Film: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

No, actually, we mean it — it's mad.

"It's buried under a big W..."

A classic madcap comedy, directed by Stanley Kramer and starring several of the major comedians of the day (1963), with an additional host appearing in cameos: Buster Keaton, Jerry Lewis, The Three Stooges, Jack Benny, Don Knotts, Stan Freberg...

When 'Smiler' Grogan (Jimmy Durante) sails his car off a cliff, he tells the various strangers who gather to help him where to find $350,000, hidden loot from an old robbery. He then kicks the bucket. After a spirited... negotiation... session breaks down, the witnesses decide to race each other to dig up the money. Hilarity Ensues.

The initial racers are:

They are eventually joined in their treasure hunt by an English officer (Terry-Thomas), a Con Man (Phil Silvers), and Russell's hair-triggered brother-in-law Sylvester (Dick Shawn).

Before long, all these characters are in deep trouble. The Crumps get locked in a hardware-store basement, and set it on fire trying to escape. Benjy and Dingy have to fly a plane after its inebriated pilot (Jim Backus) passes out. The van driver demolishes a gas station after the conman tricks two attendants into attempting to tie him up. The conman drives into a river. Mrs. Marcus starts multiple fights.

Meanwhile, the police are monitoring all this, and betting on who will win the race. The police chief, Captain Culpepper (Spencer Tracy), intends to confiscate the stolen money after it's found and presumably return it to its rightful owners, but after being buried under an ever-increasing mountain of bad news from his homelife and regarding his police pension (or lack thereof), he devises A Simple Plan to get the dough for himself and skip on down to Mexico for his "retirement".

Not to be confused with MadWorld by any means. You are, however, allowed to confuse it with its '00s Remake (of sorts), Rat Race.

This film provides examples of:

  • Agony of the Feet: This happened during the scene where Russell and Col. Hawthorne fought each other. Both fell victim to this trope.
  • The Alcoholic: Jim Backus as Tyler Fitzgerald, who we first meet suffering from a raging case of Hangover Sensitivity.
    Tyler Fitzgerald: (flying the plane!) You know what I need? I need a drink. There's some ice and stuff back there. Why don't you make us all some Old Fashioneds?
    Dingy Bell: Old Fashioneds?! Do you think you oughta drink while you're flying?
    Tyler Fitzgerald: Well stop kidding, will ya, and make us some drinks! You just press the button back there marked "booze". (laughs) It's the only way to fly!note 
  • The Alleged Plane: Which was built in 1916.
  • Amusing Injuries
  • Animated Credits Opening: Designed by Saul Bass, and animated by a team including Bill Melendez (of later Peanuts specials fame).
  • Banana Peel: The very end of the movie.
  • Bench Breaker: Lennie breaks the chair that he was tied to after breaking himself free from the pillar and duct tape that the gas station attendants tried tying up him to.
  • The Big Race
  • Big "Shut Up!": At the end when all the men are hospitalized, Dingy gives one to Melville when the latter goes into mathematics again as he did at the beginning when trying to decide how to split the money.
    • Mrs. Marcus does this to several people, including her own daughter.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Culpepper's wife and daughter, as well as the Finch/Marcuses.
  • Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: Subverted:
    Police Chief Aloysius: "Now you know the word for this, your honor: it's called Blackmail."
  • Brick Joke: Melville's insistence in divvying up the money.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: The object of the search.
  • Butt Monkey: Everyone in the movie is a victim of this, but Lennie Pike and Melville Crump get the worst of it.
  • The Cameo: It lives for cameos.
  • The Chew Toy: Ray and Irwin.
  • Chinese Launderer: The Crumps finally free themselves from the hardware store's basement by dynamiting their way through a wall and right into a Chinese laundry.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Sylvester employed this trope when Mrs. Marcus tried calling him. He ended up misinterpreting his mother's pleas to come over and help in the search for the money, believing that she was in trouble and needed his help.
    • Even worse: she called him because he was already close to the place the money was buried, so his coming to her just adds a complication to no purpose.
  • Cool Car: A whole bunch of them.
  • Cool Old Guy: Culpepper until he double-crosses everyone, that is.
  • Cool Shades: Dingy wears these for the first 15 minutes of the film.
  • Covered in Gunge: The Crumps fall victim to this. Mrs. Crump sustains some Clothing Damage, as well.
  • Crash Course Landing: Benjy and Dingy have to make one after the pilot passes out.
  • The Criterion Collection: As of January 2014, and it includes the most extensively-restored cut of the film yet (see Recut below).
  • Destroy The Product Placement: The famous scene of a plane flying through a Coca-Cola billboard.
  • Dope Slap: Dingy did this to Benjy a few times.
  • Downer Ending / Shaggy Dog Story: Most of the main characters end up in traction, face criminal charges, and don't get any of the money, though they do get an Everybody Laughs Ending out of it. The police department, who have been working on the case for 15 years, salvage little if any money, the bulk of it being rained down onto a large crowd of onlookers. The Captain misses news of his tripled pension, and loses everything, but at least he gets a laugh too.
  • Dumb Muscle: Lennie Pike. Also Sylvester.
    • And the hitch-hiker Phil Silvers picks up at one point (played by veteran heavy Mike Mazurki) in a deleted scene: "Don't force me to get ROUGH!"
  • Epic Movie: The comedy take on the genre — it has a long run time to the point that it has an overture and intermission in the most complete cut, many more characters than usual for a comedy, an A-list cast, elaborate stunt sequences, and Ultra Panavision cinematography.
  • Epic Race
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: Played straight.
  • Evil Matriarch: You know who it is.
  • Exploding Moving Van: Justified in that it's involved in a wild high-speed chase and a collision before Pike opens it up.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Everything happens over the course of a single day.
  • Eye Poke: Russell does this to Hawthorne during a fight.
  • Fat and Skinny: Benjy and Dingy, respectively.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: After Jerry Lewis's character drives his car over Culpepper's hat, Culpepper immediately starts yelling for someone to get his number.
  • Final Speech
  • Funny Foreigner: Terry-Thomas as J. Algernon Hawthorne.
  • Gambit Roulette: The banana peel.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Mrs. Marcus asks Hawthorne where she should put one of his cacti, Russell just scoffs and says "Oh boy..."
  • Grey and Gray Morality
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The big W.
  • Huddle Shot
  • Impact Silhouette: Lennie Pike leaves a man shaped hole in the gas station wall during his rampage.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: The great stunt pilot Frank Tallman actully flew a Beech 18 through a billboard for this film. He was going nearly 200 MPH and had less than one foot of clearance on either side. The plane was nearly wrecked by the stunt, too. The billboard was supposed to be balsa wood and paper, tough fabric was substituted by accident. The leading edge of the wings and windshields were torn up. Fortunately they had built the billboard right at the end of a runway and he could immediately land.
  • Intermission
  • Jerkass: Otto Meyer, a Consummate Liar, and Mrs. Marcus, who was arguably the most shrewish character in the entire movie. She gets her comeuppance at the end of the movie when she slips on the banana peel in the hospital.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: It would have to be Mrs. Marcus who came up with the entirely sensible plan to simply split the money equally between everyone, so that it could get an ad hoc dismissal and we can have a movie.
    • Of course, sensible as it is, it's also self-serving as her vehicle had the most people in it.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Russell and Hawthorne grabbing Mrs. Marcus upside down and shaking her to get Hawthorne's keys back.
  • Leitmotif: Ernest Gold's score features several, most notably for the Jonathan Winters and Phil Silvers characters.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Otto Meyer spends much of his time tricking and lying to various characters, but he receives a little comeuppance when he's directed by a boy into a river, losing his car in the process.
  • Literal Metaphor: Smiler figuratively and literally kicks the bucket.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: It's an ensemble comedy with about a dozen main characters and wall-to-wall cameos, so...
  • MacGuffin: The money.
  • MAD: While they never got around to parodying the movie itself, later in the '60s one of their paperback collections of past material was titled It's a World, World, World, World MAD. Naturally.
    • What's more, both the original movie poster and the book cover were done by MAD signature artist Jack Davis (thus parodying his own work).
  • Momma's Boy: Sylvester.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Monica Crump, as well as Sylvester's incredibly straight-faced, bikini-clad, go-go dancing lady friend. And the police secretary, Schwartz.
  • Murphy's Bed: During the climactic fire engine ladder sequence, Meyer (Phil Silvers) is catapulted from the ladder through a window onto a Murphy bed, which promptly folds back into the wall.
  • Nice Hat: Lennie, Benjy, Russell, Mrs. Marcus, Meyer, Col. Hawthorne, the cab drivers, and Culpepper each have one.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner
  • Oh, Crap: Dingy and Benjy both get one just before flying the plane through a Coca-Cola billboard.
  • Only Sane Woman: Emmeline Marcus-Finch. Which makes her little talk with Capt. Culpepper surprisingly sad:
    (intercut with the rest of the cast arguing)
    Emmeline: Who are you? Are you with the others, the ones that are looking?
    Culpepper: I am, in a way. Aren't you?
    Emmeline: No. I mean, I didn't want anything to do with it right from the start. And you know what? I know where it is. I'm the only one, and I wasn't even looking.
    Culpepper: You know where it is?
    Emmeline: Yes! What should I do? If you help dig it up, you can have half and I'll have half. Is that okay? I mean, is that fair? If I have half of the money... I can go away somewhere where nobody can find me. Not Russell or my mother or Sylvester, anybody. You don't know what that'd mean. And you know what? If I had enough money... I might be able to live in a convent or something.
    Culpepper: I'm sorry, Mrs. Finch. I'm afraid it's too late. I think they've found it.
    Emmeline: It was a nice dream. Lasted almost five minutes.
  • Plane Meets Restaurant
  • Plot Sensitive Latch: At the end the suitcase carrying the money pops open, dumping the cash into a crowd of people.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Smiler Grogan's "kicking the bucket" definitely counts.
  • Powder Trail: This is one of the many methods by which the Crumps attempt to escape from the hardware-store basement in which they have been accidentally locked.
  • Product Placement: Lots of it for Coca-Cola, including a billboard asking to pause for a Coke, 30 seconds before the intermission. Also the Chrysler Corporation; see Everybody Owns A Ford on the Trivia page.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: As Otto prepares to try to drive across a river that's clearly too deep for his car, he looks heavenward and screams "Why? WHY?"
  • Reality Ensues: After their death-defying stunt on the fire ladder, all the men end up in traction, lucky to be alive.
  • Recut: The film ran a whopping 210 minutes in its original preview cut. This was trimmed down, in succession, to 192 minutes (for its world premiere at Hollywood's Cinerama Dome), 161 minutes (for its 70mm "roadshow" presentation in select theaters), and 154 minutes (for general theatrical release). The last cut cut is the standard version for home video, although a partially-restored 182-minute "special edition" was made for laserdisc and VHS in the early '90s and occasionally airs on Turner Classic Movies. The Criterion Collection released a DVD/Blu-ray set including the general release cut and a restored, 197-minute cut in January 2014.
  • Rule of Funny: The movie runs on it.
  • Short Cuts Make Long Delays
  • A Simple Plan
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Only averted during the fire engine ladder sequence, where only the men are involved. Otherwise the women suffer as much as them.
  • The Stoic: That chick Sylvester dances with. Made particularly funny since it's '60s go-go dancing.
  • Tagline: "Everybody who's ever been funny is in it!"
    • In footage included in a "Making Of" video for the DVD, director Stanley Kramer recalled that any time Don Rickles happened to be in the audience of an event he was speaking at live he would heckle Kramer with something to the effect of "Why wasn't I in 'Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'?" With a tagline like that, its kinda hard to blame him.
  • Those Two Guys: Dingy Bell and Benjy Benjamin. Also, Ray and Irwin, the two nerdy-looking gas station attendants who inadvertently invoked the wrath of Lennie. And at the end, the two cabbie drivers.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer gives away that the money is lost to the crowd watching them fight over it.
  • Tranquil Fury: Mrs. Marcus slips into this when things go really bad for her.
  • Treasure Map: Grogan's last words.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: With new lines being added throughout.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Don't make Pike angry. You won't like him when he's angry.
    • He ... kills ... a gas station.
    • Sylvester nearly goes mad with rage when he believes Russell and Hawthorne may have raped his mother.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Mrs. Marcus wants to make sure the menfolk don't lay their hands on those keys.
    • Subversion: They get the keys anyway by shaking her upside down until they fall out. Bravo, Ethel Merman.
  • The Voice: Culpepper's wife, voiced by Selma Diamond (of later Night Court fame). His daughter Billie Sue is one of these as well.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In this case, it's rather "What the Hell, Fallen Hero?" when all the men end up in traction after losing the money and Culpepper, who didn't even plan to find the money himself until much later, is alone held responsible for the whole thing.
    Benjy: It's all your fault, all your fault from beginning to end!
    Col. Hawthorne: You know, even for a policeman, your behavior was ruddy outrageous!
    Sylvester: You could have taken a fair share like the rest of us, but no! You just had to go and grab up the whole scene, baby.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: At one point Culpepper's assistant says this to his secretary, Schwartz... leading to a Distracted by the Sexy moment as he and the other cops admire the nubile young woman's egress.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Melville promises to show the others.
  • "You!" Squared: Pike and Mrs. Marcus when she ends up trying to bum a ride from him.

Alternative Title(s):

Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World