When the dying driver of a crashed car tells the five motorists who stopped to help him about $350,000 in stolen cash that is buried near the Mexican border, it kicks off a madcap dash across the US by any means possible to recover the money.
'Bloated' is probably the best word to describe director Stanley Kramer's 1963 epic comedy. From it's cast of screen legends to its running time (202 minutes in its original Cinerama release, 164 minutes in its shorter general release), there's nothing small about It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – not even the title. Unfortunately, the rather episodic structure and never-ending parade of cameos conspire to make it feel more like an extended variety show than a coherent narrative. That said, it's still very funny.
Picture: The first platter in Criterion's double-disc release houses the 164-minute 'General Release Version'. Newly restored and scanned at 4K from a combination of the original 65mm camera negative and a 65mm interpositive, the result is as good as anybody could conceivably hope for. Not only is the 2.76:1-framed Ultra Panavision presentation in immaculate condition, but colour density, contrast, detailing and clarity are all excellent.
As mentioned above, a much longer version of the film was originally given a Cinerama roadshow release. While this version is now believed lost, film historians have managed to track down around 20 minutes of missing footage, which has been used to create the 198-minute 'Extended Version' that appears on the second disc in this set.
However, it's worth noting that this extra material comes in a variety of forms – from foreign prints with burnt-in subtitles to still photos with accompanying audio and even faded 70mm trims with colour taken from cropped standard-definition footage (leaving black-and-white borders on the image). As you'd expect, this has a pretty deleterious effect on the overall quality of this second HD presentation.
Picture rating: 4/5
Audio: Both versions of the film feature a remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. While there's not much to savour in the way of rear effects, the precision and dynamic range inherent in what transpires to be a surprisingly complex mix is wonderful. Ernest Gold's playful score is also reproduced beautifully.
Audio rating: 4/5
Extras: The two-disc set is packed with goodies. In addition to various archival promos and interviews, Criterion has thrown in reunion footage, a fact-packed commentary, an exploration of the film's sound design and a look at the restoration process.
Extras rating: 4.5/5
We say: A suitably expansive double-disc outing for this epic comedy classic.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Criterion Collection, Region B BD, £28
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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