Deconstructing Dr. Strangelove


Deconstructing Dr. Strangelove

The Secret History of Nuclear War Films

Sean M. Maloney

498 pages
22 photographs, 13 illustrations, 5 maps, 1 table, index


July 2020


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2020


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2020


$50.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

King of the Cold War crisis film, Dr. Strangelove became a cultural touchstone from the moment of its release in 1964. The duck-and-cover generation saw it as a satire on nuclear issues and Cold War thinking. Subsequent generations, removed from the film’s historical moment, came to view it as a quasi-documentary about an unfathomable secret world.

Sean M. Maloney uses Dr. Strangelove and other genre classics like Fail Safe and The Bedford Incident to investigate a curious pop cultural contradiction. Nuclear crisis films repeatedly portrayed the failures of the Cold War’s deterrent system. Yet the system worked. What does this inconsistency tell us about the genre? What does it tell us about the deterrent system, for that matter?

Blending film analysis with Cold War history, Maloney looks at how the celluloid crises stack up against reality—or at least as much of reality as we can reconstruct from these films with confidence. The result is a daring intellectual foray that casts new light on Dr. Strangelove, one of the Cold War era’s defining films.

Author Bio

Sean M. Maloney is a professor of history at Royal Military College and served as the Canadian Army’s historian for the war in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2014. He is the author of Enduring the Freedom: A Rogue Historian in Afghanistan (Potomac Books, 2005), Learning to Love the Bomb: Canada’s Nuclear Weapons during the Cold War (Potomac Books, 2007), and Operation Kinetic: Stabilizing Kosovo (Potomac Books, 2018). For more information about the author visit


"I’m pleased to have read Deconstructing Dr. Strangelove and will keep it on my shelf for reference. I wish I’d had Maloney’s book on hand when I wrote the Cold War chapter for my 2014 book about cinema and historical memory, War on the Silver Screen. Maloney knows as much as can be known about nuclear weapons procedures and his knowledge on the authors and content of the novels adapted into Cold War movies is vast and inviting. There is much more to the film and literature of the Cold War than Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe. Maloney offers a fascinating survey."—David Luhrssen, Shepherd Express

"Deconstructing Dr. Strangelove is a worthwhile study that sheds light on an important slice of Cold War history. It will urge readers to explore—or revisit—a fascinating body of film narratives and wonder what really happened and what might have been."—Hiroshi Kitamura, Strategy Bridge

"Very informative and capturing."—Alexander Ebert,

“In his introduction, Sean Maloney writes: ‘The further we get away from those dangerous years, the more art takes over from life, history, and reality.’ These words set the stage for his detailed and factual account, validated by meticulous research, of an era as experienced by this Cold War Strategic Air Command veteran.”—Lt. Col. Earl J. McGill, USAF (Ret.), author of Jet Age Man: SAC B-47 and B-52 Operations in the Early Cold War

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
1. Book! Movie! The Literary Genesis of the Cold War Nuclear Crisis Film
2. Purity of Essence I: The Nuclear Leader and the Psychological Dimension in Fact and Fiction
3. Purity of Essence II: The Men and the Mission
4. Purity of Essence III: The LeMay-Power Deterrent Campaign and Dr. Strangelove
5. Peace Is Our Profession: Gen. Thomas Power and Nuclear Crisis Behavior
6. Theater of War: Fighting in the War Room
7. Plan R: Positive Control, Airborne Alert, and the Nuclear Crisis Films
8. Strategic Underground Command: The ICBM Force in Film and History
9. Dr. Strangelove Goes to Sea: Cold War Nuclear Naval Operations on Film

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