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It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

It's a redundant, redundant, redundant, redundant title...
It's a redundant, redundant, redundant, redundant title...
 

Genre: Action Adventure Comedy

Starring: Spencer Tracy (Bad Day at Black Rock; Captains Courageous), Mickey Rooney (Babes In Arms; Babes on Broadway)

Directed By: Stanley Kramer (The Defiant Ones; Guess Who's Coming to Dinner)

Overview: When a dying man tells a few men where his money is buried, it begins a madcap screwball race to the dough.

Some films are great because they're timeless, and some films are great because they're hip and current. Then there's the films that are great because everybody's in them.  The Longest Day sported a tagline of "42 International Stars!" The Player starring Tim Robbins is about a Hollywood producer in his element - starring role and extras cameos GALORE in that one - no less than 67 roles of actors playing "as themselves".

The casting-over-story event that could easily be called 'Hollywood masturbating on itself' failed with Be Cool, succeeded with Ocean's Eleven - both times - and quite clearly has its roots in popularity with the help of movies like It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

These rare Hollywood film events do something more than tell a story, they infuse America with a roster of who's cool, not only helping solidify the fame and popularity of the actors in them, but adding to the production an epic flair, given the sheer amount of characters. 

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is manic people on their last nerve freaking out for the finish line.  It's Go, Go, Go! until they either nail the target or crash and burn. What was most surprising - and very impressive - is the amount of stunts that take place.  From cars careening over cliffs to planes flying through billboards to countless bodies intertwined on rickety fire escapes, it's certainly thrilling to watch, and though a simple money plot, there's so much going on that you couldn't predict it if you tried.

More than anything It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is raw screwball. I was literally waiting for an explosion - be it bomb, car or plane crash - that would leave the people in its wake uninjured except for torn clothing and blackened faces with messy split cigars in their faces - no shit.

Yet, for as great as It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is, I was without the context of having my synapses firing at the recollection of each of these cameoed faces. Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Jonathan Winters, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, Peter Falk... most of these names I associate with fame like a tourist on Hollywood Boulevard's walk of fame  would: because it's there under my feet, something that was 'once.' 

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World suffers for being too current, for not being timeless enough. The frequent cameros are obviously caricatured parodies of the actors portraying them, leaving me with a 'get the subtext?' void enough times to be frustrated to a point that it detracted from my overall joy.

It's a bitchy, bitchy, bitchy, bitchy mother-in-law
It's a bitchy, bitchy, bitchy, bitchy mother-in-law

Overall Rating: 80% (Insanely Good, But Better If You Were Born In The Fifties)
Aftertaste:

True Romance does the same thing, cramming in every cool cat it can, but True Romance is more about an all-star cast framing a great story and less about a story trying to fit everyone in.  In True Romance the actors all had roles, they weren't simply 'themselves'. In short, with the way it's written, you don't need cultural context to get the full effect of the story. 

It's not a popularity contest or a media trivia game like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World.

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