This James Hughes article in The Atlantic looks into one of Stanley Kubrick’s lesser-known projects — it’s nuts to think he has multiple well-known yet unrealized projects — about certain German military members obsessed with jazz.
However, it’s Kubrick’s interest in jazz-loving Nazis that represents his most fascinating unrealized war film. The book that Kubrick was handed, and one he considered adapting soon after wrapping Full Metal Jacket, was Swing Under the Nazis, published in 1985 and written by Mike Zwerin, a trombonist from Queens who had performed with Miles Davis and Eric Dolphy before turning to journalism. The officer in that Strangelovian snapshot was Dietrich Schulz-Koehn, a fanatic for “hot swing” and other variations of jazz outlawed as “jungle music” by his superiors. Schulz-Koehn published an illegal underground newsletter, euphemistically referred to as “travel letters,” which flaunted his unique ability to jaunt across Western Europe and report back on the jazz scenes in cities conquered by the Fatherland. Kubrick’s title for the project was derived from the pen name Schulz-Koehn published under: Dr. Jazz.
It’s fascinating to think of a Kubrick movie with a relatively positive message — “Stanley was also drawn to what this said about music and its ability to unify people and transcend even rigid political differences.” — rather than the critical, detached view of humanity present in films like The Killing, The Shining, and Paths of Glory.
Of course, such a movie would not likely be lighthearted, given Kubrick’s pedigree and the Nazi trappings, but this gives a juicy “what if?” alternate history thought to the day.