Sunday, April 5, 2015

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; comedy, USA, 1963; D: Stanley Kramer, S: Sid Caesar, Spencer Tracy, Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, Terry-Thomas, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Jonathan Winters, Dorothy Provine, Dick Shawn, Peter Falk, Jimmy Durante, Buster Keaton, Don Knotts, Carl Reiner, Jerry Lewis

After a car accident on a curve, crook "Smiler" reveals to five accidental passer-bys - dentist Melville, furniture mover Pike, Bell, Benjamin and entrepreneur Russell Finch - that he buried 350,000 $ under a "W" sign in the Santa Rosita park, before passing out. This triggers a mad race between the five drivers, who all want to reach the money first. After numerous misadventures and chases via plans and automobiles, the number of people who reach the park reaches twenty, but the money is taken away by police Captain Culpeper. However, he tries to steal the cash as well, and is chased by the gang, until in all the commotion the money is dispersed on the streets and picked up by a crowd.

Stanley Kramer's first excursion into a comedy was not only untypical thematically - he is known for complex social dramas like "Inherit the Wind" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" - but also for its megalomaniac intent to make a "comedy to end all comedies". On the plus side, he must be given credit for managing to rally almost half of all Hollywood comedians, some of which make only a ten second cameo (Jerry Lewis, the Three Stooges, Buster Keaton...), and giving a comical take on greed that causes people to go crazy in its race to reach a buried money first, whereas the best jokes arrive in the first third of the film, most in the form of insane over-the-top action stunts (the five vehicles driving on the both sides of the road, pushing away all other cars arriving from the other side from their way; Melville and his wife are shaken while a small airplane from 1916 takes off only to go back on the ground again; tied up to a pole, Pike pulls it off and demolishes a whole gas station...). It is difficult to pinpoint who stands out the most in this sea of an ensemble, yet the brilliant Sid Caesar really feels the most genuine and charming of them all. However, Kramer unnecessarily expanded the scale of the story into an epic three hour length, which was way too much for such a simple one-note concept, causing it to go pass its prime and turn into an overlong excess, with too many contrived, forced and pompous subplots, which is why in the finale "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" even became slightly boring, causing the viewers to thank that this affair finally came to an conclusion.


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