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Written by Timothy Sexton
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake
Lionel Mandrake is the first character played by Peter Sellers that we meet in the movie. Mandrake is a member of the Royal Air Force attached from England to Burpelson Air Force Base in America. As only person who has the direct contact with Gen. Jack D. Ripper required to understand that he has gone insane and is unilaterally trying to kick off World War III, Mandrake is all that that stands between nuclear annihilation and the possibility of recalling the bombers on their way to the Soviet Union.
Pres. Merkin Muffley
The second character played by Peter Sellers that the audience meets is Merkin Muffley, the President of the United States. Bald, soft-spoken and courteous, Muffley hardly seems the guy to keep the world from edging over the nuclear brink. Can he upend expectations and prove the hero?
And, finally, the last character portrayed by Peter Sellers is the title character himself, Dr. Strangelove. Confined to a wheelchair and speaking in a thick German accent, Sellers perhaps earns his Oscar nomination for the movie by the way he so easily convinces the audience that the former Nazi physicist now working for the U.S. military is equipped with a prosthetic hand that often appears to be acting independently of its owner.
Maj. "King" Kong
The bomber of the rogue plane incapable of receiving the Recall Code that would stop the crew from delivering its nuclear payload would have been the fourth character that Peter Sellers played had he not reconsidered after determining that playing the Stetson-wearing pilot from Texas was just taking on a little too much. Kong plays it alone in the film’s most memorable image: Pickens madly waving his cowboy hat as he rides a nuclear bomb down through Russian air space.
Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper
The tough, craggy-faced Sterling Hayden carries the appropriate level of gravity to play the military man whose commitment to manhood drives him to the edge of insanity and then topples him over the cliff. Ripper is the catalyst whose inability to perform sexually he blames on a communist conspiracy which in turn stimulates his desires kick off World War III by the furtively sending the Go-Code to a squadron of Strategic Air Command bombers.
Col "Bat" Guano
“Bat” Guano comes very close to stopping Mandrake on his mission as the only person in the world capable of stopping World War III from breaking out. The only problem is that Mandrake must use a pay phone to call the President and he is out of change. When he attempts to rectify this situation using a Coca-Cola vending machine, Guano’s unreasonable commitment to serving both sides of the Military-Industrial Complex nearly results in the most tragic phone failure in history.
George C. Scott
Gen. "Buck" Turgidson
Gen. Turgidson represents the hawkish spectrum of advisors meeting with Pres. Muffley in the War Room once Ripper’s crazy plan to get even with the commies is revealed. Turgidson is a wild, manic warrior in opposition to the coldly detached Gen. Ripper. His primary concern with the present circumstances, however, seems to be more with the fat that the Russian ambassador has been allowed into the top-top-secret War Room rather than with the fact that a US bomber with orders to drop a nuclear weapon over Russia.
James Earl Jones
Lt. Lothar Zogg
Lt. Zogg is a member of Major Kong’s bomber crew and his presence in the film would likely not be worth mentioning were it for not one very important factor. This was the very first appearance in a feature film by the actor who played Zogg: James Earl Jones.
Russian Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky
Bull’s Russian Ambassador gets to take center stage in the scene that provides the most memorable quote from Dr. Strangelove. Gen. Turgidson’s paranoia about letting a Russian into the War Room turns out to have been justified when he catches de Sadesky furtively taking photos with a small spy camera. As the two physical tussle Pres. Muffley admonishes, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!”
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