U.S. airforce General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) goes a bit loopy and decides to launch a nuclear assault on the Soviet Union. Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers in one of many roles) is on an exchange programme from the Royal Air Force, and is convinced that the air strike has not been authorised, and sets about trying to halt it.
The aircraft given the mission, goes into attack protocols and blocks off all communication with the outside world, in case the soviets should try to intercept them and try to dissuade them from their mission. There is, however, a secret three digit code which would allow the bomber to receive radio transmissions, a code only known to General Ripper.
What follows is a classic farce with a cold war twist. Sellers also gets to play the president of the United States and the eponymous Doctor Strangelove, a former Nazi scientist, and now scientific advisor to the U.S., with a right arm which involuntarily does a Nazi salute!
Much of the movie is spent showing how completely blinkered and idiotic both sides are. A scene where Mandrake is desperately trying to make a phone call to the president of the United States from a pay phone, but is twenty cents short, and his American colleague, even with the fate of the world at stake, baulks at having to break into a Coca Cola vending machine to get some change, is a perfect example.
There are some movie greats amongst the assembled cast, apart from Mr Sellers, there's George C Scott as General Buck Turgidson, James Earl Jones (yes, the voice of Darth Vader) as the Bombardier on board the B52 bomber and a memorable performance from Slim Pickens as Major T. J. (King) Kong.
One tends to think of Stanley Kubrick as a very serious film maker, and of course the subject matter of this film is deadly serious, the humour is handled very deftly, here below, is probably my favourite scene in the film:
As for the finale, it is probably one of the most iconic images of 20th century cinema.