25 March 2013

Never Saw It, But I Read the MAD Parody

At Film Comment, Grady Hendrix traces the rise and fall of MAD Magazine’s film parodies:

…the arrival of Mort Drucker in 1957 changed everything. Initially no one saw Drucker’s talent. Then in 1959 he drew the television parody The Night Perry Masonite Lost a Case and the basic movie parody format for the next 44 years was born.

Opening with a splash panel that took up two-thirds of the page, it was all cartooning, used square word balloons, and the dialogue was copy cast. Playing to Drucker’s strengths, The Night Perry Masonite Lost a Case opted for an extremely tame design, mandated by art directors John Putnam and Leonard Brenner, who gave Drucker his panel layouts. The panels were mostly two-shots and medium shots, usually showing the characters from the waist up.

The comedy came from Drucker’s uncanny ability to capture the likeness of an actor and then blow it up to the point where it started to deform but didn’t quite tip over into caricature. The cartoonist’s equivalent of an actor’s director, Drucker was a master of drawing hands, faces, and body language, and his approach (he wound up creating 238 movie satires) became the house style.
I was one of the young readers Hendrix writes about, being introduced to movies I couldn’t see and in many cases hadn’t heard of through their MAD parodies. Years before I saw The Godfather movies, for example, I knew the plot of the first and how the second one jumped back and forth in time.

Sometimes the MAD writers parodied movies as musicals, and that provided a double education: not just the movies but the songs the writers felt were in the American canon. Even now I remember lines from a song for James Bond set to “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” more surely than I remember the plots of any early Bond film or Oklahoma!

1 comment:

Myrna said...

I am desperately looking for the words to two songs that I read in Mad Magazine back in the 1950's. One is about Moby Dick ("Morbid Dick") and the other was about ancient Rome (O, Rome is my dream, with your mad coliseum, and your traffic-bound apian way" ... "Rome, Rome, you're just fine, with your great _SPQR Sign"...) The Moby Dick song was sung to the tune of "On the Street Where You Live" and the Roman song was to the tune "Oh, Give Me A Home Where the Buffalo Roam..." Can ANYONE help me get the words to these -- especially, the Moby Dick song. I'm 68 years old, and I just accidentally erased a bunch of it from my backup memory ....