An epic madcap comedy, directed by Stanley Kramer and starring several of the major comedians of its day (1963), with an additional host appearing in cameos: Buster Keaton, Jerry Lewis, The Three Stooges, Jack Benny, Don Knotts, Stan Freberg...
When aging criminal "Smiler" Grogan (Jimmy Durante) sails his car off a cliff in the Mojave Desert, he gives a Final Speech to the various strangers who gather around him, asking them to help him where to find $350,000 in cashnote , which is hidden loot from an old robbery. He then kicks the bucket— figuratively and literally. After a spirited "negotiation" session as to the allocation of said money breaks down, the witnesses decide to race each other to Santa Rosita State Park, where the loot is "buried under a big 'W'"... each hoping to find it and keep it all for him/herself.
The initial racers are:
- Milquetoast edible-seaweed salesman J. Russell Finch, his voice-of-reason wife Emmeline, and her mother, Mrs. Marcus (Milton Berle, Dorothy Provine and Ethel Merman);
- Mrs. Marcus and Emmeline later set out to find the money for themselves without Finch.
- Second-honeymooning dentist Melville Crump and his wife Monica (Sid Caesar and Edie Adams)
- Vegas-bound friends Dingy Bell and Benjy Benjamin (Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett)
- Burly moving-van driver Lennie Pike (Jonathan Winters)
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). Peter Falk turns up near the end as a cabbie.
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 Culpeper (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".
This film provides examples of:
- Actor Allusion: As the drunken pilot, Jim Backus says Western Airlines' slogan "It's the only way to fly!". Backus did voice overs for Western Airlines ads.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Under incredible stress, Culpeper makes an impulsive decision to take the money himself and flee to Mexico. He didn't do it out of evil or greed, just as a foolish attempt to escape from the disaster his life was becoming. While in the ICU, he makes it clear he understands that he's completely ruined.Culpepper: (to everyone else in the ICU) My wife is divorcing me, my mother-in-law is suing me for damages, my daughter is applying to the courts to have her name changed, my pension has been revoked, and the only reason that you ten idiots will very likely get off lightly, is because the judge will have me up there to throw the book at!
- 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. The pilot's wife deems it necessary to give a sign of the cross before he takes off with the Crumps as passengers.
- Alliterative Family: Melville and Monica Crump.
- Alliterative Name: Benjy Benjamin.
- Technically Culpeper counts too, as though we don't find out his first name, his initials, visible on his office door, read "C. G. Culpeper". A rare example of this with a character with Only One Name.
- All There in the Manual: Though never identified in the film, the name of Barrie Chase's character (according to the official souvenir booklet) is Mrs. Halliburton.
- Almost Dead Guy: The whole misadventure is set off when notorious criminal "Smiler" Grogan kicks the bucket (literally) after sending his car flying off a cliff, but not before telling a group of witnesses to the accident about $350,000 he buried in a distant state park. True to this trope, he groans into unconsciousness...then scares everyone by bolting up yelling "Say it don't make no difference, Aunt Belle!" before fading out again.
- America Won World War II: Fresno entrepreneur J. Russell Finch invokes this while arguing with British Army officer Lt. Col. J. Algernon Hawthorne. It proves to be something of a Berserk Button for the latter.Finch: As far as I'm concerned, the whole British race is practically finished. If it hadn't been for Lend-Lease, if we hadn't kept your whole country afloat by giving you billions that you never even said "Thank you" for, the whole phony outfit would've sunk under the Atlantic years ago... What are you stopping for?
Hawthorne: Get Out! of this machine.
- Amusing Injuries: In the climax, the main characters dangle off of a fire escape and then all fall down in various painful, and yet very funny manners. Also, Mrs. Marcus' tripping on the banana peel, but this is because she's a horrible shrew.
- Animated Credits Opening: Designed by Saul Bass, and animated by a team including Bill Melendez (of later Peanuts specials fame). Watch in slow-motion and you'll see several of the animators' names as the credits fall into place.
- Armor-Piercing Question: The Crumps are locked in the hardware store basement and the husband has been trying, ahem, creative ways to escape. When he sets upon a faulty burglar alarm in a rage:Monica: Melville. Melville! (finally getting his attention) Even if you do get the bell the ring and somebody comes, what about the damage?
- Artistic Title: The Animated Credits Opening has a cartoon globe being transmogrified into a hen's egg, a shell game, a spinning top, paper dolls, a yo-yo, etc.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: As the men are gathered around Smiler (who'd just fallen off the cliff in his car, speeding immensely) in the beginning, Melville asks him if he thinks he's hurt badly. Smiler manages to say, "Is he kiddin'?"
- A conversation Culpeper has with Billie Sue has him ask her what she's doing in the bus station, to which she irritably replies, "I'm waiting for the bus!"
- The officer in the same right before the intermission, who asks Culpeper if something's wrong, while Ginger blames Culpeper repeatedly for wanting to take her to Hawaii, which resulted in Billie Sue wanting to leave home, while Billie Sue is sobbing and screaming in the background. Culpeper slowly turns to look at him with a wordless "What do you think?!" look.
- Backseat Driver: Russell has his mother-in law taking this role to heart in a race to buried treasure. She bellows "We're the ones in the Imperial and we're in last place?" Later, she continues barking orders to different drivers in different vehicles.
- Banana Peel: The very end of the movie, which triggers Mrs. Marcus' much-deserved comeuppance.
- Bandage Mummy: A classic one at the ending: nearly the entire cast is in the hospital, bandaged or cast in plaster and bemoaning their fate. Cue the Banana Peel.
- Bathroom Break-Out: Culpeper reports that ex-con robber Smiler Grogan gave them the slip that way earlier in the morning while they were tailing him.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Otto Meyer uses this many times to great effect: at the service station where he pretends to be a psychiatrist, convincing Ray & Irwin that Lennie is an escaped mental patient, and when he stops a motorist and tells him to call the C.I.A., going by the alias of Agent X-27 (poor Don Knotts).
- Bench Breaker: Lennie breaks the chair that he was tied to after breaking himself free from the pillar and duct tape that the garage attendants tried tying up him to.
- Berserk Button: Don't sass or threaten Mrs. Marcus around Sylvester.
- J. Algernon Hawthorne hates it when the English are trash-talked and accused of being ungrateful for needing aid from the U.S. during World War II.
- Big Applesauce: Berle hailed from Manhattan; Hackett, Rooney, and Silvers from Brooklyn; Merman from Queens, and Caesar from north of the border in Yonkers.
- The Big Race: On land and in the air.
- 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 to Sylvester and Emmeline.
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: Culpeper's wife and daughter, as well as the Finch/Marcuses.
- Big Word Shout: Benjy shouts "Bingo!" when the money is dug up and the suitcase is opened.
- Bittersweet Ending: Played for laughs, of course, courtesy of the banana peel reference above.
- Black Comedy: Hilarity Ensues after an old man dies from injuries in a car crash.
- "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Subverted:Police Chief Aloysius: "Now you know the word for this, your honor: it's called Blackmail."
- Blatant Lies: The only way to get to Santa Rosita.
- Blind Driving: Melville tells Monica to Take the Wheel as he attempts to read the map - until it is blown into his face.
- Brake Angrily: Hawthorne and Pike, followed by a Get Out! to Russell Finch and Mrs. Marcus respectively.
- Brick Joke: Melville's insistence in divvying up the money.
- Benjy's dying grandmother.
- 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.
- Button Mashing: When the plane is coming in for a landing, but they don't know where the brakes are, Dingy just starts pulling every lever in reach.
- The Cameo: It lives for cameos.
- Captain Obvious: J. Algernon Hawthorne has a clever moment, when he is met by the Finches and Mrs. Marcus:Hawthorne: Jolly nasty accident there. Jolly lucky nobody was hurt.
Mrs. Marcus: Where did you get that funny accent? Are you from Harvard or something?
Hawthorne: Harvard? Rather not. I'm English.
Mrs. Marcus: Sounds so foreign.
- Car Meets House: Seen with a small plane and a restaurant.
- The Chew Toy: Ray and Irwin.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: Otto Meyer breaks out with a doozy when Lennie Pike mentions the 350 grand. He's suddenly QUITE interested.
- 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.
- Claymation: Stop-motion animation was how many of the effects of the men falling off the ladder were filmed.
- 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?"
- When Pike hears about a crook's stolen fortune, he's perfectly willing to go and dig it up for himself. But when Melville tries to explain that the money would not need to be declared (and therefore, would be tax-free), a suddenly conscientious Pike exclaims, "That would be like stealing from the government!"
- Contrived Coincidence:
- The distribution of vehicles and passengers make it impossible to equally divide the money without someone feeling cheated. This of course kicks off all the trouble.
- How convenient for Otto Meyer that there is a garage in the vicinity just as he gets a flat tire. Of course, things go from bad to worse for him when an enraged Lennie Pike catches up with him.
- Cool Car: Pretty much all the cars for their mid-century flash, but especially Dick Shawn's '62 Dodge - as he furiously drives it while blubbering for his mama, he gets it airborne over a road dip.
- Cool Old Guy: Culpeper until he double-crosses everyone, that is.
- Cool Plane: Tyler Fitzgerald's.
- 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: Ding and Benjy are forced to make one of these landings after their pilot falls unconscious after drinking too much while flying.
- Cross Cut: A variant: The two fighters wind up punching each other's fists.
- Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: Benjy and Dingy need a pilot and find Tyler Fitzgerald sleeping off a drunk. The room has the blinds drawn and when he gets up he thinks he's blind and staggers to the window. When he opens the blinds, the blinding daylight sends him flying backward, screaming in pain.
- Destroy the Product Placement: Benjy and Dingy fly a plane through a Coca-Cola billboard.
- Didn't Want an Adventure: The migrant couple that gets forced off the road by the treasure hunters, once they've finally reached the bottom of the gorge:Husband: "...I said it before, and I'll say it again: I didn't want to move to California."
- Disappeared Dad: Emmeline and Sylvester's father isn't around any more, probably because of a divorce, as the Like Father, Like Son example would imply. Besides, who would WANT to stay married to someone like Mrs Marcus?
- 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.
- Driver Faces Passenger: Hawthorne when describing his work to Emmeline.
- Drives Like Crazy: Four parties of normal, law-abiding types get word of a buried fortune and promptly turn into a mass highway menace. Everyone else who gets involved later acts the same way.
- 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!"
- Dwindling Party: Inverted. By the end of the film the number of the treasure-seekers has nearly doubled. Lampshaded by Sylvester Marcus, himself one of the newcomers: "Mama, this thing's like a convention!"
- 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 70mm Ultra Panavision cinematography. The script was so dense that it was split in two: one with all the dialogue and one with all the action.
- Epic Race: The plot of the movie, because no one wants to share the prize.
- Establishing Character Moment: Otto Meyer is initially dismissive of Lennie Pike stopping him when they first meet, but is immediately interested(and literally licks his lips) when he hears about the $350,000 buried at Santa Rosita.
- Eureka Moment: Mrs Marcus has one in Hawthorne's wagon and suddenly shouts, "Sylvester!", which gives her and the others the idea to try and contact Sylvester because of his proximity to Santa Rosita. Unfortunately for them, it backfires badly when Mrs Marcus finally gets through to Sylvester.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: Played Straight, yet effectively. Everybody is battered and broken and has had the worst day ever (especially Culpeper) but when Mrs. Marcus and injures herself, they can still muster up the humor to laugh at her.
- Everybody Owns a Ford: Chrysler sponsored the film to showcase its 1963 lineup. Almost all the heroes drive Chryslers. One of Ethel Merman's lines was written with a Cadillac in mind ("We're the ones in the Imperial and we're running last?"), but was changed because Chrysler sponsored the film and not GM. It has a much more snobbish airs with a Cadillac.
- Everyone Chasing You: The entire movie is a snowballing cascade of mob chases, as more and more of Hollywood's top actors join in the fun.
- 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.
- Fan Disservice: Mrs. Marcus' boobs nearly bobbling out of her dress while she's been shaken upside down.
- Fat and Skinny: Benjy and Dingy, respectively.
- Fatal Fireworks: Thankfully not fatal, but ones encountered by Crumps were pretty close...
- Felony Misdemeanor: After Jerry Lewis' character drives his car over Culpeper's hat, Culpeper immediately starts yelling for someone to get his number.
- Final Speech: Grogan, telling the witnesses to his auto crash where to find a huge payoff from an old crime.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Sylvester and Emmeline.
- Foreshadowing: A conversation Culpeper has with Aloysius fairly early on tells us about his pension, which has "not been up one red cent since 1934" and him wanting to take his wife Ginger on a holiday, a decision that will backfire badly later, and give him a reason as to why he will later try and steal the $350,000 for himself.
- After the intermission, when it's revealed at what state the other characters are in, Culpeper is seen staring at the Mexican border on the wall map, with Mexican music playing softly on the soundtrack. As revealed later, he intends to steal the money for himself and escape to Mexico with it.
- Free Wheel: Hawthorne's jeep has its front end damaged by an off-road swerve, rides more and more erratically until it goes into a tunnel with a large smash - a single wheel rolls out the other end, followed by the rest of the Jeep that finally rolls over and dies.
- Frilly Upgrade: Professional dancer Barrie Chase took the role of Sylvester's deadpan girlfriend at the last moment, only finding out afterward that it was to be a bikini role. Chase felt she was ten pounds overweight to comfortably do a bikini scene, so she requested a black bikini with frills, reasoning that the black would be slimming and the shaking frills would draw attention away from her extra weight.
- Funny Foreigner: Terry-Thomas as J. Algernon Hawthorne.
- Gambit Roulette: The banana peel.
- Get Out!: When Finch loses his temper and accuses the English of being a bunch of Ungrateful Bastards, Hawthorne orders him to leave the car; subverted when Finch apologizes for the stress getting to him:Finch: You want me to tell you something? As far as I'm concerned the whole British race is practically finished. If it hadn't been for lend-lease. If we hadn't have kept your whole country afloat by giving you billions that you never even said "Thank you" for, the whole phony outfit would be sunk right under the Atlantic years ago.
Finch [after Hawthorne stops the car]: What are you stopping for?
Hawthorne: Get out of this machine.
Finch: Get out? You can't...
Hawthorne: It's my machine, I will do as I bloody well please. Out!
Finch [apologizing]: I'm awfully sorry. I've been very edgy today and if I said anything about England, I apologize.
Hawthorne: Glad to hear you say so.
- Invoked by Lennie when Mrs. Marcus blames all her misfortunes on his van colliding with Finch's car and totalling the drive shaft system. Lennie unsuccessfully tries to pull her out of the tow truck, and it rolls downhill with her in it.
- 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..."
- The scene of Sylvester and the stonefaced go-go dancer is filled with this, as it's implied that they have been up all night having sex and possibly doing drugs, based on how frenetic they are. And an accidental Getting Crap Past the Radar moment has Sylvester leaning backwards and revealing that he isn't wearing underwear and you can see little Sylvester...
- Grey and Gray Morality: Everybody is out for themselves in this race for the treasure — even Culpeper. There are no "white" characters in the film (except possibly Aloysius), but there are hardly any "black" ones either - as Culpeper properly lampshades, they are not vile people after all. Of course, this applies to himself as well.
- Gold Fever: Everybody who finds out about the money becomes positively obsessed with getting their hands on it and screwing all the other racers — even Culpeper.
- Greed: The main characters, with Mrs. Marcus threatening to leave the others with nothing; Otto Meyer trying to get an extra share after Lennie Pike tells him where it's located; and Captain Culpeper, who plans to retire with Chief Aloysius telling him that the city is dead set against pension increases. Sadly, Culpeper was unaware that Chief Aloysius had blackmailed the mayor into tripling his pension, leading to Capt. Culpeper's arrest and forfeiture of his pension when he tries to take the loot for himself and the money falls into the crowd below.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: Milquetoast gas station owners Ray and Irving knock out a raving Lennie Pike with a bottle... they're not so lucky the next time when he comes to even madder.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Sylvester Marcus, big time. Definitely inherited it from Mrs. Marcus, who has a ...
- Handbag of Hurt: Mrs. Marcus will very often hit other people with her purse when she's really angry. The following characters she's hit with her purse are; Melville Crump, J. Russell Finch, Col. Hawthorne, Otto Meyer, and a random pedestrian.
- Apparently in real life, too. After the first take, Milton Berle yelled, "Cut!" and was a little woozy and rubbing his head in pain. When he asked Ethel Merman what she had inside the bag, she opened it up to show it was full of heavy costume jewelry!
- "Hell, Yes!" Moment: Ding and Benjy have one when they finally manage to land Fitzgerald's plane. Benjy shouts "Hooray!", and Ding shouts "We've landed!" when the plane comes to a stop.
- Heroes Gone Fishing:
- Before Melville and Monica Crump get in on the race to get the money, they were on their way to a second honeymoon.
- Also Russell, Emmeline and Mrs. Marcus, as before they were on their way to Lake Mead before they too get in on the race for the money.
- Heroic BSoD: Culpeper, at the halfway point. The domestic strife, the denial of pension increase, and the whole Grogan case not closing (and getting exponentially out of hand) just becomes too much for him.
- He's Dead, Jim: The film begins with ex-convict Smiler Grogan careening down a desert highway and flying off a cliff. A number of fellow motorists run down to aid him, but he's clearly dying. As he gasps his last breaths, he tells them the location of a large sum of stolen money he's buried, then fades out...and sits up deliriously shouting at Melville Crump "Tell me it don't make no difference, Aunt Belle!". He's reassured and dies...kicking a bucket downhill. Lennie Pike declares "That guy's dead. You better believe it!"
- Hidden in Plain Sight: The big W, which turns out to be a group of palm trees growing at odd angles in a park.
- Hilarity Ensues: Sums up about 90% of this movie.
- Especially in the climax, where the treasure hunters are all subjected to cartoon slapstick comeuppance that would absolutely kill them in real life.
- Hospital Epilogue: In the wild climax, all of the male main characters suffer serious injuries. The last scene occurs in a hospital, where the men are heavily bandaged. They are visited by their female relatives, who are angry about the males' greediness.
- Hot Pursuit: Inverted. The police car is chased.
- Huddle Shot: There is a very similar shot, though from the point of view of the treasure that has just been dug up, instead of from a character.
- Huge Schoolgirl: Culpepper's daughter Billie Sue is described as being six-foot-five. It was apparently the reason she and her boyfriend Oscar broke up, and why she's inconsolable when she's on the phone.
- Humiliation Conga: After he ends up in the hospital, Culpeper's wife is about to divorce him, his mother-in-law is about to sue him for damages, his daughter is applying to have her name changed, and his pension is about to be revoked, with the judge about to throw the book at him.
- Hurt Foot Hop: Russell and Hawthorne fight each other after crashing the car that they were riding together in, but when Russell attempts to kick Hawthorne after knocking him to the ground, he hits his foot against a rock, causing him to hop in pain while holding his foot.
- Idiot Ball: It gets passed around but Melville Crump sure has a tight grip on it when he's locked in the Hardware Store basement.
- I'll Kill You!: Sylvester utters this, coupled with road rage, when pursuing Col. Hawthorne and Russell Finch.
- Lennie Pike utters this when he catches up with and gets his hands on Otto Meyer.
- Impact Silhouette: Lennie Pike is in a berserk rage in Ray and Irwin's Garage and bursts through a wall, leaving a perfect Winters-shape hole in it.
- 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.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Exaggerated. Billie Sue is not only sobbing, but screaming hysterically over the phone in Culpeper's office in the scene preceding the intermission.
- I Never Told You My Name: This happens at the big W when Meyer says he is going to the police, and after Culpeper addresses him by using his name, Meyer stops himself mid-rant and asks, "How do you know my name?" This then happens again when Pike asks Culpeper if he knows Meyer, and Meyer uses Pike's name in his answer.
- Intermission: Consists of police calls that gave updates which were played in the lobby and and "Entr'Acte" music.
- Intimidating Revenue Service:Melville Crump: Sure, but if we find the money, we still have to report the taxes. Otherwise its like stealing from the government!... Everybody has to pay taxes. Even businessmen, who lie and cheat and steal every day, even they have to pay taxes!
- Involuntary Charity Donation: A parodied variant happens when the suitcase full of money flies open and the people below start picking up the dollars.
- Ironic Echo: "You heard him, mother. Stay here!"
- Irony: Emmeline, who wanted nothing to do with the situation, is the one who finds the Big W.
- Is This a Joke?: One of our heroes suggests that Smiler's Final Speech may have just been part of "some big practical joke".
- It Only Works Once: Hitting Pike over the head with a bottle knocks him out the first time. The rest of the time, it just makes him mad.
- 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.
- To a lesser degree, Sylvester Marcus clearly takes after his mother with his aggressive and confrontational attitude.
- 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. Ironically, it's this very plan they're eventually forced to adopt — but by that time the number of stakeholders doubled. She's also the one who, when everyone finally arrives at the park and are skulking and hiding from each other, calls everyone out into the open and rightly points out that they can't sneak about and search for the money simultaneously; they need to work together.
- Just Keep Driving: All the way to Santa Rosita.
- Kick the Dog: The nameless motorist (Jerry Lewis) who deliberately runs over Culpeper's hat after he accidentally throws it into the street, and then laughs about it.
- Meyer does it to Pike soon after they meet, when he tells Pike he can come with him, but then tricks Pike into moving the bike out of the road, and just as Pike throws it away, Meyer drives off.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Russell and Hawthorne grabbing Mrs. Marcus upside down and shaking her to get Hawthorne's keys back.
- Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: A nonheroic example from an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. Mrs. Marcus attacks Russell and Hawthorne after they attacked her for the keys.
- Kung-Shui: Pike versus the gas station attendants. Pike wins. The gas station loses.
- 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.
- Lawman Gone Bad: A prime example is Captain Culpepper. At first, he intends to confiscate the stolen money and presumably return it to its rightful owners, but after being buried under an ever-increasing mountain of bad news from his home life 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".
- Layman's Terms: Colonel Wilberforce's attempt to speak in these was Defied by Benjy of all people:Colonel Wilberforce: Now, the stick that you're holding, that is, I assume that... (Beat) Men, are you holding that stick? IS SOMEBODY HOLDING THAT STICK?! OVER!Benjy: What stick? Oh, the wheel! I'm holding it.Dingy: We're both holding it!
- Like Father, Like Son: As Mrs Marcus's plan to get Sylvester to get the money badly backfires, she has a moment of Tranquil Fury, then points at Emmeline and shouts, "Exactly like your father! A big, stupid, muscle-headed moron!"
- Literal Metaphor: At the beginning when Smiler Grogan dies, his leg spasms - and kicks a bucket.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: It's an ensemble comedy with about a dozen main characters and wall-to-wall cameos, so...
- Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: Book-Ends in the film, early on by Monica and near the end by Emmeline, although both quickly recover them. Also, any time Mrs. Marcus falls over.
- A MacGuffin Full of Money: The characters spend much of the early part of the movie gradually progressing from "let's be reasonable" to "screw it, every man for himself" regarding the location of a cache they discover in the opening minutes.
- MacGuffin Location: The Big W in Santa Rosita State Park.
- Male Gaze: As Schwartz walks by, several of her male coworkers openly leer at her shapely buttocks.
- Missed Him by That Much: After leaving Emmeline and Mrs Marcus, Russell and Hawthorne decide to go back to try and find them. As they pull out of the gas station, the van Pike stole from Ray and Irwin's garage, which has Emmeline and Mrs Marcus in it, pulls into the very space Russell and Hawthorne just vacated.
- 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.
- My Beloved Smother: Sylvester's devotion to his mother is borderline Oedipal.
- Never My Fault: Even though 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 Culpeper each have one.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Culpeper wants his pension increased so he can go on a holiday to Hawaii with his wife, Ginger. Their daughter, Billie Sue, wanted them to meet her new boyfriend, Oscar, but then told him her parents were going away to Hawaii. This resulted in an argument between the two that saw them break up and caused Billie Sue to angrily decide that not only did she not want to talk to Culpeper again, but she also wanted to leave home. The scene right before the intermission shows Culpeper sitting in shock with Ginger blaming him for the whole thing, with Billie Sue sobbing in the background.
- If Culpeper didn't try to elope with the money, he would see his pension trebled and himself retired with honor...
- Nice Job Breaking It, Rivals!: Towards the end, the men who were after the $350,000 fight over the money while on an unstable fire escape. The suitcase opens accidentally, the money spills onto the streets, and the men fall from the fire escape and get injured.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Otto's a Jerkass throughout most of the movie, yet his biggest setback only happens because he let a random guy hitch a ride to deliver medicine to his wife.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After Meyer leaves him by the side of the road, Pike catches up to him at Ray and Irwin's garage and subjects him to one of these before being knocked out with a Tap on the Head.
- No Indoor Voice: MRS. MARCUS! SHE IS ALWAYS YELLING AT THE TOP OF HER VOICE!!!
- No MacGuffin, No Winner: The suitcase containing the $350,000 gets accidentally opened and the money falls into the streets below, resulting in it getting snatched up almost entirely by random bystanders. The main characters themselves all end up in the hospital, none of them having procured one cent of the money.
- No Name Given: We don't find out the names of the two cab drivers, the sheriff, or the Crump's pilot.
- Not So Above It All: Captain Culpeper.
- Emmeline didn't want anything to do with the money from the very beginning. Yet, when she independently realizes where the money is hidden in the park, even she is not immune to fantasizing what she might do with it.
- Oblivious to Hints: The morons actually walk THROUGH the "Big W" at one point.
- Obnoxious In-Laws: Russell Finch is hounded by his harridan mother-in-law Mrs. Marcus and hipster-doofus brother-in-law Sylvester. In all fairness, his own wife, faced with the opportunity, shows a desire to flee them all.
- Of Corsets Funny: Mrs. Marcus takes a few undignified pratfalls, exposing her foundation garments.
- This was a Justified Trope in 1963 when it was considered proper for women and girls in First World societies to wear foundation garments, no matter their weight or build.
- Offhand Backhand: An inverted one occurs offscreen during the fight between Russell and Hawthorne, when Russell hit Hawthorne when Hawthorne wasn't looking. Hawthorne remarks he won't ever forget it.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Meyer when, after having left Pike at the side of the road, Pike catches up to him at Ray and Irwin's garage.
- Monica when she and Melville are locked in the hardware store basement.
- Ding gets one when Fitzgerald falls in the plane and is knocked out. "It's making me— Tap on the Head —NERVOUS!"
- Monica and Melville when the steps in the hardware store catch fire while they're standing on them.
- Dingy and Benjy both get one just before flying the plane through a Coca-Cola billboard.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": 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.
- The looks on all the faces as they watch all the bills scatter to the wind is absolutely priceless.
- "Oh, Crap!" Smile: Monica flashes a quick one when she emerges from the explosion from the hardware store.
- Oh, No... Not Again!: Captain Culpepper, in frustration,flings his hat out the window of his office instead of onto the hatrack he was aiming for, forcing a deputy to have to run outside and get it; while running out, he turns to the secretary and says "He did it again."
- Only One Name: We don't find out the first names of Culpeper, Mrs. Marcus, Colonel Wilberforce, Matthews or Schwartz. We do see Culpeper's initials on his office door, but we don't find out his first name, even from his wife.
- Only Sane Woman: Being the film it is, one can only speak of relative sanity, but Emmeline Marcus-Finch could probably qualify. Which makes her little talk with Capt. Culpeper surprisingly sad:(intercut with the rest of the cast arguing)
Emmeline: Who are you? Are you with the others, the ones that are looking?
Culpeper: 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.
Culpeper: 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.
Culpeper: 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.
- Her notion of needing a whole fortune to enter a convent (this in 1960s America, not in European Middle Ages) probably establishes her as just a more sympathetic kind of Cloudcuckoolander.
- Pass the Popcorn: How the police treat The Big Race.Sheriff's Deputy, observing the crash between Sylvester, Russell, and Hawthorne: I've never seen anything like this bunch! He ran right into them! He ran them right off the road!
- Pay Phone: A plot point in the middle of the film.
- Pet the Dog: Three of these from Meyer.
- After Ray and Irwin sort oiut Meyer's car after he suffers a blowout, he tells them they did a good job and gives them some extra money so they can have a drink on him. Moments later, he has an Oh, Crap! when Pike catches up to him.
- Meyer picks up a man so he can deliver medicine to his wife. It ends up costing him dearly when he gets lost and loses his car to a river afterwards.
- Meyer gets another one later when he congratulates Pike for finding the big W and says Pike should receive an extra share of the money.
- Plane Meets Restaurant: When Ding and Benjy finally manage to land Fitzgerald's plane, this happens when the plane comes to a stop.
- Pie in the Face: Slyvester Marcus falls from a tree, and slides the length of a long (and loaded) picnic buffet table, ending with a faceplant on a cake.
- 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.
- Police are Useless: Invoked. The people racing for the money commit a veritable cavalcade of crimes over the course of their trip to Santa Rosita, most of them in full view of the cops who let them get away with everything, supposedly for the sake of closing the Smiler Grogan Case, but really because the they want to see who wins the race, with the uniform sergeant giving the reason that if they helped one of them, they'd have to help the others, so they remain neutral to keep it fair for everyone involved. And Culpeper wants to steal the money.
- 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. It works, but not before it triggers some nearly Fatal Fireworks...
- 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: Russell and Hawthorne do this when they get into a scuffle. In a note of realism, it clearly hurts a lot.
- Pyrrhic Villainy: Captain Culpeper, who was almost set to receive a triple pension which Chief Aloysius blackmailed the mayor into granting, ends up forfeiting the pension, his wife divorces him, and his daughter moves away from home and changes her name, gets chewed out by all the other treasure hunters for getting greedy:Otto Meyer: I wish I knew what they're going to do to us. But no matter what happens to us... [turns to Culpeper] ...what happens to you, I hope will be worse!
Culpeper: I don't think you have to worry too much about that. My wife is divorcing me, my mother-in-law is suing me for damages, my daughter is applying to the courts to have her name changed, my pension has been revoked. And the only reason that you 10 idiots will very likely get off lightly, is because the judge will have me up there to throw the book at!
- 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?"
- Ramp Jump: It begins with Smiler careening along a mountain highway in a '57 Ford and then just...sailing out there. Didn't land well.
- Ray of Hope Ending: The movie ends with the male characters ending up in the hospital. Captain Culpeper concludes:"I'd like to think that sometime, maybe 10 or 20 years from now, there will be something that I could laugh at, anything." Cue a round of deafening laugh from everybody, including Culpeper, when Mrs. Marcus slips on a banana peel and gets taken away.
- 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, mainly with critical emphasis towards American men for allowing women to emasculate them and having a "preoccupation with bosoms". He thinks they're America, the Boorish.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Ernie Kovacs was going to play Melville Crump (alongside his real-life wife Edie Adams), but he was killed in a car accident before filming. Sid Caesar fills in.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Crumps: Melville (red) and Monica (blue, with a dress to match).
- Also Dingy Bell (very red, and wears a red sweater) and Benjy Benjamin (somewhat blue, and wears a light blue shirt).
- As siblings, Sylvester is the red to Emmeline's blue. Sylvester even wears red shorts (short pants) and drives a red Dodge convertible.
- 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.
- Running Gag: Russell Finch gobbles up antacids like candy, especially when he's nervous.
- Say My Name: Mrs Marcus shouts "Sylvester!" during her Eureka Moment, causing Hawthorne to go off the road briefly, and damaging one of the wagon's wheels.
- Ding screams "BENJY!" before the plane they're both in flies through a billboard.
- Russell shouts "Emmeline!" at the end before dropping through part of a building's roof. Sylvester does the same thing seconds later, "shouting "Mama!" before he falls and slides along a table.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Culpeper tries to do this to the country by stealing the money for himself and attempting to flee to Mexico with it.
- Shake Someone, Objects Fall: The keys out of Mrs. Marcus.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Culpeper, Melville Crump (although he gets Covered in Gunge in the hardware store), and Meyer.
- She's Got Legs: Monica Crump, accentuated with the dress rip she gets early in the movie.
- Short Cuts Make Long Delays: Just ask the Crumps.
- Side Bet: Culpepper and Chief Aloysius make one early on regarding the direction the chase will take. Later it's implied that the rest of the department have been picking out favorites to win among the treasure hunters.
- A Simple Plan
- 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.
- Mrs. Marcus is tossed around and abused more than anyone — but it's not like she doesn't deserve it.
- Stairwell Chase: Near the end, the citizens are chasing Culpeper up the stairs, and this shot is used.
- The Stoic: That chick Sylvester dances with is probably as close to live dancing robot as it is humanly possible. 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.
- Take That!: J. Algernon Hawthorne delivers a massive one of these to American society, specifically how women have become the more dominant gender:Hawthorne: I must say, if I had the grievous misfortune to be a citizen of this benighted country, I should be the most hesitant at offering any criticism whatever of any other.
Finch: Wait a minute, are you knocking this country? Are you saying something against America?
Hawthorne: Against it? I should be positively astounded to hear of anything that could be said for it. Why, the whole bloody place is the most unspeakable matriarchy in the whole history of civilization! Look at yourself, and the way your wife and her strumpet of a mother push you through the hoop! As far as I can see, American men have been totally emasculated. They're like slaves! They die like flies from coronary thrombosis, while their women sit under hairdryers, eating chocolates and arranging for every second Tuesday to be some sort of Mother's Day! And this positively infantile preoccupation with bosoms. In all my time in this wretched, godforsaken country, the one thing that has appalled me most of all is this preposterous preoccupation with bosoms. Don't you realize they have become the dominant theme in American culture: in literature, advertising and all fields of entertainment and everything. I'll wager you anything you like: if American women stopped wearing brassieres, your whole national economy would collapse overnight.
- Tap on the Head: Pike's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown is ended when he's hit on the head with a bottle.
- Ray and Irwin try to do this to Pike again with two successive bottles, but this time, it doesn't work. It just makes him angrier.
- Fitzgerald is knocked out with one of these and remains unconscious for the rest of the film.
- The Taxi: Two of them, driven by Those Two Guys the cabbies.
- Tempting Fate: Mrs Marcus's line, "Nobody going to get me up in the air." Guess what happens when Pike crashes into the back of their car right after she says that?
- 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 garage attendants who inadvertently invoked the wrath of Lennie. And at the end, the two cabbie drivers.
- Three Stooges Shout-Out: During their Punch Parry, Russell gives Algernon an eyepoke. It may be the only film that features both that and the Trope Namer!
- 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 garage. And when we say "kill", you should read it as he leaves no standing structure left whatsoever.
- 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.
- Visual Pun: Smiler kicks a bucket as a sign that he's "kicked the bucket."
- The Voice: Culpeper'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.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Monica when Melville resorts to using dynamite to get out of the hardware store basement, as she hates explosions. The fuse also unexpectedly sets off some fireworks.
- Wimp Fight: Most of them, particularly the one between Russell and Hawthorne, where they take turns running away from each other, and hurt themselves almost every time they throw an attack.
- "W" Marks The Spot: In lieu of an 'X'
- World Gone Mad: Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- 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.
- World of Ham: Given it's a World Gone Mad, everyone's exaggerated too.
- "X" Marks the Spot: Or a 'W' in this case.
- "You!" Exclamation: An angry Pike towards Meyer when he catches up to him at Ray and Irwin's garage after Meyer left him behind in the middle of the road. Cue an Oh, Crap! from Meyer.
- 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.