Foreign Policy Blogs

Fail Safe (1964) and Dr. Strangelove (1964)

By Sean Patrick Murphy
One would think Dr. Strangelove was released after Fail Safe because it is an excellent parody.
But it wasn’t: Dr. Strangelove came out earlier than Fail Safe in 1964.
This was at the height of the cold war, with the Cuban missile crisis not too far from peoples’ minds.

Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove is at once funnier and darker than Sidney Lumet’s Fail Safe.
In Dr. Strangelove, the person responsible for a plane sent to bomb Soviet targets fears fluoridation as it can be used by communists to corrupt precious bodily fluids.

Fail Safe (1964) and Dr. Strangelove (1964)

There are also great one-liners, like when the president of the United States stops a general and Soviet ambassador from going at it: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the war room!”
Fail Safe
is never funny but the experience for watching it is somehow more enjoyable than what one gets from Dr. Strangelove.

Peter Sellers is fantastic in three roles he plays in Dr. Strangelove, one of which is the president of the United States. His conversation with the Soviet premier is funny because they discuss the possibility of nuclear war very casually.
Henry Fonda also does a brilliant job as president of the United States in Fail Safe. The role calls for heavy handed sermonizing which fits Fonda perfectly.

Fail Safe (1964) and Dr. Strangelove (1964)

A first-time viewer of Fail Safe will be blown away by the solution the president of the United States comes up with to rectify the bombing of Moscow.
These films are both must-sees and work best when watched back to back.
Fail Safe
and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb are available to rent.
Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]



Sean Patrick Murphy

Sean Patrick Murphy is a graduate of Bennington College, where he majored in politics and Latin American literature. He has worked for Current History magazine, Physicians for Human Rights, and Citizens for Global Solutions (formerly the World Federalist Association). He lives outside Philadelphia.

Areas of Focus:
Cinematography; Independent Films; Documentary;


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