Monday Movie: It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, by David Bax
One of the main draws of Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World is the sprawling cast of comedy heavy hitters. Except, when I first saw the movie as a boy, I didn’t know that. With the exception of Don Knotts, these were all new faces to me.
That’s a testament, in a way, to how well the movie works. And, boy, does it work, despite the odds being stacked against it. The entire idea of an “epic comedy” should be a non-starter. Common wisdom tells us that nothing is funny for three and a half hours.
Granted, some of it could use a bit of trimming. The very long sequence in which a raging mad Jonathan Winters destroys an entire gas station piece by piece is built more for noise and spectacle than for laughs. But Dick Shawn’s hysterics, Phil Silvers’ smarminess, Ethel Merman’s verbal abuse… Kramer wrung every laugh he could out of his cast and if you occasionally have to sit through a bombastic setpiece, it’s worth it.