Posted January 15 2013 - 11:40 AM
I saved the web site but unfortunately Seattle times has taken it down. .so using cut and paste will paste this for you to read this 2004 article: Thursday, March 4, 2004 Cult classic 'Mad World' back in near-original form at Cinerama By WILLIAM ARNOLD SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER MOVIE CRITIC The first time Stanley Kramer's epic comedy, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," had a gala premiere at Seattle's Cinerama was April 22, 1964, with a benefit showing for Children's Orthopedic Hospital that launched one of the longest movie runs in the city's history: 11 months. The second time will be at 7 Thursday night, when a new print of the film officially kicks off Paul Allen's Second Annual "Reel" Cinerama Film Festival, a one-week program of ultra-widescreen 70 mm epics from the movie past, presented in the theater's luxurious confines. In the nearly 40 years between these screenings, the film has become both an anomaly -- the longest, most ambitious comedy Hollywood ever attempted -- and a cult legend: the all-time favorite film of an exclusive fraternity of fans that includes Billy Crystal and Sen. John Kerry. And if the film's glory lives mostly in the memories of those who experienced it in its first run -- and its name is not exactly household today -- it may be because succeeding generations have not been able to see it in anything close to its original state. According to Karen Kramer, the director's widow who will be at the Cinerama tonight to introduce the 40th anniversary print, "If you haven't seen it on the big (Cinerama) screen at somewhere near its original length, you just haven't seen it." To step back a moment, "Mad World" was a product of that wonderful lost era of the movies when Hollywood was desperately trying to regain its dwindling theatrical movie audience with a show of "bigness" that people just couldn't find on their TV screens. Kramer says the movie began as a bet between her husband, who was known for his ultra-serious "message" movies ("Judgment at Nuremberg," "On the Beach") and his friend, New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, who wagered Kramer he didn't have a comedy in him. In his autobiography, Kramer said he was seized by the idea of not just making a comedy but "the comedy to end all comedies ... to gather the most impressive group of comedians ever assembled ... and produce and direct the funniest comedy anyone had ever seen." Kramer credits screenwriter William Rose for the story line that developed and the title, which started out with a single "Mad." Kramer bid Rose two "Mads," and Rose doubled him. "At one point someone suggested a fifth 'Mad' but this was voted down as redundant." The movie was essentially a "greed comedy" that followed four large sets of characters on a wild scramble across the Southwest for a stash of loot -- and it was designed to be epic not only in scope but in length: 210 minutes (3 1/2 hours, plus intermission). Kramer cast his pal Spencer Tracy as the straight man -- a police chief -- and surrounded him with practically every name comedian of the era: Jonathan Winters, Phil Silvers, Buster Keaton, Sid Caesar, Terry-Thomas, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett and many, many more. After years of planning, he had to shoot fast and under grueling conditions in the California desert through the blistering summer of 1963 -- the only time of the year when he could free up so many star comics from their other commitments. Stanley Kramer He was also under pressure because the film had to be finished in time to be the first attraction of Hollywood's Cinerama Dome, which was opening for the Christmas season. He made the date, and "Mad World" debuted on Nov. 7, 1963 -- 15 days before the assassination of President Kennedy. It was a major box-office hit, and, though critics complained about its length, they mostly liked it. Typical was the P-I review of the time, calling it "absolutely engrossing" with "the wildest chases and the funniest cliff-hanging sequences you have ever seen." It also played well after its long Cinerama run was finished and it was cut down in time and scale for regular theatrical runs. But its shots were composed for the big, big screen and its continuity was designed for an epic length, so it lost a great deal in the reduction. Fifteen years later, Kramer moved to the Seattle area and became a fixture of the artistic community, teaching, writing a newspaper column for The Seattle Times and directing his last film, "The Runner Stumbles," here in 1979. (He returned to Los Angeles in 1987 and died in 2001.) In his Northwest years, Kramer spoke often about "Mad World." He used the title for both his newspaper column and his 1997 autobiography, and he said in a 1979 interview that "it's my favorite film, and it really bothers me that people can only see it in a butchered version." But its legend has consistently grown and so have the testimonials to its greatness. Billy Crystal, for instance, claims to have seen it 18 times in its original run and is quoted as saying, "It's the movie that got me through my father's death." Through its many surgeries over the years, some 13 minutes of its original footage has been lost, but famed film restorer Robert Harris -- another self-professed " 'Mad World' fanatic" -- is now trying to find that footage and restore the film to its original state. In the meantime, as the film's 40th anniversary neared, Karen Kramer went to MGM and coaxed the studio into striking a new print, which debuted in a sold-out birthday gala at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome last fall with many of the surviving stars in attendance. The response was so enthusiastic that she's since shown the print in Austin and Washington, D.C., and she says "I'm amazed at how well it plays to young people -- kids between the ages of 10 and 20 -- who have no idea who these great comedians are." She feels the film is a "masterpiece" and that this special anniversary print -- which runs 197 minutes, 13 minutes shy of the original -- is "close enough" to her original husband's vision. "This print on the (Cinerama) screen IS the movie." She also feels the film's deluxe return to Seattle would be particularly meaningful to her husband. "You see, I talked Stanley into leaving. He didn't want to go back to L.A. at all, and his heart never really left the Northwest. So this homecoming ... it's very special." "Mad World" was shot in Ultra Panavision 70, and its release in 1963 was ballyhooed as "a technical improvement" over the previous Cinerama product because "it only requires one projector, rather than three" and had no intrusive "seam lines" between the three panels of the screen. But the truth was that Ultra Panavision 70 had been around since 1957. And true Cinerama buffs consider it a step backward from the old three-camera Cinerama process, which actually gives a more precise image, greater depth of field and impressive effect of scale. For comparison, this year's "Reel" Cinerama Film Festival will also showcase two three-strip Cinerama films, 1952's "This Is Cinerama" and 1962's "How the West Was Won" -- both of which showed last year, but will be back this time in fully restored prints. The festival will also feature two non-Cinerama epic films that were shot in 70 mm, "Oklahoma!" and "Lawrence of Arabia," as well as four more recent films that were shot in 35 mm but blown up to 70 mm for exhibition: "Ghostbusters," "Krull," "Silverado" and "Total Recall."