After bringing heavy hitters like On the Beach, Inherit the Wind and Judgement at Nuremburg to the screen, producer/director Stanley Kramer decided to bring to the screen a "comedy to end all comedies." He assembled a cavalcade of vaudevillians and TV comedians and turned them loose like the running of the bulls at Pamplona. Audiences never had a chance. Too many car chases, too many characters, not enough editing. Nevertheless, 1963's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, from a script by William and Tania Rose, was destined for history on its star power alone.

It featured: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar (replacing the originally cast Ernie Kovacs, who died in a car accident before shooting), Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, with cameos by Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Jim Backus, Buster Keaton, Jack Benny, Don Knotts, Sterling Holloway, Jimmy Durante, Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Joe de Rita (The Three Stooges), Zasu Pitts, Joe E. Brown, Peter Falk, William Demarest, Stan Freberg, Leo Gorcey, Jerry Lewis, and Norman Fell. And despite being outnumbered by a gaggle of Hollywood comedians, Ethel Merman overpowers every other actor in the film.

The slapstick scenes are jaw dropping, not because they're particularly funny, but for their sheer destructive power. Jonathon Winters demolishes an entire gas station by hand in the movie's best scene. Watch it in letterbox format: it was the first Cinerama film made using anamorphic lenses.


Jerry Zucker's Rat Race (2001) is a loosely based remake.

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