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    It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Extended Edition) Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Criterion

    Jan 19 2014 03:40 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    “Bigger isn’t necessarily better” so the old saying goes, but in the case of Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, bigger is just fine and dandy, and in Criterion’s new edition of both the general release and extended versions of the film, the viewer can have his pick of which account of the film he wants to see. In terms of its scale, the number of stars, its epic length (in either cut), and its uncanny ability to sustain the madcap farce for three or more hours, the film outstrips other big budget comedies like The Great Race, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, and 1941 and leaves them in the dust (though I have always been rather partial to The Great Race in a head-to-head competition for sheer belly laughs). Kramer’s nutty comedy may not be the wittiest or subtlest movie ever made, but it’s a deeply funny, genuinely riotous movie that has easily stood the test of time, and Criterion’s new release offers fans two cuts with a plethora of bonus material that should satisfy most World aficionados.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Criterion
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.76:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: G
    • Run Time: 2 Hrs. 45 Min./ 3 Hrs. 17 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD
    • Case Type: fold out cover inside a cardboard slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 01/21/2013
    • MSRP: $49.95

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    Five travelers (Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, Sid Caesar, and Jonathan Winters) are on hand to hear the dying confession of a shifty bandit (Jimmy Durante) fatally injured in a car crash. He tells them of a $350,000 windfall buried underneath a “big W” in Santa Rosita Beach State Park, and while the group initially agrees to work together and split the money equally, suspicions and greed force them to ditch that plan and instead pit each against the other in a race to find the loot. Meanwhile, their every move is being monitored by Santa Rosita police captain C. G. Culpepper (Spencer Tracy) who listens in awe to reports of these basically law-abiding citizens breaking every law in the book in a mad scramble to get to the money before the others, their greed completely overpowering any semblance of rational thought.

    The script by William and Tania Rose contains only a fair degree of wit but an ample supply of slapstick farce, and the demands for death-defying stunt work especially on the roads and in the skies of California simply defy rational explanation. Among the chaotic highlights of the film are Jonathan Winters’ astounding destruction of a roadside gas station (with a terrified Marvin Kaplan and Arnold Stang helplessly trying to stay alive), Sid Caesar and Edie Adams’ lengthy series of maneuvers (involving fire extinguishers, blow torches, hundreds of cans of paint, and several sticks of dynamite) to escape from the locked basement of a hardware store, Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett’s frantic attempts to land an out-of-control prop plane with no flying experience (cue the billboard they fly through and Paul Ford who goes plummeting head-over-heels from the tower as they buzz past), and the series of pratfalls Ethel Merman (as the champion shrewish mother-in-law of all time) and her body double take throughout the film always to howlingly funny effect. Along the way, the group adds additional antagonists (Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Dick Shawn, Peter Falk, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson), and there are a few surprise guest stars not credited in the main titles (Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny) though fans of great comics of the time like Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Bob Hope may be dismayed they didn’t make it into the movie. Still, the very audacity to create a film with the kind of star cast that this film boasts and to serve all of them with a fair degree of effectiveness is still an unparalleled achievement and impossible to imagine the likes of today.

    In Criterion’s restored longer cut (approximating but not completely replicating the longer roadshow version of the film which ran for a couple of weeks in the movie’s premiere engagement), scenes run longer sometimes with gag-filled tags but often not serving any useful purpose, and one understands why Kramer decided to trim them out after the film’s first few engagements. Due to the quality of the elements even after digital tinkering, the additions to the general release version are noticeable (a bonus feature on the disc gives a concise explanation as to why the trims look as they do, why there are occasionally missing pieces of soundtrack or footage, and how they’re dealt with in the restoration) but have been added back in as seamless a way as possible. What emerges is, if not a real revelation, at least an entertaining continuation that allows these famous stars more chances to shine and fans of the film more opportunities to relish their favorite comedy. The restored radio calls for the intermission, three sequences of them, are valuable contributions to the overall effect of the new pseudo-roadshow experience which those who never saw the laserdisc package will be new to.

    Of the top-billed stars, Jonathan Winters steals the show. His ability to mix physical comedy with a stream of verbal jibes (many sound like ad-libs) sets him apart from everyone else, and his every appearance is a tonic. Ethel Merman’s motormouth and short-fused temper make her the only female in the cast to distinguish herself among the otherwise male-heavy star roster. (Edie Adams and Dorothy Provine really aren’t given much of an opportunity to show what they could do.) Phil Silvers’ rascally charlatan doesn’t begin with the others but comes into his own later in a series of comic mishaps his character readily deserves. Spencer Tracy, of course, performs in his customarily low key fashion making the surprises he has to pull off later really connect with the audience. But the real stars of the movie are the incredible stunt crew who pull off one extraordinary moment after another in a seemingly endless array. They are the real unsung heroes of the piece.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    Both versions of the movie (one on each of the two Blu-rays in the package) display the film’s Ultra Panavision aspect ratio of 2.76:1 in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is stunning throughout (the restored scenes added back in are not being considered in this video analysis; they are what they are and are remarkable to exist at all), and color is deeply and richly saturated, so much so that everyone seems to be sporting a deep tan (just take a glance at those lush reds in Mickey Rooney’s sweater and VW or Dick Shawn’s swim trunks). Details in facial features have rarely been so keenly delivered to a home theater audience. There is some fading along the edges of the main titles, and there is momentary flashing in some grille work in the cars during the side-by-side chase scene that makes for one of the film’s most memorable sequences. The film has been divided into 19 chapters for the general release version and 21 chapters in the extended version.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix appears to be different from the one used on the MGM/UA Blu-ray released in 2011. The use of the surrounds is much more aggressive in this mix than before with Ernest Gold’s frisky, expressive score getting a wide spread through the fronts and rears and some ambient sound effects panning through the soundstage fairly frequently. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been actively directionalized consistently through the running time of the movie. Additionally, the track isn’t weighed down at all by any age-related artifacts such as hiss or crackle.

    Special Features: 4.5/5

    The making of documentary which was present on the MGM/UA Blu-ray release has not been ported over to this new Criterion release, so those who have that old disc may wish to retain it for this new edition. (It can go into one of the slots holding the three DVDs in this case.)

    Disc One contains the general release version of the movie and contains these bonus features, all in HD:

    Promotional Spots: an introduction by comedian Stan Freberg (4:20) for the 1963 release, six radio ads, four TV ads, the roadshow teaser trailer (1:27) and the general release trailer (3:21). For the 1970 rerelease, there are three radio ads and a theatrical trailer (3:21).

    Telescope (24:56, 25:22): a two-part episode of the CBC series covers the press tour for the film and the movie’s premiere in Hollywood featuring stars from the movie, stars attending the opening, and narrated by host Fletcher Harkle.

    Press Interview (35:08): 1963 interview on the evening before the premiere features stars Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, director Stanley Kramer, Sid Caesar, Terry-Thomas, and Dick Shawn.

    Stanley Kramer’s Reunion Show (36:46): a 1974 talk show featuring the director who interviews his guests Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, and Jonathan Winters reminiscing about the making of the movie.

    Disc Two contains the new extended edition of the movie with the following bonus features, all in HD:

    Audio Commentary: a new commentary track by Mad World enthusiasts Mark Evanier, Michael Schlesinger, and Paul Scrabo which clearly is a labor of love as the three swap off duties discussing the film’s merits and giving background on its many notable participants and achievements.

    AFI 100 Years…100 Laughs (11:10): excerpts from the TV special celebration of the greatest comedies ever made offers testimonials from members of the cast and stars who are among its most devoted fans.

    The Last 70mm Festival (37:38): Billy Crystal hosts a 2012 panel who talk about the film’s merits. Among the participants are Jonathan Winters, Marvin Kaplan, Mickey Rooney, Stan Freberg, and Carl Reiner.

    Sound and Vision (36:28): visual effects expert Craig Barron and sound effects expert Ben Burtt discuss the variety of special visual and sound effects that give the movie its unusual magic.

    Restoration Video Essay (5:19): a concise discussion of how the restored footage was rescued from oblivion and how the parts of the movie which could still not be located are going to be handled. Viewers should watch this feature before watching the extended version of the movie.

    Eighteen-Page Booklet: contains the cast and crew lists, some novel illustrations, and New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick’s essay on the film.

    It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Map: another enclosure in the case is this illustrated map of the area covered in the film with a legend describing each of the protagonists’ movements during the movie.

    DVDs: three discs enclosed in the fold-out case in this dual-format release.

    Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    The last word in farcical extravaganzas, Criterion’s deluxe release of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World has just about everything any fan of the movie would ever want. No, even with Robert Harris’ meticulous restoration work, it’s still not quite the complete roadshow version (though it’s undoubtedly the closest we’ll ever have), and the film’s many stunning achievements deserve even more critical appreciation than is offered here. Still, this is the version so many have waited for so long and comes highly recommended!

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:


    Thanks for the review.  What is the layout of the DVD's?  Is the extended edition on a single disc, or spread across two?

    Thanks for the review.  What is the layout of the DVD's?  Is the extended edition on a single disc, or spread across two?


    No, there are three DVDs in the case, and each version of the film gets its own. The bonus features are spread over the three (though only the extended movie and the commentary are on disc two).

    Thanks Matt.

    Another great review.


    Like everybody else here, I can't wait.

    Thanks, Matt.  I'm looking forward to getting my copy, hopefully on Tuesday.

    Nice review Matt -- and thanks for the suggestion about including the MGM bluray in with the dvds in this set -- I'll do just that.


    And many thanks RAH for conquoring this mad world from all the fans -- lets all hope you get a chance to remember and restore "The Alamo".

    I just received confirmation from Amazon that my copy has been shipped and will be here tomorrow!

    Mine is coming!

    Big day is tomorrow...can't wait to get this myself.

    Thanks, Matt.  Great review of a great film.  This release is likely to end up in strong consideration for "BD of the Year - 2014".   It is unfortunate that Criterion chose not to include English subtitles on the Extended version as that certainly is the primary reason this release exists.

    I'm buying this sight-unseen basically because I've been enthralled over the last half-decade or more of discussion of this title on HTF by RAH and many members whom I hold in high esteem. The road to getting this Criterion release seems like it's worthy of a movie itself. ;)


    Looking forward to my first screening, likely this coming weekend.

    I think it's telling that this release is currently #9 on Amazon's best seller list. Usually for a Criterion release to get on the top selling release list, it has to be on a heavily discounted sale.


    I hope Criterion is very happy with the sales numbers on this title.

    Posted Image


    Interestingly ex-Bowery Boys leaders Leo Gorcey (who previously worked for Stanley Kramer in 1948's SO THIS IS NEW YORK ) and Stanley Clements are both in this overblown all-star opus.  It is unfortunate that Leo Gorcey in particular couldn't have been afforded a much more substantial involvement in the story but it seems that he was squeezed out to accommodate the then up-and-coming Peter Falk.


    What happened to Huntz Hall?!


    I still love The Three Stooges (all-too-brief) surprise cameo appearance the best:




    Jeff T.

    Now that this Roadshow Version came to pass, I really hope The Roadshow version of The Alamo comes out. The extra footage in that one is much more important to the film and the story and after seeing it on Laserdisc back in the 90's the shorter theatrical cut always feels cut and edited to me with huge plot holes. Its similar to the LOTR extended versions. They add much more to the story and fill in plot holes.

    I've only just seen this one for the first time last year via the previous bluray, so looking forward to grabbing this one on the next 50% off sale.

    Got my copy of this yesterday and played part of the extended Roadshow version last night...what a treat it will be to watch this weekend in its entirety!!! Thanks for the review, Matt!!! :thumbs-up-smiley:

    I will patiently make this one a centerpiece of my birthday weekend!!!! I look forward to adding this one to my collection in the coming months ahead!!!!!

    Well, the most exciting things about this set (I bought the 5 disc combo) are the at-last appearance of the original intermission radio calls and the audio of the telephone scene between Spencer Tracy and Buster Keaton.  Frankly, in my opinion, this is the only scene that should not have been deleted, purely for the sake of continuity.  All of the other restored trims are superfluous and only slow down the pacing.


    My one carp is the way the end of the overture was followed by the main title without even a musical beat, much less a breath.  Very clumsy.


    Haven't gone through the extras but I'm sure I will enjoy them.

    Well, the most exciting things about this set (I bought the 5 disc combo) are the at-last appearance of the original intermission radio calls and the audio of the telephone scene between Spencer Tracy and Buster Keaton.  Frankly, in my opinion, this is the only scene that should not have been deleted, purely for the sake of continuity.  All of the other restored trims are superfluous and only slow down the pacing.


    My one carp is the way the end of the overture was followed by the main title without even a musical beat, much less a breath.  Very clumsy.


    Haven't gone through the extras but I'm sure I will enjoy them.

    Hi Ray:

    Your carp about the Overture - Main Title was also that way on the previous MGM Blu ray, so maybe the way they got the files from MGM, they were stuck. As I remember on the MGM Blu, the decay of the Overture is actually cut off during the final decay and the Main Title music starts. I even wrote Criterion about this when it was annouced, so maybe it couldn't be fixed within their budget or time frame.

    Well, the most exciting things about this set (I bought the 5 disc combo) are the at-last appearance of the original intermission radio calls and the audio of the telephone scene between Spencer Tracy and Buster Keaton.  Frankly, in my opinion, this is the only scene that should not have been deleted, purely for the sake of continuity.  All of the other restored trims are superfluous and only slow down the pacing.


    My one carp is the way the end of the overture was followed by the main title without even a musical beat, much less a breath.  Very clumsy.


    Haven't gone through the extras but I'm sure I will enjoy them.

    I can see why they cut the phone call.  It's the same "should they or shouldn't they" reveal quandary that fans of Vertigo still argue about.


    I love having the extended version.  I wouldn't part with it for anything and I'm eternally grateful to everyone involved for all the hard work to make it look and sound as great as it does.  However, while there are small bits here and there I would have retained, by and large, the film moves much, much better in the shorter version (it's NOT a "general release version" as everyone calls it, but the final Roadshow cut -- the general release runs 154 minutes with no curtain music).  My preferred version would probably run about 170 with the extra music, retaining some minor exposition but eliminating all the redundancies rightly trimmed.  But since Mr. Kramer never did a final director's cut after the original trim, it is what it is.


    Someone in one of the threads asked why no one would dare insert the balcony scene back into LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, yet Mr. Harris and company had no problems filling IAMMMMW with substandard trims, stills with audio and subtitles.  The answer is that, unlike LAWRENCE, this is not the official director-sanctioned final cut of IAMMMMW.  That's on the other disc.  This is an alternate cut of "what-once-was" to please the rabid fanbase.  I always think of the premiere cut as a preview cut that managed to get released, similar to what I'm told happened with DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and 2001.


    Thanks again to Mr. Harris and everyone else involved for what may remain for me the release of the year.

    Those of you who are members of "The Brotherhood of Mad" may enjoy this retrospective article I put together for my film history column at The Digital Bits....



    Awesome read Michael, thanks for sharing!

    After watching the two episodes of TELESCOPE, seeing the incredible amount of effort that went into promoting the film and herding the press around; and having Fletcher Markle dwell on the lousy reviews, I was all the more sorry that Kramer didn't trim the film to it's shorter length for the world premiere.


    So many people have spent decades trying to get this picture restored but the fact is, the comedy and pacing works much, much better in its tighter form.  It's great to see all the trims but the film definitely, in my opinion, plays best at 161 minutes.  All of that extended footage featured dialogue and, in a couple cases, action that was superfluous.  Just enough to let the rhythm lapse.  Since Kramer was not a filmmaker experienced in comedy, I wonder if another editor was brought in to help tighten the film and enhance the comic timing.


    Even the Keaton scene, I thought, was a bit clumsy.  A more casual set-up might have worked better.


    The only bit I'm sorry he cut was Demarest bowing out of the 5'll get you 10 game.  That was a nice little funny piece.  The "You Satisfy My Soul" dance bit is great, too.  I think they made the right choice, though, with going to a third cutaway to Sylvester.


    As for TELESCOPE, it was interesting seeing Vince Barnett on hand at the first party.  Too bad he didn't have a little role in the film.


    BTW - we now see Phil Arnold in the extended version as the garage mechanic telling Terry-Thomas his jeep is in bad shape.


    All-round a great package.

    Gawd, I love this movie! Just got the set in January and I've watched it 3 times already!


    Favorite extended sequence: the "recap" cross-cutting at the end of Act I, which gathers up all the story threads into one exhilarating montage, sort of like D.W. Griffith on laughing gas.


    Favorite single bit: there are WAY too many to chose from, and it changes every time I watch it. But if I was forced to pick one it MIGHT be Peter Falk's first scene, the one Buddy Hackett rightly called "a gem." ("CAN'T YOU SEE I'M TALKIN' ON THE PHONE?!!") Anyone who grew up in New York City, as I did, couldn't fail to recognize the familiar archetype that's brilliantly caricatured here.

    Does anyone else get a chuckle from the very first opening credit? I'm not referring to the entire opening credit sequence, which is a mini-masterpiece in itself. I'm only talking about that first credit.


    We've just heard an overture over a darkened screen, now we're looking at a very wide screen image in a no-nonsense sold color, all building a presentation and shown in the kind of large format that had up to then generally been associated with Very Big Deal biblical or historical epics. The music vamps a moment or two, actually slightly longer than seems normal and then..."STANLEY KRAMER PRESENTS a United Artists Release" appears dead center on that very wide screen in such tiny letters relative to the gigantic screen format and the Very Big Deal build up, dwarfed by the format and sheer screen size. And it pops onto the screen quite unceremoniously, almost clumsily, one might say "late", like it just rushed in at the last second and that's why the music vamped a bit longer than usual. And it is totally lacking in self-importance the way one might expect from, say, DAVID O. SELZNICK'S PRODUCTION OF... or SAMUEL BRONSTON PRESENTS. I don't know, but that opening credit has always pulled a chuckle out of me and placed a smile on my face from the get-go no matter how many times I've watched it! It is also one of the things that is a bit funnier in the general release version since there are fewer words in the general release version's opening credit vs the extended version (the extended version includes the words "IN CINERAMA" and doesn't appear to be as tiny relative to the screen format as it does in the general release version).


    Intentional or not, that tiny opening credit on the huge screen format and after the big deal buildup is a pretty good visual joke to kick off this movie.

    In Munich, I just got the Mad World things. I found it outside  my door this morning though it might have arrived yesterday late afternoon. The DVD is only region 1 and I assume NTSC. Later I will try out the BRs. It was sent out Jan 22 with the slowest speed. The BR is only region A.