangelove.
"It certainly didn't help that at the time the film contained a sequence inspired by the great screen comedians. Throughout the film the War Room sported a buffet table filled with fine food. Also on the table was a series of creamy custard pies. The Russian Ambassador grabs a pie and throws it. The pie misses its targeted and hits the President squarely in the face. In the great tradition of pie-throwing sequences, pandemonium breaks out and the custard flies across the War Room, leaving everybody covered in cream. As the sequence ends, the President of the United States and Ambassador of the USSR sit on the floor, covered in custard playing 'pattycake, pattycake' and singing 'For he's a jolly good fellow' in praise of Dr. Strangelove himself."
(Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, Vincent Lobrutto, pg. 246)
|an image of Muffley and de Sadeski during Strangelove's famed original pie fight-centric ending
Another reason may have been due to the Kennedy assassination. The Seattle PI reports:
"The film was scheduled for release in December 1963 but was pushed back to late January after the Nov. 22 assassination of President Kennedy. Dr. Strangelove doesn't seem to comment on any specific American or Russian leaders, but releasing a dark satire about nuclear politics so soon after JFK's death seemed crass (not to mention a marketing nightmare). One line of dialogue in the film was changed: Maj. Kong originally said, 'A fella could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff'; it was redubbed 'Vegas' to avoid reminding people of the city where JFK was killed.
"Did the JFK assassination also affect the final scene of Dr. Strangelove? Depends on whom you ask. Kubrick's original ending had the president, the Russian ambassador, and everyone else getting into a pie fight in the War Room. When the president takes a pie to the face, Gen. Turgidson declares, 'Gentlemen! The president has been struck down, in the prime of his life and his presidency!' Obviously, you don't include an absurd joke like that in a film released shortly after the real-life president has been assassinated.
"Kubrick said in a 1969 interview that he cut the scene because 'I decided it was farce and not consistent with the satiric tone of the rest of the film.' His co-screenwriter, Terry Southern, said the pie fight, shot in one take, had turned out far merrier than Kubrick wanted it to be -- he'd wanted these generals and leaders to be angry with each other, but had neglected to convey that to the actors, who behaved like a bunch of boys having a food fight. Alexander Walker, a film critic and biographer of Kubrick, says in the 40th anniversary DVD edition, 'The cream pies were flying around so thickly that people lost definition, and you couldn't really say whom you were looking at.'
"Any of those would be good reasons to cut the scene, and Walker says Kubrick had decided to eliminate it before Kennedy was assassinated anyway. But in another documentary on the 40th anniversary DVD, the film's editor, Anthony Harvey, says otherwise: 'It would have stayed, except that Columbia Pictures were horrified, and thought it would offend the president's family.'
"It's most likely that Harvey is misremembering the sequence of events. Everyone else says the scene's deletion was determined before the assassination and was for any of several other reasons. Unfortunately, the scene has never been included on any of the video releases, and may never be seen again."
While the decision to eliminate the pie fight sequence was apparently made prior to the Kennedy assassination, I have noted throughout this series that Kubrick seems to have been leaking information concerning JFK's Cold War (likely with the support of the Kennedy White House) policies throughout the film. There is even the possibility that the plotters conspiring to assassinate Kennedy were alluded to subtly as well, such as Kong's reference to Dallas earlier in the film (which I addressed in part three).
Its interesting to note that the character of Buck Turgidson, who uttered the line "Gentlemen, the president has been struck down, in the prime of his life and his presidency!" during the pie fight sequence is likely based upon the figure of General Lyman Lemnitzer. As was noted in part two, General Lemnitzer has been increasingly linked to the Kennedy assassination in recent years. Perhaps Columbia's alleged concerns were not so unfounded after all.
"Kubrick brought the film in at a cost between $1.7 million and $2 million. The first critics screening for Dr. Strangelove was set for November 22, 1963. Film editor Anthony Harvey was there to oversee the film's critical debut when the news came in from Dallas that president John F. Kennedy had been struck by an assassin's bullet and had been pronounced dead. The film, which certainly would've gotten a private chuckle from the thirty-fifth president, was not shown that day. The screening was canceled and everyone went home to grieve."
(Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, Vincent Lobrutto, pg. 245)
The date of Strangelove's first screening was likely a coincidence but only adds to the strange ties between the Kubrick film and the Kennedy assassination. But even more compelling than these connections is the blatant insinuation that the US and USSR alike had succumbed to the rot of Nazism from within. Remember that the character of Dr. Strangelove was partly based on the figure of the notorious rocket scientist Wernher von Braun who was so instrumental in the United States winning the Space Race. Von Braun, a "former" SS member, was brought to the United States as part of Operation Paperclip. He was far from the only Nazi or European fascist to be invited into the American deep state in this fashion.
"There had to have been a level at which the US government's leaders identified the Nazis, or at least admire them. There had to have been a point at which the crimes of the Holocaust were considered minor problem, a kind of public relations nuisance, that was overshadowed by the glamour of the perfectly-run superstate of the Third Reich. There must have been an understanding that the ideologies of American and Nazi Germany were more like than the ideologies of America and the Soviet Union. This is because there is just no other way to interpret what took place at the very end of the war; morally, what transpired can only be considered a war crime itself.
"In 1945, Nazi scientist – using slave labor from concentration camps – were in a race to develop super weapons to enable Hitler to win the war. They were working at Peenemuende and Nordhausen, famous rocket laboratories where the V-1 and V-2 rockets were design which made life such hell in Great Britain, and where even newer, more lethal rockets and weapons were being developed. Alfred Einstein was worried that the Nazis were on the verge of developing an atomic bomb, and communicated this concern to President Roosevelt. And, what was worse, Russian troops were advancing towards Peenemuende from the east, and would captured the Nazi rocket scientists and their laboratories, factories and blueprints, thus permitting the Soviets unprecedented access to the 'art of German engineering.' Policymakers in Washington knew that the next major conflicts would be fought between the United States and the Soviet Union, and they could not permit the Russians to have the upper hand in technology. It was of utmost importance that those scientist – or as many of them as possible – made it to American shores, out of reach of the Russians and, more importantly perhaps, pressed into service to the United States.
"To that end, several wartime intelligence operations were put in motion.
"The most famous of these is Operation Paperclip, of course; yet outside of poorly researched, poorly documented newsletters, websites and pamphlets produced by the fraternity of conspiracy theories, very little information about Paperclip and its implications and ramifications is available to the modern American reading public. It is no longer discussed in Congress; this is not debated on CNN...
"Most people who have heard of Paperclip assume that it was a program to bring Nazi scientists to the United States to assist the space program, a concept that is at least partially true. There was much more to Paperclip – and to subsequent Nazi recruitment – than rocket science, however. Nazi medical personnel were also recruited, as well as psychological warfare experts and, with the Gehlen Organization, spies, assassins and saboteurs. Eventually, some of these imported Nazi war criminals wound up holding impressive executive positions in American industry – principally high-technology firms in the aerospace and military hardware industries. That indefatigable researcher and conspiriologist, the late Mae Brussel, even suggested that the Paperclip Nazis had been involved in the Kennedy assassination! While that theory seems very far-fetched, there are some disturbing connections between the recruited Nazis and people close to the assassination..."
(Sinister Forces Book I, Peter Levenda, pgs. 134-135)