Week 4, Sep 27-Oct 3: 60’s Blockbuster Week
Challenge: Watch an unseen film from among the Top 50 Highest Grossing Movies of the 1960s.
My Choice: It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World by Stanley Kubrick
This was another week where I had seen many of the big hitters – The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Doctor Zhivago, etc. I wasn’t too enthused about any of the remaining options (geez, audiences in the ’60s liked long movies), but I figured at least It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World would have a ton of crazy cameos to keep me distracted, plus Criterion just added it to their collection, so it’s got to have SOMETHING.
Turns out it was quite a bit more fun than I expected. A speeding motorists drives off a cliff, and five people go down to see if he’s okay. SPOILER: He’s not. But he manages to tell them about a large sum of money he’s hidden. They all predictably start going after it, and this race/chase to the money takes up the bulk of the 160 minute running time.
The main characters are mostly played by people who would’ve been major stars at the time, especially on television (Milton Berle, Sid Caesar), but who aren’t that well-remembered now – exceptions made for Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy, who plays the police chief trying to keep tabs on all these folks so he can recover the money.
The plot is a MacGuffin, though, to pur funny people in funny scenarios over and over again, and while some sections are funnier than others, there’s a great momentum to the film that I didn’t expect. You can tell as it approaches the intermission (yes, there’s an intermission), because the intercutting between everything going to hell for everyone gets faster and faster, building tension and laughs as planes are about to crash, fireworks are going off in a locked hardware store, cars drown in rivers, etc. It’s utter mayhem, and while I’m sure it wouldn’t work for a lot of my peers, it worked for me.
I did start to fade toward the end of the film (it took me forever to figure out exactly what Spencer Tracy was playing at), but aside from a few shrill/overlong moments, I had a really good time with this.
After watching a film, I always rank it on Flickchart, a movie website that pits movies against each other until you form your ranked list of favorite movies. Here’s how It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World entered my chart:
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World > Billy Elliot
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World > Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World < Hans Christian Andersen
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World < Juno
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World < Aladdin
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World < Red River
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World < Mystery Men
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World < Premium Rush
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World < Brief Encounter
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World < Frankenweenie
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World > Loveâ€™s Labourâ€™s Lost
Itâ€™s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World < Jeopardy
Final ranking #883 out of 3541