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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.55:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Spanish, German, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

20th Century Fox/MGM . R4 . COLOR . 154 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

It’s a bit hard to describe this film. It’s a long movie with a fairly short and straightforward plot that doesn’t get all that complicated, although it does introduce what looks like a comedy “who’s who” of the early sixties.

A small car convoy is milling along at 55 miles per hour on a single lane road in the dry desert on the west coast of the United States. There is a mix of people - a dentist and his demure wife, a truck driver, a pair of ‘ne’er do wells’, a henpecked man, his fiance and his mother-in-law (played with all the ferocity Ethel Merman can muster). An old man overtakes them at very high speed and sails off the cliff. The men in the group of cars go down to witness his dying breath. He divulges that he has hidden $350,000 under a “Big W” (Woolworths?) in a nature reserve in coastal California (a wonderfully named ‘Santa Rosita’), money that was stolen in an unsolved case fifteen years prior. They plan to drive there safely with a mind to fairly divide the spoils. This is what they intend, but human nature being what it is...

The local police are canny though, headed by an authoritative detective who is about to retire (Spencer Tracy). He is at odds; he either wants to solve the case and retire on a good pension and fame, or give in to his greed and entertain his thoughts of stealing the money himself - especially as he's uncertain if he can get a good police pension.

His strategy is to let these people find the money so as to not involve the police; then perhaps he can solely capture the glory or the money.

These five car loads of people cannot find the money themselves, with accidents and misfortune besetting this road chase. It is hard not to involve other unsavoury types who will provide transport for a percentage of the loot. Because the police do not want to get involved, they commit a series of crimes that involves stealing planes, explosives and untold vehicular mischief.

The cast list is huge as the number of cameos. The standouts for me would be Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, Terry Thomas, Jim Bakkus, Peter Falk, Don Knotts, Carl Reiner and a cameo by Jerry Lewis. This is from the perspective of someone who was born a decade after this film.

  Video
Contract

The aspect ratio of this film is likely to send potential ‘Joe Six Packs’ into apoplexy. It is a massively wide 2.55:1 – even widescreen owners will see significant ‘bar’ taking up expensive screen real estate. You can imagine how terrible this film would look matted down to 1.33:1 for television! Sensibly, it is 2.55:1 anamorphic.

This is a clean pressing of a reasonably pristine print. There are a number of imperfections likes hairs and circles, but I would almost be disappointed if they had been all ironed out – it almost gives the film the requisite amount of ‘ageing’ and character. These things would be removed in a remastering.

The transfer is amazingly good looking and natural. The 2.55:1 captures an alluring aspect of America in the sixties. The locales are beautiful and quaint. A large part of this picture takes place in the desert and one can almost feel the heat with such a bright and saturated print. For such a bright print there is no edge enhancement to be seen. Colours are accurate with good skin toneage and admirers of American automobilia will love the variety of Chevrolets, Buicks, Fords and even defunct brands.

The only major flaw I could see is some constant and consistent aliasing. This manifests itself on cars, brickwork and on external fire stairs. It’s of the annoying type that tends to ‘boil’ and buzz on movement. Progressive players will deal with this lickety-spit.

One aspect that looks particularly ropey is the extensive, and some would say excessive, use of rear projection. That is interior car shots and scenes with large amounts of background movement where the car is obviously stationary, but an ancient projector is attempting to simulated a moving background.

One might say that this is the precursor to contemporary digital ‘bluescreen’ effects, but to modern viewers this will be distracting and basically odd looking. The back projection is also of a vastly lower quality. One might say it happens so often in this film, it almost feels like they are beating you over the head with it.

This film is so long that there is a short intermission around the halfway mark, enough to visit the bathroom. I suspect the layer change was during this.

  Audio
Contract

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448k/s looks impressive on paper, but it’s a largely stereo only soundtrack. The dialogue is exceptionally clear, which is unusual given its age and the vast differences in voices of the large cast. There’s not a single incident where I thought the dialogue was not instantly intelligible. The music is orchestrated in a style typical of the era, but it is not intrusive or memorable for that matter. I did not notice any rear or subwoofer effects although front soundstaging is impressive.

  Extras
Contract

The only extra is a short trailer of the same technical attributes, if not the same quality, as the main feature. The menu and art design is plain but pleasant. A full cast list would have been nice given the nature of the film.

  Overall  
Contract

MGM have been called “The James Bond Film Company”. I can only describe the James Bond DVD’s as being SPECTACULAR be they region 1 or 4. It never ceases to amaze me what lengths MGM will go to in the presentation of a James Bond film on DVD. Unfortunately, however, they do not take anywhere near the same amount of effort on any of their other films. This is no exception with an excellent video and audio presentation but a ‘rental’ quality DVD production. Disappointing.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1276
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      And I quote...
    "Quite an excellent transfer of a legendary film let down by a lack of extras..."
    - Tony Lai
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 105(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          Geforce2 32MB AGP
    • Decoder:
          Sony TA-E9000ES
    • Amplifier:
          Parasound HCA-1206THX
    • Speakers:
          Mission 763
    • Centre Speaker:
          Mission 75c
    • Surrounds:
          Mission 760
    • Subwoofer:
          Mission 75as
    • Audio Cables:
          rca coaxial SPDIF
    • Video Cables:
          VGA connector
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