It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) Review

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) Director: Stanley Kramer


A former fugitive runs his car off the road and shortly before dying he notifies a group of bystanders that he buried $350,000 below a “big W” in Santa Rosita State Park in Southern California. He then promptly dies, or he quite literally kicks the bucket. Initially, the group of eight witnesses attempts to move along with their day, however each one of them quickly develops a madness for the money and the film devolves into an absurdist all-out race for the cash. One couple charters a plane, another steals a car, one gets trapped in a hardware store and so on. After much destruction and pure anarchy, not unlike a Groucho Marx situationist comedy, each member of the group arrives at the park and discovers the spot beneath located beneath several palm trees shaped like a “W.” They start digging and the chief of police (Spencer Tracy) arrives ordering them all to turn themselves in. However before they can do so, they discover that he tries to steal the money so they chase him through a series of crazy situations. Finally they all arrive at the top of a building in Orange County and the briefcase full of money opens and the money is let loose to a massive crowd below. They all fall from a rescue ladder and are hospitalized as the film ends on a wholly chaotic note.

As a road comedy rife with site gags, this classic comedy was a real departure for Stanley Kramer, a director who had developed a reputation for more serious message movies like Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and Judgment at Nuremberg. However, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, as an epic comedy, features an utterly astounding cast of actors: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, Jerry Lewis, Buster Keaton, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Sid Caesar, Dorothy Provine, Terry-Thomas, Phil Silvers, Jack Benny, Paul Birch, Sterling Holloway, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, Jimmy Durante, The Three Stooges, and so many others. With all the extreme stunts in the film, it was only inevitable that some actors were injured. Milton Berle and Phil Silvers sustained head injuries, and the latter nearly drowned in the scene wherein his car fell into the water. Arnold Stang played one of the gas station owners and just before shooting he broke his arm so it was disguised by his costume. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is a fun romp through Southern California and is worth watching for a chaotic laugh and for bringing together every big name comedian in Hollywood at the time.

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