21 September 2017

THE CRITERION COLLECTION PRESENTS: IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. (1963) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. (1963) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY STANLEY KRAMER. STARRING SPENCER TRACY, PHIL SILVERS, TERRY-THOMAS, MICKEY ROONEY, BUDDY HACKETT, SID CAESAR, MILTON BERLE, JONATHAN WINTERS, ETHEL MERMAN AND PETER FALK. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world all right and this film is probably the maddest thing in it. It's bonkers, sheer bloody bonkers. The words crazy and harebrained, madcap and screwball have all been applied to it and they're all correct.

It's the work of a director who was more well known for his serious, heavy-hitting dramas such as GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER and JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG, and of course he also produced HIGH NOON (1952), one of the best and most famous Western movies of all time. 'Do not forsake me, oh my darling, on this our wedding daaaaaaaaay...'

IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD features an all-star cast and a host of familiar celebrity faces playing little cameo roles. You can actually have great craic playing 'spot the famous person' while you watch it.

So what's the deal with this film, anyway? It's a comedy for sure but the theme is greed, the kind of plain old greed that causes a bunch of people who don't know each other from a hole in the ground to drop everything they're doing in their everyday lives to chase a dream of monetary gain that may not even exist outside an old man's head.

Let me explain. A car goes careering off a cliff in California. An old man's dying words send a bunch of other motorists and their assorted friends and family members charging off like madmen to find a big haul of cash that's buried in Santa Rosita State Park (near the Mexican border) under a big 'W.' Yes, it's a crazy, half-assed notion but it grabs the motorists like you wouldn't believe.

The idea of the money buried under the 'big 'W' is parodied in THE SIMPSONS episode in which Sam Neill plays a cat-burglar called Molloy. He sends the whole town of Springfield off on the wildest of wild-goose chases to find a stash of cash buried under a 'big 'T' while he uses the time to escape. Cat-burglar one, the dim-witted residents of Springfield nil...!

Anyway, the motorists engage in some rather convoluted conversations about dividing the money up five, ten, fifteen, a million different ways, but negotiations dissolve ridiculously quickly and it's a case of every man- or woman, no need to screech at me about discrimination, Mrs. Marcus!- for themselves. Whoever gets to the three-hundred-and-fifty thousand dollars first gets to keep it. You wouldn't believe what they're prepared to go through for it.

Meanwhile, Spencer Tracy as an old police captain is watching their every move for reasons that will become clear when you watch the movie. Ah well, I guess there's no harm in telling you that the money is the spoils from an ancient robbery and Captain Culpeper is as keen as mustard to close this old outstanding case before he retires.

Don't underestimate the siren-lure of three-hundred-and-fifty Gs, however. Even a grizzled old police captain who's spent his entire career being an honest Joe can be tempted by the lure of such big moolah. The dozen or so madcap money-chasers might just find that they have a little extra competition that they didn't bargain for when they finally find their 'big W...!'

I liked Phil Silvers (Sergeant Bilko) as the creep who tries to diddle Pike the furniture guy out of his share of the dosh, and Peter Falk (Columbo) as the mouthy yellow-cab driver who comes in near the end. 

I loved Terry-Thomas as the posh English ex-army colonel who gets roped into the adventure by the Finch-Marcuses. Or is it the Marcus-Finches? I would have left out Mrs. Marcus's son Sylvester altogether. What an utterly bizarre and unlikeable character, and as for his girlfriend or whoever she is, well, what on earth is she on...?

I'm afraid I hated the character of Mrs. Marcus the formidable mother-in-law. The film-makers made her into a dreadfully bossy old harridan who couldn't shut her trap to save her life. This film comes from the old school of comedy that thought mother-in-law jokes were funny and that mothers-in-law had to be brash, interfering and altogether obnoxious creatures that their son-in-laws and even their daughters wanted to bonk over the head with a frying-pan, and when you finally say 'Shaaaaaaaadup!' to her you get a round of applause and a standing ovation from the on-lookers.

The portrayal of women in the film is pretty negative overall. They're either the shrieking mother-in-law type, ie, Mrs. Marcus, who thinks nothing of belting men over the head with her handbag, or they're wives with little or nothing to say for themselves, rather submissive and empty-headed bimbos who go along blindly with their husbands' crazy schemes.

I wasn't too crazy either about the way that showing a middle-aged woman's old-fashioned drawers became a running joke in the film. Womens' knickers have always been a subject for jokes, I suppose, but showing us Mrs. Marcus with her dress over her head and her drawers on display every five minutes becomes a little old after a while.

And is it really that funny to watch someone slip on a banana skin and really hurt themselves? Oh well. It was a different time. What was hilarious to people back then probably wouldn't appeal too much to the movie-goers of today.

The actors back then all come from what I personally call the 'Why, I oughta...!' school of acting, where when someone in the film pisses you off in some way, you shake your fist at them and threaten them with violence by saying: 'Why, I oughta...!' What? Well, kill you, slap you upside the head, corpse you up and mail you to Momma, whatever. Like I said, it was a different time back then. No-one really shakes their fists in the movies any more...!

Here are the names of a few celebs to watch out for in the film. Most of 'em I caught but one or two of them I missed. See how you guys get on. Buster Keaton; Jerry Lewis; Carl Reiner (he gets a mention in THE SIMPSONS too!); The Three Stooges; and Jimmy Durante, who plays the old geezer who kick-starts the whole shooting-match in the first place by literally kicking the bucket. Going out on a sight-gag, as Krusty the Klown from THE SIMPSONS would say. And in fact has said, in the past.

It's certainly an all-star cast, anyway, and the good news for movie buffs is that IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD is out now on special Blu-Ray release from the good folks at THE CRITERION COLLECTION.

It comes with a ton of extra features and that's not all. You know the way that the original film is, like, a whopping two-and-three-quarter-hours long? F**k me, it's as long as BEN-HUR. Well, with this CRITERION release you get the original version but you also get the extended version on a separate Blu-Ray disc as well. The extended version...?

Guess how long it is? One hundred and ninety-seven minutes, that's how long. These people obviously think we have no lives or jobs or kids to go to, that we can afford to sit around all day watching films that are nearly two weeks long. I'm so angry I could literally shake my fist. Why, I oughta...!


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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