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Comedic giants come together for quite a wild ride in Stanley Kramer’s IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD

IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (Stanley Kramer, 1963)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. at Amsterdam Ave.
Saturday, December 22, 2:00, and Friday, December 28, 6:00
Series runs December 21 - January 1

They don’t come much crazier than the madcap 1963 comedy It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Producer-director Stanley Kramer takes a sharp turn with the wacky film, clearly needing a laugh following his rather serious string of issue pictures: The Defiant Ones, On the Beach, Inherit the Wind, and Judgment at Nuremberg. As he lays dying after a car crash, master thief Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante) tells a group of onlookers that there is $350,000 buried under a “big W” in Santa Rosita State Park. And off they go in search of the prize, willing to do just about anything and everything in order to get their greedy hands on the money. Hot on their trail is police captain T. G. Culpeper (Spencer Tracy), trying to solve one last case before he retires. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World lives up to its title, a mad, mad, mad, mad epic featuring the greatest all-star comedic cast ever assembled, including Sid Caesar, Edie Adams, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, an absolutely lunatic Jonathan Winters, Terry-Thomas, Phil Silvers, Dick Shawn, Peter Falk, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, and Ethel Merman in addition to cameos by Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown, Howard Da Silva, Andy Devine, Norman Fell, Selma Diamond, Leo Gorcey, Jim Backus, Marvin Kaplan, Stan Freberg, Arnold Stang, Jesse White, Carl Reiner, Don Knotts, Buster Keaton, and the Three Stooges. Basically, you can’t blink during the film’s 161 minutes or you’ll miss someone or some incredibly silly slapstick moment. And the ending is a laugh riot — literally. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is screening December 22 and December 28 as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center series “See It in 70MM!,” comprising fifteen films being shown in their original 70mm glory, beginning December 21 with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and continuing through January 1 with such other works as Ron Fricke’s Baraka, John Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn, Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, Basil Dearden’s Khartoum, Richard Brooks’s Lord Jim, and Jacques Tati’s Playtime.

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