Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dr. Strangelove - Peter George

 Now you all must surely know of Dr. Strangelove or ; How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, to give it's full title! If you have it is probably because of the very famous, and quite brilliant, 1964  Stanley Kubrik film adaptation. But this is not the novel it is adapted from, as this is nothing more than a screenplay of the film.

 The film and this screenplay were actually adapted from a 1958 novel by Peter George called Two Hours to Doom. He published it under a pseudonym, Peter Bryant, but as Peter George he co-wrote the screenplay with Kubrik for the film adaptation which became Dr. Strangelove. The novel and film of course are an anti-war statement that deals with the threat of nuclear war and the absurd ease with which it can be triggered. Where the film differs is that it is more a black comedy than the novel. This comedic approach though only heightened the absurdity of the characters, whilst strengthening the films potent anti-war/nukes message.
 I knew that Kubrik had adapted his film from a novel, and when I loaned this from the library I thought that this was that very novel. Unfortunately within the first page I realised it wasn't and what I had was a screenplay of the film. Where this differs is that it opens and closes with the discovery on Earth ( in a crevice in a desert ) of a type of  diary detailing the events that triggered the nuclear bomb droppings which set of the Doomsday Machine. These discoverers then dismiss the human race as primitive wondering why they stockpiled so many nukes which they estimated had the power to destroy the Earth three times over! They end the account saying the Earth's history is of no real interest because of the stupidity of its end! ( the anti-war message loud and clear ).

 The film doesn't have this opening but it is a clever way to open this scene for scene novel. If you have seen the film then you will be aware of how this would read. I was disappointed this wasn't the original novel of which it was based on, but it is only 140 pages long and extremely easy to read. I read two very short novels last night of which this was one. I then read 70 pages of Ian Fleming's Dr. No. so you can see the simplicity of what I was reading!

 Is this worth the time to read? Probably not. I picked it up thinking it was the original novel and was disappointed it wasn't. But Kubrik's comedy interpretation is still a serious anti-war film and if nothing else this a re-visit to that great film albeit in word form. It is also an interesting look at how a screenplay is written from which a film is made.

 As a review this isn't one as such because as I've stated if you have seen the film then there is absolutely no need to read this. The title is unfortunately mis-leading because it gives the impression of being novel the film is based on, which in fact has a totally different title altogether. This is more a word of caution because if you see this novel and think it is the original you will be mistaken because it isn't. I still want to read the original though to see how much Kubrik's film adaptation stands up.

 To be read only as a novelty.