It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

its a mad mad mad mad world poster 1963 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great who's who of cast for when it was made, epic feel

Comedy is pretty basic but rooted in the time it was made

Movie Info

Movie Name: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Studio:  Casey Productions

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  November 7, 1963 (Premiere)/November 17, 1963 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

its a mad mad mad mad world buddy hacket sid caesar milton berle mickey rooney jonathan winters jimmy durante

What did you say?

The death of a man named “Smiler” Grogan (Jimmy Durante) along the side of the highway in California kicks off a great race by the people who witnessed his accident.  Smiler is a former criminal and has hidden his last score somewhere in Southern California.  Now, a group of greedy opportunists hope to score the treasure first…but greed corrupts and dividing the goods might be harder than any of them ever expected.  As the treasure seeker scramble, Captain T.G. Culpeper (Spencer Tracy) is watching the race and hoping to uncover where the money is hidden.

Directed by Stanley Kramer, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is an ensemble comedy.  The film was a commercial success and received an Academy Award for Best Effects, Sound Effects with nominations for Best Cinematography—Color, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song (“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”), and Best Original Score.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #692).

its a mad mad mad mad world milton berle ethel merman dorothy provine

Listen…I’m trying to be the most unlikable here…and I will succeed!!!

There are epic movies, but “epic” comedies are kind of an oddity…and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is kind of an epic comedy.  It takes almost all the biggest comedians at the time and crams them into one movie…while still giving them the time to develop characters.  Due to aspects of the plot, a ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.

The plot is simple…get the money.  The movie starts out to be a chase to the final destination (with all the different paths) and someone walking away with the money.  The movie instead had the characters get to the destination but face a new problem…a police officer who wants the money for himself.  The movie becomes a chase film with Spencer Tracy trying to get away with the money.  While I like the first part of the adventure, I feel the chase part goes on a bit long (plus, you kind of want Tracy to get away with it unlike most of the other players).

its a mad mad mad mad world cast ending chase

Let the chase begin!

The cast is expansive.  The main people from the road include Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Sid Caesar, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, and Dorothy Provine…which Ethel Merman being the most obnoxious of the bunch (intentionally) as the harping mother-in-law, but they too good of a job with her.  Jimmy Durante plays the thief and Spencer Tracy plays the down on his luck cop.  They meet up with Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Peter Falk, Dick Shawn, and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson.  There are cameos by Jim Backus, Buster Keaton, Jack Benny, Don Knotts, Norman Fell, Carl Reiner, and the Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Joe) among others.  It is a who’s who type of movie.

its a mad mad mad mad world big w location treasure jonathan winters

Where is the W?

The film also is big looking.  It covers a lot of ground and a lot of locations.  It also mixes in a lot of things like car chases, airplane chases, and tons of stunt work (some good and some bad).  The film originally ran 202 minutes before being cut down to 192 minutes for the premiere and then a theatrical cut of 161 minutes…and most versions are available if you hunt them down.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is long (perhaps too long), and it feels a bit quaint by today’s standards.  The film has a look and style that resembles pictures like Cannonball Run in the 1980s or the ensemble films like Anchorman of today.  It definitely comes from the period from which it was made since it makes its cast up of celebrities of the day, but it still can be enjoyed by modern audiences…they might not get all the references and nuances.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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