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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World(1963)
On a winding desert highway, eight vacation-bound motorists share an experience that alters their plans -- and their lives! After a mysterious stranger divulges the location of a stolen fortune, they each speed off in a mind-bending, car-bashing race for the loot -- and the most side-splitting laughfest in history. Spencer Tracy heads a hilariously zany cast that stars Hollywood's greatest comedians and features cameo appearances by every joker and jester in the business, from Don Knotts and Jerry Lewis to The Three Stooges. Filmed in UltraPanavision.
For more about It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Blu-ray release, see It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 1, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney
Director: Stanley Kramer
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It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 1, 2014
Director Stanley Kramer's Stanley Kramer's "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on this release include an exclusive new audio commentary with film aficionados ficionados Mark Evanier, Michael Schlesinger, and Paul Scrabo; video program featuring visual effects expert Craig Barron and sound designer Ben Burtt; text-format description addressing the new reconstruction of the extended version of the film; archival interview with director Stanley Kramer and cast members Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, and Jonathan Winters; original promotional materials; and a lot more. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring Lou Lumenick's essay "Nothing Succeeds Like Excess". In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the general release version of the film. Region-A "locked".
I believe that the best way to describe Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is to say that it was a very risky experiment. It was a big, very ambitious and most importantly an enormously expensive project which easily could have been a disaster. A lot of folks have argued otherwise because the talent involved with it was so impressive - virtually every big comedy actor working in Hollywood at the time had some sort of a role in the film - but I disagree. When the money is available bringing in a lot of big actors can be easy, but having them coexist in harmony in front of the camera could be a very tricky business.
The premise of the film is very simple: Somewhere in the Mojave Desert, a car careers off a cliff and crashes. Before the driver (Jimmy Durante) dies, he reveals to a motley crew of characters - Buddy Hackett, Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Dorothy Provine, Edie Adams, and Ethel Merman - who have rushed to help him that he has buried a large amount of money "under a giant W" in Santa Rosita State Park. Unable to agree how to divide the money once they find it, they engage in a wild race that attracts other characters who quickly determine that they also deserve a chunk of it. Meanwhile, a retiring police captain (Spencer Tracey), who has been trying to figure out where the dead driver buried the money for years, begins monitoring closely the chase.
The chase is broken into various uneven episodes in which different characters do their best to impress the viewer. Some of these episodes remind of Benny Hill's iconic short sketches, but others are substantially longer and notably complex. Also, in some episodes the focus of attention is strictly on the sight gags (see the destruction of the garage), while in others the emphasis is clearly on the zesty dialog (most episodes with Ethel Merman).
The film's ability to effortlessly transition from one episode to another is undoubtedly its biggest strength. Kramer convincingly redirects the action and then makes sure that the rhythm of the film is never disrupted. This could be difficult to realize at first because it is all done brilliantly well, but the more time passes, the easier it is to see that Kramer's direction is indeed incredibly smart and precise. (What is even more impressive is the fact that even in the newly reconstructed version of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which uses footage from various 70mm print trims, the terrific rhythm is still preserved).
The film is loaded with action sequences that look flat-out spectacular. Admittedly, a few are way over the top (see the finale) and some of the special effects clearly show their age, but the depth and clarity of the visuals are very impressive. The unique sound effects used in the film are also enormously impressive. Many of them replicate real sounds but at the same time enhance them in a way that dramatically raises the intensity level during crucial sequences. These sound effects were created by the great Walter Elliot (King Kong), who won the first ever Oscar Award for Best Sound Effects.
Criterion's Blu-ray release of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Word contains two versions of the film: the original general release, which runs at approximately 164 minutes (02.43.27), and an extended version with additional footage transferred from 70mm print trims, which runs at approximately 198 minutes (03.17.35). Considering the quality of the surviving footage, I think it is fair to say that the new extended version will remain the most complete version of the film on the home video market.
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.76:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"General release: This digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an Imagica 65mm film scanner from the 65mm original camera negative and the 65mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS. The original 5.1 surround soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit at Chase Audio by Deluxe in Burbank, California, from the 35mm 6-track magnetic tracks.
Transfer supervisor: Jeanine Intindola/MGM, Beverly Hills, CA.
Colorist: Kostas Theodosiou/FotoKem, Burbank, CA.
Additional color correction: Jason Crump/Metropolis Post, New York.
Extended version: The additional footage was transferred from 70mm print trims, which were scanned in high definition on a Millennium scanner specifically equipped for large-screen formats. Whenever possible, 3D warping technology was used by FotoKem in Burbank to blend the trims with a standard-definition transfer to compensate for color fading. The audio for the additional footage was transferred from original full-coat magnetic tracks of the road-show version and 70mm trims. Some of the scenes exist only as audio; in these instances, still photographs have been inserted for continuity.
Reconstructed and restored by: Robert A. Harris.
Producer: Karen Stetler.
Editor: Gabe Chavez.
Digital color warping: Walter Volpatto/FotoKem, Burbank, CA.
Additional color correction: Lee Kline.
Sound transfers: Chace Audio, Burbank, CA; Todd AO, Los Angeles."
As expected, the image quality of the reconstructed version of the film varies. The original footage boasts outstanding depth and tremendous clarity. The daylight footage, in particular, looks terrific - sharpness and image depth are outstanding (see screencaptures #3 and 6). Color reproduction is also very impressive. There is a wide range of exceptionally well saturated, notably vibrant and very healthy colors. Additionally, grain is beautifully resolved and evenly distributed, and there are no traces of problematic sharpening corrections.
The newly added footage has different characteristics. Depending on the quality of the surviving footage there can be contrast fluctuations, color instability, and basic image instability. Some of the trims also show signs of serious fading. The actual transitions between the restored footage and the new footage, however, are very well done. To give you an idea what type of footage has been used and how it is added to the reconstructed version, we have included a few samples below (screencaptures #15-27).
1). #15-16. Extra footage with good image stability. Color fading and mild wear are present.
2). #17-18. Stills. Used to fill gaps/transitions. Restored.
3). #19. Extra footage. With obvious traces of fading/discoloration but with good image stability.
4). #21. Extra footage. With better color stability. Some minor wear is still present.
5). #22. Extra footage. Decent quality with obvious traces of fading. With printed foreign subtitles.
6). #23-25. Stills. Excellent quality. Used to fill gaps for which there are only surviving audio elements.
7). #26. Extra footage without audio. Subtitles are included.
8). #27. Still(s). Excellent quality. Used to fill gaps.
Ultimately, considering the quality of the surviving footage, the final result is indeed very good. Naturally, I think it is fair to say that the extended version of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World presented by Criterion will remain the most complete version of the film on the home video market. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The general release and the extended version of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World come with English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks. Only the general release comes with optional English SDH subtitles. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame. The extended version of the film has English subtitles only for the trims for which there are no surviving audio elements.
The lossless 5.1 track is outstanding. Depth and clarity are exceptionally good, making it very easy for the viewer to appreciate the film's complex sound design (there are some truly fantastic audio effects). Furthermore, the music is consistently rich, well rounded, and impressively balanced (there are no sudden spikes or drops in dynamic intensity). The dialog is very clean, always, stable, and easy to follow. (Occasionally, some minor fluctuations are present in the various trims that have been used for the extended version of the film).
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Fans of director Stanley Kramer's legendary It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World should be very pleased with Criterion's new reconstruction of the film. Despite the quality of the surviving footage, it maintains an excellent rhythm. Naturally, unless there is a major discovery in the future and more rare footage resurfaces, I think it is fair to say that the extended version of the film will remain its definitive presentation on the home video market. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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