The Distrust of LBJ-Era Filmmaking
“I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed,” Buck admits while cycling through facts and figures about casualty rates in the event of a Russian tactical strike. This line—and many others in Kubrick’s masterpiece—have been invoked in recent weeks in the context of a very different sort of international catastrophe and its dubiously motivated overseers; this currency speaks to the timelessness of Dr. Strangelove’s vision even as everything in it is rigorously specific to the mid-’60s: the wryly sacrilegious use of Vera Lynn’s World War II standard “We’ll Meet Again,” a song dedicated to British soldiers leaving their loved ones, to soundtrack a mushroom cloud; the Playboy magazines strewn in the cockpit of the B-52 bomber; the political power vacuum in which the lack of a Kennedy-esque stalwart prefigures mutually assured destruction. But if Kennedy is Dr. Strangelove’s structuring absence, Scott’s jowly, Southern-fried shtick as General Turgidson manifests a weirdly prescient riff on LBJ, who’d shortly be advocating his own callous calculus during the onset and development of the Vietnam War.
— ‘Cool Hand Luke,’ ‘Strangelove,’ and the Distrust of LBJ-Era Filmmaking, Adam Nayman in The Ringer