Some notes from the War Room

1962. It was a death-gray afternoon in early December and the first snow of the New England winter had just begun. Outside my window, between the house and the banks of the frozen stream, great silver butter-fly flakes floated and fluttered in the failing light. Beyond the stream, past where the evening mist had begun to rise, it was possible, with a scintilla of imagination, to make out the solemnly moving figures in the Bradbury story about the Book People; in short, a magical moment suddenly undone by the ringing of a telephone somewhere in the house, and then, closer at hand, my wife’s voice in a curious singsong: “It’s big Stan Kubrick on the line from Old Smoke…”

I won’t attempt to reconstruct the conversation; suffice to say he told me he was going to make a film about “our failure to understand the dangers of nuclear war.” He said that he had thought of the story as a “straightforward melodrama” until this morning, when he “woke up and realized that nuclear war was too outrageous, too fantastic to be treated in any conventional manner.” He said he could only see it now as “some kind of hideous joke.” He told me that he had read a book of mine which contained, as he put it, “certain indications” that I might be able to help him with the script.

And I won’t attempt to construct a precis of this entire article in a couple of succinct and witty paragraphs. It’s a great narrative read. Funny, witty (yes), critical and understanding of every sort of problem, unanswered questions, attendant upon serious movie-making.

RTFA.

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