When a recently released thief careers off a cliff, a group of nearby drivers are on hand to hear his final words revealing where $350,000 of stolen money is buried. So begins a madcap race across the desert to get to the hidden loot, transforming ordin
The film, something of an acquired taste, that took the screwball comedy formula and upped the mania to warp factor ten. Cast with a just about everyone of those comedians you recognise but can’t quite place, but kind of love all the same, the sheer momentum and rapid-fire gag count makes for an endurable three hours (did the cast’s contract’s demand a set screen time?). It’s way too wacko for its own good, but for sheer zest and the presence of two incomparable, if highly contrasting talents — Spencer Tracy and Terry-Thomas — you can forgive its many sins.
Stanley Kramer, who barely keeps a grip on his overlapping storylines, the various cars teeming with deranged passengers, constructs a loose parable on the corrupting power of greed, although, the $350,000 cache, feels a bit sparse by today’s standards. However, he was not a natural comedy director, allowing the nuttiness to ramble, and too many of the scenes to descend into an infuriating chaos with the talented cast just bellowing at one other. It is in the wild stuntwork and fraught action, dangling its precious stars over various precipitous drops, that you can thrill to its mania.
There is also no doubting the seminal effect the film has had, virtually inventing the ‘madcap’ style — screwball and then some — with everything from The Cannonball Run to Rat Race touched by its senseless delirium. Not a grand legacy, admittedly. Oh, and its four “mads” in the title if you need to remember. A fifth would have been too much to bear.
The definitive wacky screwball comedy that spawned a genre.