Plot: What’s it about?
As a slew of cars head down a winding mountain road, one speeds through the rest, only to sail right over the edge of a cliff. About five cars come to a halt afterwards and the drivers get out, to see if the driver has somehow managed to survive. The driver (Jimmy Durante) is still kicking, but it is obvious that he’s near the end and as such, he decides to share a valuable secret with the men who came to check on him. He tells them about a buried treasure worth over three-hundred grand, just waiting for them to uncover and claim it. The cash is found beneath a massive W and of course, he tells them they won’t be able to miss the site. He soon kicks the bucket and this leaves the men alone, wondering about the treasure and also, what the other men think about the old man’s last words. After they try to divide the treasure like gentlemen and that fails, it turns into a race against time and each other, as the men try to stake their claim on the loot. But unknown to them, other people also know about the cash and as such, the race turns into a widespread one, but once the dust has settled, who will end up with the buried treasure?
A wild, hilarious chase picture, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World has finally arrived on DVD and in a welcome notion, MGM has created a terrific package here. In any event, this is a very cool movie and while the abundance of cameos gets tiresome, the flick still levels off at a high plateau, so I am very pleased to be able to own this edition. The premise is a little out there, but the details unfold very well and the jokes remain ever present, especially as we careen toward the finale. A lot of the gags seem on the dated side now, but most still work very well and in the end, only a handful elicit a negative groan. The performances are terrific, with such folks as Milton Berle, Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Ethel Merman, Buddy Hackett, and others in prominent roles, as well as countless cameos by famous faces. In closing, this is a very humorous movie that plays out on a grand scale, which is no simple task. I wouldn’t call this a class film per se, but it is a wonderful comedy and as such, it is more than recommended.
Due to the massive cast involved in this movie, I figured I shouldn’t focus one performer, but instead list some of the more well known actors. As such, here’s a partial list of the numerous comedic legends who can be see in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The cast here includes Spencer Tracy (Adam’s Rib, Bad Day at Black Rock), Sid Caesar (Grease, Tv’s Your Show of Shows), Mickey Rooney (The Black Stallion, Quicksand), Ethel Merman (Strike Me Pink, Old Man Blues), Jonathan Winters (The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, The Shadow), Buddy Hackett (The Music Man, The Love Bug), Phil Silvers (The Cheap Detective, The Strongest Man on Earth), Milton Berle (The Muppet Movie, Broadway Danny Rose), Edie Adams (The Apartment, Up in Smoke), Dorothy Provine (The Great Race, Never a Dull Moment), Peter Falk (The Princess Bride, Tv’s Columbo), Don Knotts (The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Shakiest Gun in the West), Jimmy Durante (The Milkman, It Happened in Brooklyn), Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor, Cinderfella), The 3 Stooges, Buster Keaton (The General, Sherlock, Jr.), and countless others.
Video: How does it look?
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is presented in a 2.55:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I was quite pleased with this treatment, as it improves upon the laserdisc and really makes the film look great, very impressive work. The print looks almost pristine, with minimal defects or grain, which is a real relief, to be sure. The colors look bold, but remain with a natural scope, while flesh tones seem normal and consistent also. I saw no issues with the contrast either, as it looks sharp and well balanced throughout, high detail and no problems here. In the end, this is a superb visual transfer and I think fans will be delighted, without a doubt.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was quite pleased with the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as the materials were in fine shape and showed minimal age signs. Of course, the mix isn’t as rich as more modern ones, but this is a more than solid track, with a lot of presence, given the film’s age and all. The surrounds are used for music and a few scenes to enhance the events, but in the end, this one is based in the front channels, as it should be. But don’t think this is an inactive mix however, as it sparks when it needs to and in this case, that proves to be enough. The dialogue is clean and never slips in the least, which is good, given the speed and frequency of the jokes here. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Like a lot of people, I am sad to see MGM release the theatrical cut of this movie, as opposed to the extended version. But MGM has included a number of the extended scenes here, which should provide some kind of solace, since you can view them, just not within the film itself. Some of them look pretty rough and others look decent enough, but in any case, I am pleased to have on this disc, in one form or another. Next is Something a Little Less Serious, an hour long documentary ported over from the laserdisc release. This is a superb piece that contains retrospective interviews with many of the stars, who have all sorts of stories to share, to be sure. As you can imagine, this one has a lot of humorous anecdotes, including a wealth of behind the scenes tomfoolery and such. This disc also includes the film’s theatrical and reissue trailers.