Fifty Years of Dr. Strangelove
By Lars Trodson
The secret is in the full title: “Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb.”
Alfred E. Neuman’s motto from Mad Magazine? “What, me worry?”
That’s why we know that a little, ad-less, satirical and slightly creepy comic magazine transformed both the movies and American culture. Without Mad Magazine, there is no “Strangelove,” no “The Loved One,” no “Bonnie and Clyde, no “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Mad Magazine exposed the fragility and the absurdities of the movie cliche — Mad made you love them in all their ridiculousness and run from them at the same time.
More specifically, this is the legacy of a feature that was prominent in the magazine for 10 years prior to the Jan. 29, 1964 release of “Dr. Stangelove” — the magazine’s movie parodies.
Kubrick’s movie is essentially what Mad Magazine would have done to a parody of “Fail Safe” — a straight movie that has almost the exact same plot as “Dr. Strangelove.” Directed by Sidney Lumet, “Fail Safe” was released the same year as “Strangelove.” Mad Magazine never satirized “Fail Safe” — even though the Cold War was a favorite topic — because Kubrick had already done it for them.