Shot by Shot Analysis: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

By Ecenaz Başaran

Name: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop

Worrying and Love the Bomb

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Film Editor: Anthony Harvey

Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden

Year: 1964

What follows is an analysis of 12 shots from the beginning of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, as well as a functional analysis of these shots and the credits sequence. I have chosen the opening scene, because I like the pure blackness of scenes. Also, these scenes are kind of empty which I believe represent the emptiness of war which is the basic point of the movie.

Shot #1:

There is a fade out after the credit sequence. We hear an airplane voice. At the bottom of the frame there is a big building. The camera slowly zooms in slightly to the left side of the frame. It is night and there is only enough light to show enough details. Therefore, we can conclude that the important thing in here is runway.

Camera is stationary except the zoom. Vertical shot which means camera is at a high place.

There is a straight cut. (It goes directly to the next picture.)

It is about 7 seconds long.

Shot #2:

Radar spins. Contrary to the previous shot, it is daylight and the camera is horizontal.

Camera is stable and in a medium height.

There is a straight cut too.

5 seconds long.

Shot #3:

There is an airplane on the runway on the focus and buildings and small planes at the background.

Camera is stable and in a high place.

There is a straight cut.

3 seconds long.

Shot #4:

A bomber takes flight leaves the runway. It goes to the right top of the frame from left bottom.

Camera angle begins straight on, then tilts upwards to keep the rising plane in frame.

There is a straight cut.

6 seconds long.

Shot #5:

Men are in a room with computers and recorders. Captain Mandrake looks right and walks across the frame to the right, through a set of swinging doors. He walks over to a desk and a man hands him a phone. Mandrake sits down at the chair and begins speaking.

Camera angle is straight on and there is a vertical composition. Camera starts with Mandrake and keeps him in the frame.

First important noise we hear is the phone. Afterwards we here the steps of Mandrake and they start talking.

There is a straight cut.

15 seconds long.

Shot #6:

General Ripper sits in a dark office talking on the phone. Contrary to the previous scene, the room is really dark. There is a top lightning on the Ripper, except it there are not much light.

Camera is stable and medium height. Also, because of the angle of camera; the room looks enormous. Perhaps, wide angle lens.

There is a straight cut.

5 seconds long.


At this point, twenty shots follow which compose a conversation between Capt. Mandrake and Gen. Ripper. In this sequence, generally every other shot is the same shot. Mandrake has a medium shot from the front and he is sitting at the desk talking on the phone. The other shots show Ripper’s office, but he is photographed from a different angle each time the camera cuts back to him. The last scene ends up as Ripper walks to the windows.

Due to its being repetitive and kind of boring I skipped these parts.

Shot #7:

Five bombers are steadily flying from right to left. We hear the noise of them.

Camera is in a medium height and moving with bombers. Planes are always in the frame.

Straight cut.

7 seconds long.

Shot #8:

One plane flies across the sky. It points the opposite way with the bombers in previous scene.

Camera Angle is slightly high and tilted.

Straight cut.

3 seconds long.

Shot #9:

A bomber flies towards the camera over mountains. There is a large mountain visible in the background, underneath the plane. Except for this mountain, most of the ground is in shadows. Although it occupies the foreground of the frame, the bomber seems to almost get lost in the composition.

High angle. Camera has been tilted downwards.

Straight cut.

4 seconds.

Shot #10:

A bomber flies right to left over desolate, rocky terrain. Not much background detail; the ground appears fairly washed out and the horizon is barely visible. Light is hard on the plane but a little softer on the background.

Camera angle is slightly high.

Straight cut.

5 seconds.

Shot #11:

There are four bombers in the frame. We see that they are flying over a city. As sky being light, the ground seems very dark.

Camera is at a lower position than bombers.

Straight cut.

5 seconds long.

Shot #12:

There is a one bomber which flies over a lake next to the sea. It seems really small.

Camera sees one bomber on higher place. With this aspect the bomber has been minimized.

Straight cut.

6 seconds long.

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