HomeFeatured ArticlesSpecial Report: Criterion’s Reconstruction of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”

Special Report: Criterion’s Reconstruction of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”

Special Report: “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” is a classic American comedy film released in 1963, directed by Stanley Kramer. The movie is renowned for its star-studded ensemble cast and its ambitious, larger-than-life comedic storytelling.

Set against the backdrop of a treasure hunt, the film follows a diverse group of characters racing to find a fortune buried under a big “W” in a park.

The movie’s fast-paced, zany humor and iconic performances have solidified its place as a beloved classic in the comedy genre.

The film’s director, Stanley Kramer, was known for his ability to blend entertainment with social commentary, and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” is a testament to his skill in orchestrating a grand, uproarious comedy while maintaining a sense of relevance and depth.

Would you like to know more about the cast, plot, or any specific aspect of the movie?

Also Read More: Savant Blu-ray Review: “Foreign Correspondent” (1940)

Special Report: “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”: A Timeless Blend of Comedy and Chaos

The film “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” has been a subject of great anticipation, and the Criterion’s new Blu-ray release offers a highly anticipated reconstruction of the film’s original roadshow version, a cut not seen by the public since a few months after the movie’s November 7, 1963 premiere.

This epic, star-studded comedy, directed by Stanley Kramer, has been a source of division among audiences, with people either loving or disliking it.

The film is a spectacular amalgamation of broad, large-scale slapstick and other unique qualities.

One of its distinctive features is its unusual structure, which introduces a group of characters and then breaks them up into six major groups, cleverly intercutting their various adventures before reuniting them at the climax.

Despite some misconceptions, the film is not merely a tribute to silent comedy; it stands as its own distinct creation, incorporating widely varied performing styles into a cohesive whole.

The screenplay brings together performers from various backgrounds and gives each of them the space to showcase their craft.

The review focuses on the 197-minute reconstruction of the original 202-minute roadshow version and delves into the details of what was added back and in what form.

How do these additional elements complement the more familiar and subsequent 163-minute roadshow/general release version?

The story unfolds as career crook “Smiler” Grogan crashes his car in the Mohave Desert and reveals to five motorists about $350,000 buried at Santa Rosita Beach State Park under a big “W.”

The movie premiered at the Cinerama Dome Theater in Hollywood on November 3, 1963
The movie premiered at the Cinerama Dome Theater in Hollywood on November 3, 1963

This revelation sets off a frenzied pursuit as the characters abandon the idea of calmly driving down to Santa Rosita together and opt for a frantic race to claim the stolen money.

The film continues to captivate audiences with its unique blend of comedy and storytelling, making it a timeless and distinctive cinematic creation.

As the treasure hunters leave a trail of chaos, picking up other strangers along the way, such as British army Lt. Col. J.

Algernon Hawthorne, unscrupulous con-man Otto Meyer, and Russell’s spaced-out brother-in-law, Sylvester Marcus, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was filmed in Ultra Panavision 70, an anamorphic 65mm process, and originally exhibited as a road show.

This meant that the film rolled out slowly and methodically across the country and around the world, opening in select big downtown movie palaces in major cities and playing on a reserved-seats basis for an average run of one year before transitioning into general release at neighborhood theaters and drive-ins.

The movie premiered at the Cinerama Dome Theater in Hollywood on November 3, 1963, and subsequently opened in a few other key cities by mid-December.

However, due to logistical and technical reasons, the film’s initial release was limited, with most Cinerama houses still occupied with other popular films like How the West Was Won.

About 43 minutes of footage were cut from the long film to accommodate wider distribution, resulting in a shorter, 163-minute version that played in theaters throughout 1964 and subsequent releases.

In 1991, MGM attempted its own 175-minute reconstruction, but the release was imperfect, featuring incorrectly integrated footage and at least one shot that was apparently never part of any official version.

The film’s journey from its original roadshow version to subsequent releases reflects the challenges and adaptations made to bring this epic comedy to audiences across various formats and platforms.

Reconstructing “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”: Unveiling the Extended Version’s Surprises and Setbacks

The reconstructed Blu-ray version of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” overseen by Robert A. Harris, predominantly consists of MGM’s HD transfer of the short version integrated with the same deleted footage included in the 1991 home video version.

This footage, derived from 70mm theatrical print trims of the long version, underwent optical correction and integration with the rest of the film.

Although the color on the trims had faded over the years, the decision was made to layer the color from the 1991 transfer on top of the remastered-for-HD trims.

The majority of reinstated material comprises these trims, with some new material, including scenes with audio but no picture and previously unreleased material with both picture and sound.

The extended version offers insights into the build-up to the intermission break and introduces new aspects to characters and plotlines.

Notably, the reconstructed version clarifies certain character motivations and provides additional comedy bits that enrich the overall viewing experience.

However, it also presents challenges, such as audio-only footage that incorporates behind-the-scenes and set stills, disrupting the immersion in the film.

Despite these intricacies, the longer version offers improved pacing and a more deliberate build-up, enhancing the overall satisfaction of the payoffs in the film.

The reinstated scenes and additional material shed light on law enforcement officers’ meticulous monitoring of the treasure hunters, offer character-driven motives and introduce memorable comedy bits that enhance the storytelling.

While the reconstructed version brings new dimensions to the film, it also presents certain setbacks, underscoring the complexities of preserving and presenting an extended cinematic experience.

Would you like to know more about a specific aspect of the reconstructed version or the film’s reception?

The extended edition of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” addresses continuity issues left unresolved by the shorter version, shedding light on the silver mine mentioned by Otto Meyer and providing context for scenes featuring Hackett’s character.

This special edition, prompted by consumer demand, became feasible due to cost-effective computer technologies, which, combined with MGM’s preexisting HD master of the short version, made the release cost-effective.

Poster of the movie
Poster of the movie

The transfer of the extra-wide Ultra Panavision process (65mm, at 2.76:1) is impeccable, offering impeccable visual quality.

The 5.1 surround sound adaptation from the original 6-track magnetic stereo provides a noticeable improvement.

In addition to the original overture, entr’acte, and exit music, this release incorporates audio-only “police calls” heard sporadically throughout the intermission.

Criterion’s release offers both cuts of the film on two Blu-ray discs and three DVDs, along with voluminous supplements.

These include original and reissue trailers, Stan Freberg’s TV and radio spots, a two-part CBC program, press interviews from 1963, and a talk show excerpt from 1974 featuring the director and cast members.

There’s also a detailed audio commentary track on the extended version by “Mad World aficionados” Mark Evanier, Michael Schlesinger, and Paul Scrabo, offering valuable insights into the film.

This comprehensive special edition presents an invaluable opportunity for fans of the film to delve deeper into its production, restoration, and the cinematic experience it offers.

Would you like to explore any specific aspect of the special edition or the film itself further?

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Ashish Dahal
Ashish Dahal
Ashish is a prolific content writer, blends with the creativity with precision in his writing. His work, characterized by clarity and engaging storytelling has gathered a loyal readership. His passion for words fuels his constant pursuit of excellence.

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    Ashish Dahal has combined his interests and content writing. Through his work, he showcases enthusiasm and ability to deliver captivating content consistently. Ashish's writing demonstrates his passion for storytelling and content creation.



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