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 in the Mojave Desert, he tells the various strangers who gather to help him where to find $350,000 in cash, hidden loot from an old robbery. He then literally kicks the bucket. After a spirited "negotiation" session breaks down, the witnesses decide to race each other to Santa Rosita State Park, where the money is "buried under a big 'W'"... each hoping to find it and keep it all for him/herself.

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 Santa Rosita 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: Russell Finch and Col. Hawthorne both fall victim to this while fighting each other during the pre-intermission montage.
  • 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.
  • 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, which triggers Mrs. Marcus' much-deserved comeuppance.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Played for laughs, of course, courtesy of the banana peel reference above.
  • 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.
    • When Ding and Benjy are in the plane, Fitzgerald elects to make his own drinks, so he tells Benjy to take the controls. Benjy asks him, "What if something happens?" Fitzgerald replies, "What could happen to an Old Fashioned?"
  • 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.
  • Contrived Coincidence: How convenient for Otto Meyer that there is a gas station in the vicinity just as he gets a flat tire. Of course, things go from bad to worse for him when an enraged Lenny Pike catches up with him.
  • 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: Benjy and Dingy fly a plane 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • This could pretty much apply to most if not all of the main characters in the movie. After hours of scamming, tricking, manipulating, and passing around the Idiot Ball due to greed, They end up losing all of the money entirely. They do get a cozy spot in the hospital, though.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Never My Fault: Eventhough all the main characters are to blame for everything that went wrong prior to the climax, after all the men end up in traction, all the blame is put on Culpepper alone for his part in taking the money for himself. See What the Hell, Hero? below for details.
  • Nice Hat: Lennie, Benjy, Russell, Mrs. Marcus, Meyer, Col. Hawthorne, the cab drivers, and Culpepper each have one.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner
  • Oh Crap!:
    • Ding gets one when Fitzgerald falls in the plane and is knocked out. "It's making me— Tap on the Head —NERVOUS!"
    • Dingy and Benjy both get one just before flying the plane through a Coca-Cola billboard.
    • They all get one when find the buried money in Santa Rosita Park and Captain Culpeper identifies himself as a police officer after acknowledging Otto Meyer and Lennie Pike by name.
  • 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.
  • Punch Parry: Russel and Hawthorne do this when they get into a scuffle. In a note of realism, it clearly hurts a lot.
  • 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.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Hawthorne delivers one to the entire country. He thinks they're America, the Boorish.
  • 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.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Averted during the fire-engine ladder climax, in which only the men are involved. Otherwise the women suffer as much as them.
  • The Stoic: That chick Sylvester dances with. Made particularly funny since her deadpan expression is coupled with frenetic '60s go-go dancing.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Col. Wilberforce is trying to talk Benjy and Dingy through landing a plane. Then he realizes he can't remember where the brakes are:
    Wilberforce: "On second thought men, you won't need the brakes."
  • 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.
  • Tap on the Head: Fitzgerald is knocked out with one of these and remains unconscious for the rest of the film.
  • Tempting Fate: Fitzgerald telling Ding and Benjy to take the controls of his plane so he can make more drinks for himself. Less than a minute later, the plane wildly moving about causes him to fall and hit his head, knocking him out, and is out cold for the remainder of his screen time.
  • 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.
  • Throw a Barrel at It: While the two garage attendants are fighting the truck driver Lennie Pike (Jonathan Winters), on two separate occasions one of the attendants throws an empty barrel at Pike.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Fitzgerald tells Ding and Benjy, who have no flying experience at all, to take the controls of his plane so he can make more drinks for himself. Less than a minute later, he's knocked out and remains so for the rest of the film. What an Idiot.
  • 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 Could Possibly Go Wrong?: See Comically Missing the Point and Tempting Fate examples above.
  • 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.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Downplayed. When an angry Pike catches up with Otto at the gas station and becomes belligerent towards him, the latter attempts to pull this against the former. Otto falsely claims to the gas attendants that he is a psychiatrist, and then he manipulates them into subduing his attacker by claiming that Pike is a mentally deranged patient who has just escaped from an asylum, using that as explanation for his violent behavior. Granted, Pike DOES intend to do bodily harm to Otto, but only because he double crossed him earlier by leaving him stranded on the side of the road.
  • 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