It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

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Released 25-Mar-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer-3:18
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1963
Running Time 154:09
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (86:27) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Stanley Kramer
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Spencer Tracy
Milton Berle
Sid Caesar
Buddy Hackett
Ethel Merman
Mickey Rooney
Dick Shawn
Phil Silvers
Terry Thomas
Jonathan Winters
Edie Adams
Dorothy Provine
Jimmy Durante
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Ernest Gold


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.55:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Spanish
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Coca Cola
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was the first comedy made by Stanley Kramer, up until that point well-known as a director of serious drama. He decided that he wanted to make a comedy to prove his versatility, to show that he could make a comedy just like other directors. This is not a comedy like those made by other directors. It is rather better than that.

    He did cheat a little, though. You cannot find another comedy which has a cast like this one. Every single role, and I mean every single role, is played by an experienced comedian. Apparently, it reached the point during the making of this movie where any comedian who was not yet cast in the movie was ringing up and asking for a part, however small. For example, the Three Stooges get a couple of seconds on-screen, just standing still in firemen's outfits - that was their role (I guess they asked later than most). I don't claim to recognise all the names in the cast, but I certainly recognise an awful lot of them. There isn't enough room above to list them, so I list them here. Note the very fine distinctions between the kinds of "starring" (within each bracket the names are listed in alphabetical order):

    Starring: Spencer Tracy.

    And starring: Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Terry Thomas, Jonathan Winters.

    Co-starring: Edie Adams, Dorothy Provine.

    Also starring: Eddie Anderson, Jim Backus, Ben Blue, Joe E. Brown, Alan Carney, Barrie Chase, William Demarest, Andy Devine, Peter Falk, Norman Fell, Paul Ford, Sterling Holloway, Edward Everett Horton, Marvin Kaplan, Buster Keaton, Don Knotts, Charles McGraw, Zasu Pitts, Carl Reiner, Madlyn Rhue, Arnold Stang, The Three Stooges, Jesse White, and a few surprises!

    And Jimmy Durante.

    One of the surprises listed above is a brief appearance by Jerry Lewis. There are probably others that I don't recognise - bear in mind that this movie was released when I was very young, and I'm not familiar with all the great comedy names of the period.

    To fit in that many stars you need a long movie. And this is definitely a long movie. This version runs 154:09, and it is not the longest version made - the R1 disc has almost an hour of extended scenes amongst its extras. It is so long that it has an intermission. The screen goes black, you get a jingle, and then the music continues - apparently in the cinemas the lights came up, but the music kept playing. We get the same thing on the DVD - the screen goes black, and the music plays for three and a half minutes - plenty of time to get to the fridge and back.

    Anyway, for a film this length you'd think you'd need a complex plot, right? Nah! The plot is quite simple, and it won't spoil things if I spill most of it. A car which is being driven recklessly along a desert road fails to take a bend after passing several cars in a row, and plunges down the hillside. The driver is thrown free, onto rocks. When the men from the four vehicles (three cars and a truck) get down to the driver it's pretty clear he's dying. He (Jimmy Durante) tells them about $350 000 buried in a state park a few hundred miles south, and tells them to dig it up and keep it. The five men, and the three women they left in the cars (the film was made in 1962 - sexism was rife), try to agree how they'll share the money. They can't agree, and end up deciding that whoever gets there first will take everything. Thus begins what has been described as the longest chase scene in comedy history. These people use every means they can think of to attempt to be the first to the money. You'd expect that they'd get arrested for speeding, but there's one complication. The head of detectives for the local police (Spencer Tracy) has been waiting fifteen years for Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante's character) to lead him to buried loot from a robbery, so he keeps the police off their backs. In fact, the police start treating this like a race, and it is almost as though they are reporting from track-side; they keep tabs on all of the participants. And the number doesn't stay at the original eight (Milton Berle, Dorothy Provine and Ethel Merman in the first car, Sid Caesar and Edie Adams in the second, Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney in the VW Beetle, and Jonathan Winters in the truck) - along the way other people get drawn into the competition. First is Phil Silvers, playing a role that seems second-nature, that of a sleazy chiseller. Then Terry Thomas as a cactus-collecting British aerospace expert.

    There are various adventures as we follow each of the groups on their merry way. We switch from one group to another, keeping up the pace all the time.

    It's quite understandable why this film was nominated for six Oscars (it only won one, for Best Sound Effects). It certainly doesn't feel like it runs for two and a half hours. If you've never seen this film, I can recommend it. If you have seen it, perhaps on TV, you might want to see it again, because it really must be appreciated in its full widescreen glory - Stanley Kramer used every bit of the 2.55:1 frame.

    One small quibble - the R4 disc has been given only 16 chapter stops, which is ridiculously few for a movie this long. The R1 disc has twice as many chapter stops, which is far more reasonable. But compare it with Marathon Man - that film is only two hours long, but it has 50 chapter stops.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.55:1, and is 16x9 enhanced (thank goodness!). This is the correct aspect ratio for the Ultra-Panavision process that was used in shooting the film, even though it was projected in Cinerama at many screenings. If you have people who complain about "black bars", brace yourself - this film will give them lots to complain about, especially if you show it on a 4x3 TV - the bars are each almost as wide as the picture.

    The image is a little soft, but rather clear, with good shadow detail and no low-level noise. I thought this was quite good until I looked at the R1 - it is noticeably sharper.

    Colour is rather good for a film made 40 years ago. There's no oversaturation or colour bleed, but there's plenty of colour.

    There is quite a bit of aliasing, especially on car grilles. There are lots of film artefacts, mostly tiny flecks and spots, with the occasional hair and some scratches - they are not very troubling. There are one or two instances of minor telecine wobble, but it never lasts very long. All-in-all, this film is in good shape for a film this old, but it clearly hasn't been restored.

    There are subtitles in seven languages. I only watched the English subtitles. They are clear, accurate, and well-timed.

    The disc is single-sided and RSDL formatted. The layer change comes at 86:27. It is placed in the black screen at intermission, at a momentary pause in the music. Even if you notice it, it could not possibly be better placed, because it has no impact on the action.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are soundtracks in three languages. I only listened to the English soundtrack, which is Dolby Digital 5.1.

    Dialogue is readily understood, which is important as some of the lines are delivered in a throwaway manner.

    The score is very important to this movie - it enhances the experience. Ernest Gold has done a good job.

    The subwoofer gets its chances with some of the explosions, but it is not used for the majority of the soundtrack. The score is leaked into the surrounds, but they get little else to do. This is not a massively directional soundtrack, but it's acceptable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menus are static and silent.

Theatrical Trailer (3:18)

    The theatrical trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.55:1, 16x9 enhanced. It is not in as good a shape as the feature film, but it's OK.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 disc is missing:

    The R1 disc is double-sided. When I saw that I had a bad feeling - I thought it might be a flipper. I was wrong. The R1 disc is a DVD14, with the movie on one side (RSDL), and the two hours of special features on the other side (single layer). I'd have preferred two discs, because I find double-sided discs more of a pain to handle, but at least it isn't a flipper.

    The R1 disc has a sharper video transfer, and far less aliasing - quite an impressive effort. There are just as many film artefacts, though.

    With the better transfer, plus the special features, I feel obliged to favour the R1 disc.

Summary

    A really fun chase movie, presented fairly well on DVD.

    The video quality is good, but there are a lot film artefacts, and quite a bit of mild aliasing.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are negligible on this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, March 13, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Mark W
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Kevin S
DVD Net - Tony L

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