A really, really big comedy, about a group of strangers racing to find a buried treasure. (2 hr 43 min)
Violent slapstick, comic inebriation, unsafe handling of explosives, spectacularly reckless driving. 1963 attitudes towards women and minorities. One character complains about America’s fascination with “bosoms.” Filmed in 2.76:1 Cinerama (the equivalent of 24.84 x 9), so there will be black letterboxing on the top and bottom of your TV screen.
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Films made since that have tried to capture the same level of excess (Cannonball Run, Rat Race, Steven Spielberg’s 1941) have failed to impress critics or win over fans.
Mama, how many people are mixed up in this thing?
Even today most descriptions of this oversized epic comedy begin with a list of who’s in it. But your kids will neither know nor care the difference between Sid Caesar and Milton Berle, let alone Eddie Anderson or Jim Backus or Arnold Stang.* Instead they’ll be swept up by all of the mugging, flailing, running, shoving, careening, smashing, and yelling crammed into each and every scene. The relentlessness is embodied best in Ethel Merman’s supernova of a performance, pitched at a volume which would have left even Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey cowering silently in the corner. You’re going to want to set aside an entire afternoon for it. The film does offer an intermission, during which the kids in our house burned off their accumulated adrenaline by running outside and whacking each other with foam swords. As Lou Lumenick writes in an essay that accompanies the Criterion Blu-ray, “To complain that Mad World is over-the-top and overwhelming—as its critics have done for the past half century—is to sort of miss the point.” —