Looney Theory about ending of Dr. Strangelove

I always wondered about the ending of Dr. Strangelove, pretty much my favorite movie of all time. I’ve seen it dozens of times, but can never remove a nagging doubt about the ending.

The Russian ambassador clearly was trying to spy earlier in the film. There’s no way General Turgidson would have had a mini-spy-camera on his person, and so it couldn’t have been a plant. The Russian really was spying. At the end, he takes out his camera and takes pictures of the War Room, unnoticed by the rest of the room (although they do notice in the alternate ending, originally filmed, in which his spying sparks a pie-fight.)

Looney theory: what if the “doomsday device” was a hoax from the beginning. The Russians were allowing rumours to escape about it, because the rumours might eventually prove to be a good deterrent even if the actual device weren’t built. When they learn about the planes headed for Soviet airspace, they use the hoax of the device to get above-average cooperation from the American military in destroying the planes, and ensure that the Americans will not follow Turgidson’s suggestion and make a first-strike. They manage to get access to the War Room, survey confidential information, and get out.

After the last War Room scene, the Russian ambassador escapes with his information on American capabilities, and the Russians launch a first-strike against the Americans, who are totally unprepared because they are busy preparing to deal with the illusory doomsday device. The nuclear montage at the end shows the nuclear war that ensues, not the buried doomsday bombs. (It’s probably just a cool ending sequence, but hey I said it was a looney theory.)

That’s a very interesting theory. Thank you for sharing it. I love to analyze (probably over-analyze) movies and come up with stuff like this.

It probably isn’t what Kubrick or any of the other writers had in mind, but as the man himself said: “I would not think of quarreling with your interpretation nor offering any other, as I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself.”

The novel Red Alert on which the film is based doesn’t have a “Doomsday device”, IIRC, but the rewritten novel (to coincide with the film’s release) by Peter Bryant (apparently the same guy as Peter George, who authored the original) follows the film script, and pretty clearly does have a Doomsday Bomb in it.

Don’t know if this helps with your “theory”, but the original ending (shot but never used) was much different. After Strangelove gets out of his chair, a food fight (I am not making this up) breaks out. It’s a pie fight, very similar to the one in “The Great Race”). Kubrick cut it because he thought it was too silly.

I heard that that the pie fight was cut because some of the dialogue, filmed before the assassination of Kennedy, sounded too much like some of the comments made by the press after Kennedy was shot. So, Kubrick changed the ending, just like Major Kong’s “A fellow could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all that stuff” was dubbed over with “…weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.”


The pie fight was cut because the scene didn’t come out right when they filmed it. They provided the cast with hundreds of creme pies and let them go at it while the camera rolled. Kubrick didn’t like the final product for a couple of reasons. One, everyone was so covered by merange that the viewer couldn’t tell who was who anymore. The stark black and white that served the rest of the film so well ended up reducing the pie fight to a bunch of blobs of goo running around laughing. And the laughing was the second part. The cast had a ball filming this sequence, and it was such a jarring change in tone that Kubrick thought it ruined the ending of the movie. The world was in the process of being destroyed and the people responsible were whooping it up.

If it is, does it have better sound quality than the tape?

Dr. Strangelove has been out on DVD since 1999, and is already in its second version. However, the quality continues to be rather poor. Better than the tape, of course, but the picture is muddy and the sound (which must have been mastered badly) is television-quality.


An interesting thought. However, the Russian ambassador was clearly shocked when Premier Kissov told him about the doomsday machine. If he were faking it, he’d be the only competent person in the War Room, so I doubt it.

I’ve always taken the Ambassador’s spying as meaning that even at the end of the world, humans can’t break out of their old habits and work together. It is the Russian equivalent of the “mine shaft gap.”

Actually, there are several “Doomsday Devices,” although they aren’t called that. They were buried in the Ural Moutains, but–unlike in the movie–they were to be fired manually, not automatically upon detection of a nuclear explosion over Soviet soil.

The book made it clear this would have been an ELE.:smiley:

Both you and vibro are right. The cast couldn’t help laughing and the set was wrecked so it couldn’t be reshot. Also, Gen. Turgidson utters a line, “The president has been struck down, in the prime of his life and his presidency. I say massive retaliation!” He was stuck down with a pie, but you can see the sensitivity shown in December, 1963 when it was released. IMDb has a description of the pie fight ending.