Wednesday, December 30, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD"

IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (1963)

Director: Stanley Kramer
Screenplay: William Rose and Tania Rose based on their story



Director Stanley Kramer’s work consists of some of the most political and socially topical films ever made, ranging from “The Defiant Ones,” “Judgement at Nuremberg,” “Inherit the Wind,” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, but one day, he decided to get as many of the best comic/comedians, or anybody else with any kind of comic ability in every form of comedy imaginable up until that time, and get them together and make the greatest comedy of all-time. He overshot a bit. “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World,” isn’t the greatest comedy of all-time, but it’s still incredibly funny, and even when it isn’t as funny as it should be, there’s so much comedic talent in the movie, that you know all you have to do is wait for the next scene for something funny, and at a little over three hours, it’s a long long long long movie, especially for a comedy, and exceptionally so for a movie where the only purpose of the film is to just take great comic actors and continually place them in funny scene, scenarios and situation, yet it remains endearing despite it being so far over-the-top, that basically anything can and pretty much does happen in the film. Its plot formula will be familiar to those who’ve seen the less inspiring reimagining of the film like “The Cannonball Run,” and “Rat Race,” among about a dozen other remakes and re-imaginings. A car accident leads to numerous drivers pulling off the road, initially to help, only to hear an elongated last words speech by the driver about buried cash in a Santa Rosita Park. The man apparently stole hundreds of thousands from a tuna factory 15 years earlier and hid it, but remained under police surveillance ‘til his death. The police, they then quickly keep track and figures on what’s become an obvious race between about, 15 or 16 people depending on how you count, to the money. Everything of course, is watched over by the Santa Rosita police department the whole time, lead by Capt. Culpepper, (Spencer Tracy) and apparently no one notices they’re being tailed, ever, and everybody leaves a trail of damage behind. All comedy throughout all the ages is represented here from Buster Keaton to Dick Shawn to Milton Berle to Carl Reiner, Sid Caeser, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hacket, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, Jim Backus, Phil Silvers, Jonathan Winters … even the Three Stooges are allowed a cameo and a credit, and that’s not counting the uncredited work of Jerry Lewis and Jack Benny to name a few. It’s intention is pointless fun, and succeeds greatly. I find myself enjoying the movie more on multiple viewings as it simply meanders from comic scenario to comic scenario without taking anything seriously. The plot device is only an excuse to get all these comedians to be funny onscreen. If only they could’ve added Jackie Gleason and George Burns, it would’ve been an even better better better better movie, but I think this comic time capsule has enough comedy legends to hold us over. 
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