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What is the meaning of "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk"?

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    I've just watched Dr. Strangelove (1964), and the last line was apparently improvised by Peter Sellers when he accidentally got up from his wheelchair while playing the namesake character. I find it hard to believe that this famous movie quote almost never happened, though. What does it even mean? It sounds quite random, even for an accidental outburst. Granted that the character switches from using Mr. President to Mein Fuhrer (inferring that he used to work as a Nazi-sympathising scientist in Germany). Although the circumstances around the delivery of the "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk" are dubious to me, I should bear in mind that Stanley Kubrick originally thought of ending the film with a pie fight, even more farcical. In that case, is the quote not to be taken seriously? Some have said that it's just a joke, accentuated by the irony of a disabled guy miraculously learning to walk, too little too late!

    J. Kastorf (http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0034.html) seemed to think this improvised line had a deeper symbolic purpose, that Dr. Strangelove is fascism embodied. That is, paralyzed (of Germany's defeat in WWII), but not completely dead, and still influential. By convincing the US President of taking up his idea of selecting only the brightest and best civilians and military men into the mines, and staying on course for the mutually assured destruction of the USA and Russia, Dr. Strangelove has realized the fascist goals of an intellectually and racially (I assume) 'pure' society. So the miracle of Strangelove walking is likened to the miracle of the Third Reich ruling over the world, underground in mine shafts.

    This symbolism is convincing, but incongruent with the overall satirical, almost slapstick tone of the film. I mean, for crying out loud, one of the nukes on the B-52 say "Dear John"! I'm stuck between Kastorf's reading of the quote and "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk" simply being an improvised ad-lib. What does everyone else think the quote means? Whatever it is, it's bloody funny!
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    Well it sounds like saying "my God, I can walk!" like how back in the day people used to say things like "My God!" and "By jove" etc. It's probably a joke anyway but if you want to read more into it, I'd say it was meant to be "My God, I can walk" and as Hitler was a complete tyrant and in a way assumed the role of a God (deciding who lives or dies, in this case those who were Aryan could live and the Jews died), so sort of took on a God role in that society. Like a joke that the two were interchangeable.
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    (Original post by infairverona)
    Well it sounds like saying "my God, I can walk!" like how back in the day people used to say things like "My God!" and "By jove" etc. It's probably a joke anyway but if you want to read more into it, I'd say it was meant to be "My God, I can walk" and as Hitler was a complete tyrant and in a way assumed the role of a God (deciding who lives or dies, in this case those who were Aryan could live and the Jews died), so sort of took on a God role in that society. Like a joke that the two were interchangeable.
    I understand what you mean, I wanted the focus to go not just on the quote but on why Dr. Strangelove suddenly started walking in the first place. I probably wasn't clear on that. It's interesting that you've made the connection to mild oaths like "My God" and linked it to the God-like powers bestowed upon the Fuhrer (well, a particular Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler).

    It's so like Peter Sellers (and the rest of the film, really) to just throw away a disability like that, and not take anything too seriously, which is a tell-tale sign of a good satire.
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    It's a joke. Healthy men will be required to reproduce with healthy women to repopulate the world, and Strangelove wants a piece of that action. Read the script.

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Updated: November 18, 2013
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