MAD Magazine is an institution, and while I haven't been as amused by it in recent years, it's still an institution that commands respect. And since a lot of that respect was built upon the wonderful Mort Drucker-drawn movie parodies, naturally I consider this collection of those parodies a gem and a must-have.
Let's start with the good stuff: the overwhelming majority of parodies in this collection are drawn by Drucker. Legend has it that when the Brooklyn native Drucker came up to visit the MAD offices looking for work, William Gaines was listening to a baseball match with the Brooklyn Dodgers on the radio. He told the young artist that if the Dodgers won, he'd be hired. The Dodgers won, and Drucker was hired.
If it's a true or merely great story, I don't know, but whatever the reason Drucker was hired, it was a stroke of genius as he would go on to become one of the great caricaturists of the century, and possibly the greates artist in the quite impressive MAD lineup.
Also, you have to give the MAD writers credit. They don't really do all that much satire in their movie parodies IMO; "parody" is a better description, but they also do an excellent job of pointing out plot flaws, ridiculous premises, etc. You'd really be hard pressed to find a better review of a film than the MAD version of it – when I was a kid, I hardly ever went to the movies, but I knew all about the big films anyway, because I'd read about them in MAD. In fact, I think you could put together a very decent education as a movie writer and/or director basing the curriculum entirely on reading MAD movie parodies – they are that good at the basics of storytelling, plot structure, and pacing.
It's not perfect, however. These stories are from the 1960s and onwards, and the zeitgeist has changed as regards many things – most notably, IMO, the views on gender roles and homosexuality. Too often, these movies reflect a view of gender roles that can seem not just old-fashioned but even insulting today, and that can be reflected in the parodies as well. Also, homosexuality was okay as the basis for tasteless and pretty crude "jokes" in those days that we're less likely to accept, or find particularly funny, today. Mincing gays is a stereotype that has outlived itself, IMO. Similarly, throwaway lines about Arabs smelling badly isn't, fortunately, considered OK in polite society anymore, either.
Plus, more than a few of the movies that were considered great in their day haven't aged all that gracefully. This doesn't really affect the quality of the parodies, of course, but it does make some choices seem less important than others. Fortunately, most of the movies in this collection do belong to a "you really should have seen this movie at least once" canon. You'll find movies like Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest here – and I wonder if that last one doesn't somehow represent an artistic peak for Drucker; his portraits of Jack Nicholson in it are just marvelous.
…And then I go back to the book and check the other stories and realize that dammit, he's been so great for so long that it's practically impossible to name an artistic "peak"; it's a very, very long plateau at a very, very high level.
The rest of the artists in this volume range from the great (Hermann Mejia doing "Lord of the Rings"), over the very good (Angelo Torres and Jack Davis) to the "meh" (Tom Richards and Sam Viviano). Fortunately, most of it is indeed great, and most of the movie parodies are good to very good efforts from the writers.
Recommended. And hey, it is a classic.