It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is the story of a wild chase to find $350,000. In the last decade or so, an equally wild
chase has ensued to find pieces of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The epic comedy, directed by Stanley Kramer and starring dozens of
top comedians of the day, was trimmed twice after its initial release and the omitted material was reported lost. Occasionally, as with films
like 1776 and A Star is Born, "lost footage" has later resurfaced and even been reinserted for video release or theatrical
exhibition. In the case of IAMMMMW, the quest has not been successful, though it has come maddeningly close. Missing scenes have
been located but almost always it is film that is decomposing and in desperate need of expensive restoration work that is not performed in
time. While some film buffs have not given up hope, others have resigned themselves to the notion that the currently-available version of the
film is as "complete" as it's ever going to be.
The chart below represents my best understanding of the various versions. "Cut 1" is the way it played opening night at the
Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, beginning in November of 1963. This is the most complete version, the one I saw there a week or so after it opened,
and it included the "Intermission Police Calls," which could be heard in the lobby as you were buying popcorn and Necco wafers. These consisted
of police radio voices (all or mostly performed by actor Lennie Weinrib) reporting on what was going on with the characters at that point.
There seems to be some disagreement as to whether this first version was trimmed before that engagement was completed but it was
definitely cut when the film went into what they then called a "roadshow" engagement, meaning that it played selected theaters around the country, in
some cases on an "all seats reserved" basis. This version is "Cut 2" in the chart below. After that, the intermission was eliminated
along with more footage, and the film went from 70mm to 35mm for general release across the country. Oddly enough, Stanley Kramer was sometimes
quoted as saying he preferred this version, which I am calling "Cut 3." Since the first two "cuts" no longer seem to exist, this is the one
that has usually played on TV and been released on VHS.
In 1991, a Laserdisc release was advertised to imply a full restoration, and many assumed someone had put the film back to the way it
was in the Cinerama Dome. This was not so. Most of what was added back in consisted of alternate takes and footage that Kramer had
trimmed prior to the film's initial release. Most of it had never been projected in any theater anywhere, and a lot of scenes that we saw at
the Cinerama Dome were still absent. Notably unrestored was the scene where Spencer Tracy went to a Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor for a
hot fudge sundae and a fine example of product placement, and we heard a few bars of "31 Flavors," a song that can still be heard in the scenes were
Dick Shawn and Barrie Chase dance, and on the Mad World soundtrack album. While there, he placed a call to the character played by
Buster Keaton and they had a split-screen phone conversation that reportedly now exists in audio only.
The initial DVD release took Cut 3 and added back some of the music. It also included a lot of the trimmed footage among its
"extras." There is apparently another, lower-priced DVD out that omits the extras and just features the film elements.
Here is what my notes say about the different cuts. You will find other running times reported elsewhere but they usually only
vary by a few seconds and probably refer to the same versions. It is not uncommon for two film experts to run the same print on different
projectors, time them with stopwatches...and arrive at slightly different results.
It has been claimed in some reference works that anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour of the movie was cut after initial release.
As the chart above reveals, the difference in the film itself from the premiere to the version we have today is only a bit over 21 minutes. The
confusion seems to have been because folks were counting the three music segments and the intermission.
Today, if you see the film shown in a theater, they will probably show a 70mm print of Cut 3 but with all the three music segments and
the Intermission Lead-In added. Recently, an anniversary screening at the Cinerama Dome included all that plus the audio of the Police
Calls. That may be the "most complete" version of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World that will ever exist. But we can still hope.