Having loved IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD since as far back as I can remember, it was fun revisiting it on my 120” screen in a glorious Blu-Ray 4K transfer courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
The epic comedy featuring more comic legends than you can count, still entertains with screwball lunacy and solid slapstick humor. The premise couldn’t be simpler; a group of people witness a car accident. Before the driver (Jimmy Durante) literally kicks the bucket, he tells them about a fortune of stolen cash he buried “under the Big W” and before you know it it’s a race to see who can get to it first.
All manner of travel are employed to make it there first and along the way more and more people join in the madcap adventure. Little do they realize that Police Detective Capt. Culpepper (Spencer Tracy) is hot on their tail just waiting to be led to the stolen money; An unsolved case that has haunted him for years.
The cast includes Milton Berles, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Ethel Merman, Phil Silvers, Jim Backus, Jonathan Winters and Dick Shawn to name only a fraction of the star-power employed by director Stanley Kramer.
The film is epic is scale (Shot the Cinerama aspect ratio of 2.76:1) and epic in length (The Theatrical run time is 163min and a newly restored “Roadshow” version is 197min!). Even at this length, the movie moves at a great pace and maintains being an enjoyable romp.
Structurally the movie jumps back in forth between the disparate groups and the wacky adventures they get into along their chaotic journeys. Sometimes the segments are long while at other key moments they cut rapid fire between them. The structure is like GAME OF THRONES, but funny and with far less blood and nudity.
So if you have some free time on your hands and you are in the mood for a zany adventure, IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD will keep you entertained. It’s not the height of comedy, but it’s silly and amusing and if you appreciate those individuals that paved the way for the current crop of comedians then you’ll really dig seeing them all trying to one-up one another for the greatest laughs.
My personal favorites? Buddy Hackett and Jonathan Winters.