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Katz and Harris Letter To LA Times on Mad World


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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   HalS

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Posted September 17 2001 - 10:20 AM

Excellent letter in response to something that ran earlier, thought it might be of interest to people here. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 'Mad World' Cannot Be Properly Revisited Letter writer Jonathan Aurthur has commented about Stanley Kramer's "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," ("Not Mad About 'World,"' Sept. 8) and with his comments come sad truths about the fragility of motion picture film elements and their effect upon the rewriting of film history. Before Sir David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" was reconstructed, restored and then released by a savvy Columbia Pictures in 1989, it had fallen into a pit of disrepair, both physically and by reputation. The problem was that it had not been seen in its original version since January 1963 or in a short 70-millimeter version since 1971. Memories fade along with film--and along with them, the truth. While it is most kind that Aurthur allows that Karen Kramer may hold her own opinions of her late husband's work, he preaches his own dogmatic opinions as fact, inviting "anyone who thinks I'm wrong to view 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' for themselves." But herein lies the problem. As of this month, no one that we know can view Kramer's film as he made it. What was released to the world in UltraPanavision 70 on huge curved screens and six-track discreet stereo can now only be viewed on television. And only in a version missing more than 40 minutes of material: character, story, nuance, comedy. So as much as the invitation might be open to view the film, it cannot be done. And the current 154-minute version will not serve as the basis of discussion. Aurthur refers to "Mad World," admittedly not a perfect film, as "an overblown bore that was seen as such when it first came out and has not improved with age." We have no idea if Aurthur ever saw Kramer's original version of the film. If he did, it would have had to have been before January 1964. It is unfortunate that we cannot dispute the second part of his comment. The film has not only not improved with age, it does not exist. His first comments, however, might best be answered with a few thoughts from publications at the time of release. The New York Times: "It's a wonderfully crazy and colorful collection of 'chase' comedy, so crowded that it almost splits the seams of its huge Cinerama packing and its 3-hour-and-12-minute length. They [director Kramer and screenwriters William and Tania Rose] have put together a story that has eruptive energy and speed; and have a bunch of actors to perform it with the fervor of demented geniuses. It is wild and hilarious all the way." Variety: "It's a mad, mad, mad, mad picture, and it's going to make a lot of money. "['Mad World'] is a spectacular achievement in cinematic architecture, a significant addition to Hollywood film comedy." Comedy is a subjective thing, and to be fair to Kramer's work, it demands to be seen in its original, uncut version. It is not only the version, but also the venue and the means of playback that are of import here. While some of Kramer's films, such as "Inherit the Wind," play perfectly well on a smaller screen, viewing "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" on either video or a small screen is rather like viewing a black-and-white thumbnail Xerox of a brilliant illuminated Renaissance manuscript and then making a judgment. Aurthur is, of course, entitled to his opinions of Kramer's work, but until such time he has a chance to properly revisit the film, his opinions are moot. * * * New York City-based Robert A. Harris and Los Angeles-based James C. Katz have been responsible for the reconstruction and restoration of such films as "Lawrence of Arabia," "Spartacus," "My Fair Lady," "Rear Window" and "Vertigo." Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times

#2 of 9 OFFLINE   BarryR

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Posted September 17 2001 - 03:34 PM

Amen. I've read one or two reviews of MAD on certain websites by people who admit they were seeing it for the first time on DVD. The comedy pretty much left them cold. Ah well. I first saw the film on its first release, when I was seven. The screams and roars of laughter are still well remembered, as was the impact of seeing this comedy on a >big< screen and with a responsive crowd. It was unforgettable. MAD was re-released extensively in 1969 and I saw it several more times, again with enthusiastic crowds and the impact of a large screen (if not actual Cinerama at alot of theatres). I wish I could convey the excitement this film always generated, and with whatever form I have seen it (including the laser edition), I have alot of wonderful feelings still towards it--and yes, the film IS still funny after all these years, and incredibly well structured to ably fill the long running time. Even though the film is apparently shorn of alot of original footage, I think it still works. I just don't necessarily envy those who watch it cold on a smaller screen, but that's the hazard of the game. [Edited last by BarryR on September 17, 2001 at 06:34 PM] [Edited last by BarryR on September 17, 2001 at 06:37 PM] [Edited last by BarryR on September 17, 2001 at 06:38 PM]

#3 of 9 OFFLINE   Lee Scoggins

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Posted September 18 2001 - 02:37 PM

At the risk of being controversial, I have watched this movie several times over the past three years and I just don't think it is that great a piece of art. Do we really need to go into detail about this film? I just don't feel that it is of Lawrence of Arabia caliber... Lee
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#4 of 9 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted September 18 2001 - 02:49 PM

Lee, First off welcome to the forum. Secondly, whether you personally liked the film or not is not really relevant in this discussion because there are many others that actually find this film very entertaining. This is a discussion forum which means there are many subject matters that are discussed here that I particularly don't care for but so what? Obviously, there are other members that really enjoy discussing such things which I have to respect because they're entitle to their opinion same as me. Crawdaddy ------------------ [Edited last by Robert Crawford on September 18, 2001 at 05:50 PM]

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#5 of 9 OFFLINE   Lee Scoggins

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Posted September 18 2001 - 03:35 PM

You are right Crawdaddy. I apologize. Not very democratic of me.
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#6 of 9 OFFLINE   BarryR

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Posted September 18 2001 - 03:53 PM

Yes, you'll find we take our film favorites very seriously around here. Posted Image

#7 of 9 OFFLINE   Gary Rhine

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Posted September 18 2001 - 04:06 PM

The funniest laugh-out-loud star-laden film ever made. Bar none.

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#8 of 9 OFFLINE   RickardL

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Posted September 18 2001 - 04:37 PM

I am trying to figure out what version I saw as a kid in Sweden and according to some sources, it had a length of 14928 feet but was cut down by the distributor to 14354 in 1964 when it was first shown in Stockholm! I also have a listing for the 70mm format which was 18652 feet. Now, anyone who knows what these lengths mean in minutes and seconds? Note: I was not born when it opened but I saw it later in the 70s and I guess they used the same print then.

#9 of 9 OFFLINE   Chad Parks

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Posted September 18 2001 - 08:01 PM

Oh great, now I have film length envy!




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