Dr. Strangelove. What dis the Russian ambassador doing with that pocket watch at the end?

And why does Sellers stand up and exclaim “I can walk!”.

  1. The ambassador is taking pictures with a spy camera, spying even when it’s pointless.
  2. So he can be one of the survivors in the underground caves.

He’s taking pictures. Of the Big Board.
I don’t quite see what the point is - the information will be moot when civilization as we know it is destroyed, but enemies to the end, I guess.

The Sellers character getting up and walking is a direct parody of an earlier, far more serious WW3 movie whose title currently eludes me and will until I can find the reference in one of my movie books.

I always assumed this was dramatic irony – Dr. Strangelove miraculously regains the use of his legs just in time to perish along with the rest of humanity.

I just figured that he never bothered trying to walk before. Either that, or in the heat of the moment he just forgot he was paralyzed. Hell, his right arm is still fighting World War II.

Maybe it’s a comedy?

That’s why it’s funny. George C. Scott was terrified that if they let the Russian ambassador in “He’ll see the Big Board!” Peter Sellers as the President overrules him because of the seriousness of the situation, but it’s clear that the general was right. The Russian ambassador not only sees the Big Board he uses his spy camera to take pictures of it! Which is completely pointless because the world is about to end.

Note that the “Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!” then cut to stock footage ending wasn’t the original ending. It was originally supposed to end with a giant pie fight in the war room, which they actually shot, but for whatever reason it was cut. There’s conflicting versions of why it was cut, but one is that it was because there was a line “our gallant young president has been struck down in his prime” and the release of the film came right after the Kennedy assassination.

So the ending might be a bit of a tacked-on afterthought to replace the original one, although Kubrick has denied this and says the change was for purely artistic reasons.

Doctor Strangelove is supposed to be a parody of Werner von Braun (with a supposed influence of professor Henry Kissinger), and others have commented on von Braun’s ability to do what was necessary to continue. I think the “I can walk” is tying into that.

As for the photos, it’s pointing up the absurdity of the Cold War to take photos that are meaningless. The Russian ambassador is continuing to behave as though nothing has changed, and the action is clear Bergsonian* humor.

*Henry Bergson tried to come up with a theory of humor and what makes things funny. His conclusion was that you laugh because you realize someone is behaving in a mechanical manner (usually by breaking the mechanical motions). While the theory is severely limited, there are still some cases, like this one, where it clearly applies.

They were able to fix the “Dallas” line after the assassination; so it would have been just as easy to cut out the line during the pie fight. It was Kubrick’s decision to eliminate the pie fight and I think that’s a good one.

Peter Bull, who played the Soviet Ambassador, was one of the world’s foremost authorities on and collectors of Teddy Bears!

The film does leave a tiny loophole that the world might not end. We’re told that the Soviet doomsday machine is automatically triggered, and that it will do so if Major Kong’s plane (the Leper Colony) gets through and bombs its target. However, because the plane is leaking fuel, it can’t attack either of its planned targets and diverts to the nearest target of opportunity. Will that be enough to trigger the doomsday weapon? It’s never said, but I’m sure we’re supposed to assume that it will.

Considering that the closing scenes show multiple mushroom clouds, yes, I think it’s said.

The black-gloved mechanical hand, not entirely under Strangelove’s control, comes from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The rest of the character, sayeth Wiki:

My understanding is that even though Kubrick wasn’t happy with the scene, the movie was ready to release in November '63 with it in there. Even if the assasination wasn’t the main reason for the change, it gave him an opportunity to make it and the ending that is there was thrown together during the month or so the release date was pushed up. I agree it works much better than the pie scene was likely to have, but I suspect had Kubrick had time he would have made a less abrupt alternate ending.

IIUC the doomsday device does not require missiles to go off in the USA, the idea was to have the nasty radioactive elements released in the atmosphere with thermonuclear explosions, from the locations in northern Russia; the radioactive elements would then become a shroud in the atmosphere that would engulf the earth and then poison everything in the surface for 100 years. Appropriately, almost all the footage of nuclear explosions in the ending come from surface or underground tests.

The point here is that while it would had taken several days for the contamination to cover all earth to deadly levels, it would still leave some time for the leaders to do a simplified version of Dr. Starangelove’s plan. Considering that some installations (the ones that have been declassified) had been made for elite politicians in those days, and assuming that no direct nuclear missile attacks would had been made since the doomsday device did not need to use them, it would had been possible to do a simplified version of Dr. Strangelove plans; under those circumstances Dr. Strangelove was correct on dropping the act to show that he was going to be one of the able ones to be chosen to go to the underground facilities with “a spirit of bold curiosity for the [really sexual] adventure ahead” [Gloved hand does involuntary salute]


The “I can walk” thing was IIRC ad libbed by Sellers.

Dramatic irony is when the viewers know something the characters don’t. I don’t think it applies here.

Which is the point of the whole movie - people doing “normal” things as humanity spirals to extinction. Think of Col. Bat Guano objecting the the desecration of the Code machine. Think especially how the brave and resourceful crew of the bomber make it through adversity and beat the odds - and cause the destruction of mankind.
In the novel (of the movie, not Red Alert) humanity does not make it.

As for the “I can walk!” line - listen to how Sellers puts in sexual excitement when Strangelove describes conditions in the mineshafts. The combination of this and destruction is clearly turning him on, and him rising to walk really means he rose in another way.

It applies to the bomber. Strangelove fully expects to go into the mines with the other leaders and not die.

I didn’t think it was pointless for the ambassador to take photos of the big board, but that the Russians would immediately seek to ensure they utilised more mine shafts than the Americans, so that they could emerge in greater numbers after the radiation subsided and head straight for the American mine shafts. Although I was born a little late to get in on the Cold War mindset, so I could be wrong.

Speaking of that mind set, a friend in work, three years younger than me, said he often worried about nuclear holocaust as a kid. I was quite aware of The Troubles despite being far from any hot spots, but wasn’t really cogniscent of the Cold War, other than from books on fighter planes that my grandfather gave me.

I just thought that was Strangelove’s inner Nazi, getting quite envigorated about the idea of war and its preparations.