Wednesday, July 30, 2008

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

From 1963, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World takes place over the course of a particularly eventful day along the highways of Southern California, where a group of strangers comes across a man's dying confession that a large sum of money is hidden in Santa Rosita, California. The group of four or five different cars and about a dozen people can't agree as to how they're going to split this money so it becomes every man for himself.

The film is also the loose inspiration for the 2001 film Rat Race except it was a far more solid film that doesn't compromise its audience with overly crude or pandering humor. It's based around a timeless concept: the humor of the chase, and that has been used by every great comic Buster Keaton's The General, to Harold Lloyd's vertical version of the chase in Safety Last. And it never gets old.

The film is also directed by Stanley Kramer who primarily made message movies (i.e. Inherit the Wind, Ship of Fools, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) and while it's tempting to think that Kramer was just taking a break from heavier themes and just having fun, the movie isn't entirely morally devoid of any theme. There is a certain undertone amid all the comedy of how money corrupts absolutely. Watching the film a second or third time with that theme in mind might make for a different viewing experience.Stanley Kramer made the film with the aim of casting as many comedians in the film as he possibly could, and he succeeds quite well, so the film ends up being a who's who of the '60's.

It is interesting to note that a great number of the stars of this film are completely unrecognizable to my generation today. They are unrecognizable to myself and I'd like to think I've seen my fair share of TV and movies from the old days. Here is who I knew and didn't know:-I had heard of Sid Cesar because he gave Mel Brooks and Woody Allen their starts, Carl Reiner I knew as the director of some films and I've seen him on Whose Line is it Anyway?
-I had heard of Phil Silvers because I knew he was the inspiration for Sargent Bilko, but I had never seen him in person
-I knew Buddy Hackett, Spencer Tracy and Ethel Merman
-The cameos of the Three Stooges and Don Knotts I recognized fairly instantly
-I had heard the name Milton Berle but couldn't recognize him
-I had not ever heard of Edie Adams or Dick Shawn. Dick Shawn, may I say, is quite funny.
-I knew Mickey Rooney but couldn't recognize him on sight
-I've heard references to Jimmy Durante in TV shows like the Golden Girls, Dick Van Dyke Show and I believe I Love Lucy, etc., but still wouldn't recognize him

No comments: