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It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Year: 1963
Production Co: Casey Productions
Studio: United Artists
Director: Stanley Kramer
Producer: Stanley Kramer
Writer: William Rose
Cast: Milton Berle, Spencer Tracey, Ethel Mermen, Sid Caeser, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Peter Falk, Stan Freberg, Buster Keaton, Don Knotts, Carl Reiner, Three Stooges, Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis

I can't even remember what made me want to watch this movie, something about the description in the TV guide when I was a young teenager, and even though a ensemble comedy from Hollywood's golden era seemed to have nothing to offer a 13-year-old Australian kid, I loved it and still watch it again every chance I get to this day.

Director Kramer (until that time seen as a director of drama) decided to collect every comic actor he possibly could together to flesh out his The Great Race -like road movie, and every time I watch it I recognise a few more famous faces as my knowledge of movies and actors expands. I didn't realise until watching a beautiful 70mm print of it much more recently that the Three Stooges make a blink-and-you'll-miss them cameo as three firefighters at the airport.

When a car careens out of controls on a desert highway and goes off a cliff, the motorists who happen to be following scramble down the hill only for the driver to tell them he's left a huge fortune in cash in the nearby town of Santa Rosita before dropping dead – complete with kicking a steel bucket down a hill.

After the parties try (and fail) to figure out an equitable way to split the money should they find it, the race is on. The mild mannered doctor (Caesar) on a second honeymoon with his wife, the buddies (Rooney and Hackett) on their way to Vegas, the truck driver (Winters) and the henpecked dolt (Berle) with his pretty wife and shrewish mother-in-law (Merman) take off, greed clouding everything from their judgment to their regard for road safety.

It's the sort of movie the word 'madcap' was invented for. Merman's shorts-wearing son Sylvester (Shawn) is too busy dancing with his vacant-eyed girlfriend to answer the phone when his mother calls him because he's closest to the loot, and when he finally does he doesn't listen to a word she says, hanging up in panic thinking she's in trouble and tearing off in the wrong direction streaming tears while yelling to his mama that he's coming to get her.

When Caeser and his wife charter a plane and think they're going to be there before anyone, they get locked in a hardware store basement while getting supplies for the dig.

And all the while, a put-upon Santa Rosita detective (Tracy) has been working the case of the missing money since before the crash, and he has a new plan to let the idiots running all over the country lead him to it to fund the impoverished retirement he's facing.

Many of the laughs are hammy nowadays, maybe you had to have seen the movie in the 60s when they had different ideas about cinematic styles. Or maybe you had to be a kid in the most impressionable period of your life for loving movies.

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