Study Guide

Dr. Strangelove General Turgidson (George C. Scott)

General Turgidson (George C. Scott)

Played as an almost-lovable, gum-chewing buffoon by the insanely talented George C. Scott, General Buck Turgidson represents the faction in America that was ready to heat up the Cold War at the drop of a hat.

He's a clown from the moment we first meet him, when he gets the bad news about Plan R while hanging out with his bikini babe girlfriend, who he later has a relationship talk with on the phone in the War Room. It's this kinda stuff that makes Turgidson so hilarious (and so scary). The guy treats the whole thing pretty casually. Take this famous line where Turgidson encourages the President to deal with the crisis by launching a full out attack on the Soviets:

TURGIDSON: Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say... no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh... depending on the breaks.

Just ten to twenty million, huh? No bigs. When the President replies that he'd rather not go down in history as killing more people than Adolph Hitler, Turgidson suggests the President should care more about the American people than he does about the way he looks in the history books. Turgidson believes so whole-heartedly that only way to win the Cold War is through force that he's completely blind to the idea that the President is thinking of what's best for the American people. Cuz...like...getting incinerated isn't exactly part of the America Dream. At least last time we checked it wasn't.

Turgidson hates the Soviets and sees no reason not to attack them:

TURGIDSON: Mr. President, you gonna let that lousy commie punk vomit all over us like this?

Turgidson's total crush on all things violent is pushed to absurd levels later in the film when the destructive power of the Doomsday Machine is revealed. Rather than realizing that a machine with the power to kill all life on Earth might be taking things a bit too far, the General comments,

TURGIDSON: Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.

Ultimately, the General is like a little boy playing war; the scary thing is that he's one of the guys who have the power to play war for real.

Turgidson's name also suggests a sexual motivation for his love of war. Buck—how more masculine a name can you get? "Turgid" can mean pompous, but it also means swollen or engorged, like, well…you know. There is one scene where you can see the General getting very worked up about the possibility of King's bomber actually getting through and penetrating, so to speak, Soviet air space:

TURGIDSON: Well, I'm sorry. Ah...If the pilot's good, see. I mean, if he's really...sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low spreads his arms like wings, you oughtta see it sometime, it's a sight. A big plane, like a '52, vroom! There's jet exhaust, flyin' chickens in the barnyard!

MUFFLEY: Yeah, but has he got a chance?

TURGIDSON: Has he got a chance? Hell Ye...ye...(covers his mouth when he realizes he's getting too excited)

Turgidson's enthusiasm about bombing the heck out of the Soviets—about anyone, actually—temporarily blinds him to the fact that it's bringing about the end of the world. Even after the explosion, he's still on the offensive:

TURGIDSON: I mean, we must be... increasingly on the alert to prevent them from taking over other mineshaft space, in order to breed more prodigiously than we do, thus, knocking us out in superior numbers when we emerge! Mr. President, we must not allow... a mineshaft gap!

He doesn't realize that mineshafts are beside the point; everyone's about to die.

Turgidson's character satirizes all the ultra-hawkish military higher-ups who see war as the answer to any conflict and are always creating excuses to be paranoid. Do we want these guys in charge?

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