It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) – ripper car movies

A mad dash for a stash of cash


Remember what it’s like to be truly bored? I’m talking the kind of bored that comes with being a kid on a rainy 1980s weekend, when the combination of no internet, no mobile phones, no seven-day shopping and only four TV channels made for many a dull moment. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was a staple of that era, its near three-and-a-half-hour runtime making it the perfect weekend filler for telly stations to jam between the likes of Wide World of Sports and the nightly news. As a kid, it was a regular fallback option to while away some hours when you were plum out of ideas.

The premise is simple. A lunatic driver named Smiler Grogan (Durante) launches his ’57 Fairlane off a windy mountain road. A motley crew of motorists, played by an epic ensemble of some of the biggest comic names of the time – Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett and Sid Caesar among them – stop to help him, and with his dying words he passes on the whereabouts of a hidden $350,000 stash.

Naturally, the travelling groups then desperately battle one another to be the first to reach and claim the bounty, allegedly hidden 200 miles away in Santa Rosita in a park under a mysterious ‘big W’.

There are car chases, plane stunts, drunken millionaires and even girls’ bicycles to contend with, matched by endless slapstick-styled comic interactions among the gargantuan cast.

All the while, the various racing parties are being tracked by the local police, led by retiring captain TG Culpepper (Tracy), who has waited 15 years to find this cash and harbours a devious plan of his own.

The original motorists are both helped and hindered by a loose bunch of characters who’ve been promised a share of the loot in exchange for getting involved, most notably Sylvester Marcus (Shawn), the film’s unofficial mascot Otto Meyer (Silvers) and the fantastically British J Algernon Hawthorne (Thomas), who all add serious bite to an already star-studded cast. But it’s Ethel Merman as the hysterically grating Mrs Marcus who steals the show – in my three decades between viewings of this flick, she was the one I remembered with the most clarity.


White It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World may have the iconic power to have inspired an episode of The Simpsons, it definitely has not withstood the test of time. Although a fantastically simple storyline, it is an excruciatingly long film, and, sadly, the comic stylings of this generation of performers hasn’t aged well. But what is cool is much of the scenery and car action, which for any normal-length film would have made up a healthy percentage of its runtime.


  • 1962 Imperial Crown convertible
  • 1962 Plymouth Fury wagon
  • 1959 Plymouth Belvedere
  • 1954 Volkswagen Cabriolet
  • 1947 Ford Super De Luxe convertible
  • 1955 Willys Jeep
  • 1962 Dodge Dart
  • 1953 Ford C600
  • 1957 Ford Fairlane
  • 1961 Chevrolet Impala
  • 1962 Dodge Dart convertible
  • 1951 Dodge M37


  • Spencer Tracy
  • Jimmy Durante
  • Milton Berle
  • Ethel Merman
  • Mickey Rooney
  • Sid Caesar
  • Buddy Hackett
  • Dick Shawn
  • Phil Silvers
  • Terry-Thomas
  • Edie Adams
  • Dorothy Provine
  • Jim Backus
  • Peter Falk

Stanley Kramer

A number of voluminous, full-size Mopars flex their cornering and tyre-smoking skills; some impressive plane stunts PLOT: A dying ex-con reveals the location of a hidden suitcase filled with cash to a group of motorists, who then turn against each other and race across California in a mad dash to claim it

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This film alone employed 80 of the 100 registered stunt performers working in the United States at the time.