Journal: Drivers' Cinema: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

Drivers’ Cinema: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

By Andrew Schneider
August 1, 2013

First, I want to commend the bravery of the stuntmen that helped make Stanley Kramer’s classic film, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) an exemplary model of slapstick cinema. The willingness to put one’s body in danger for the sake of pure laughter is rarely found in modern filmmaking. This self-sacrificing behavior embraced by the film’s stuntmen and cast is one of the true qualities that make It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World a timeless classic.

The movie provides audiences with a “gag” driven plot formula. The film is packed with stars that parade on screen barking and yelling at each other stumbling from one outrageous situation to the next. I am frequently left dumbfounded, wondering how the characters could have placed themselves in such odd situations. For example, two stars end up locked in the basement of a hardware store for the majority of the film before using sticks of dynamite to break free. Prior to their escape, they set off a box of fireworks, knock over gallons of paint and set fire to the staircase.

The film uses a wonderful display of American automobiles to spark gags, keeping the audience—especially those that are car aficionados—thoroughly entertained. Each car quickly drops out of play and is replaced by another as the characters drive like madmen, racing each other southward to uncover some hidden cash. At one point, a beautiful 1947 Ford Super De Luxe drifts downstream as it fails to cross a river. One scene even portrays Dick Shawn taking flight in a 1962 Dodge Dart 440 before eventually winding up in a ravine during an attempt to run Milton Berle off the road.

Personally, I enjoy the film for its exaggerations and fast-paced cuts. The characters are constantly bombarded by misfortune and the camera can barely keep up. As a car enthusiast, laughing at automobiles is a rare and unique experience as the cars in the film are often at the centerpiece of the film’s gags. The loose structure of the classic comedy should not go unappreciated. It is unfortunate that modern cinema rarely allows for such physical extremities and lack of a linear plot. Physical gags are a call to the earlier days of Vaudeville Theater and it seems as if the origins of comedy are slowly slipping away. Why not dedicate a night to enjoying the pure silliness of slapstick humor, because, let’s be honest, when is the last time you saw someone slip on a banana peel?

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Click here to buy the poster on the left from Lure Design, Inc.

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Jeffrey Zammitti
Jeffrey Zammitti
10 years ago

I agree the stuntmen that helped make the film were incredibly… brave, it is a classic in the sense that current movies just don’t display this type of comedy. There are a lot of stars in this movie, just like we are seeing more and more in today’s movies. I wouldn’t recommend this movie personally. I did not find my type of humor, I guess that I am accustom to. There was only one or two scenes I did find a chuckle. The old man kicking the bucket, the banana peel slip, getting locked up in the warehouse. The car’s were ok. Maybe I need to watch it again, who knows. I gave it a try. Thanks Petrolicious.

John King
John King
10 years ago

This hilarious film is in my top 10. It’s fun to watch for the numerous cameos by big comic stars, such as Jerry Lewis swerving to deliberately run over a hat that had blown onto the road, and late-career Buster Keaton as a garage operator.
Slightly off topic, but there are also a couple of aviation stunts, including a Twin Beech (?) flying through a billboard, and a rickety old biplane being outpaced by cars on the highway below.

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman
10 years ago

this film is an all-time mess !
one of the first big budget kitchen sink and more films that is spasmodically funny and proof that more is not always better.
not my cuppa tea.
but f you’re going to see it at least see it in high definiton on bluray.

Rodney Wren
Rodney Wren
10 years ago

This is my ALL Time favorite movie. I have seen it dozens of times and still laugh and pick up something new.

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