Having a ‘Mad, Mad’ time at MoMI in 70mm

Lots of movies have chase scenes; Stanley Kramer’s classic 1963 comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” is a chase scene — of three hours, complete with the original intermission — that will show this coming Saturday and Sunday as part of the Museum of the Moving Image’s annual “See it Big!” 70mm film festival.

Kramer’s chase begins with a high-speed car pursuit coming to an unfortunate end in the California desert, with a dying Jimmy Durante telling comedy legends Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney about a buried fortune he stole 15 years earlier.

While they think they have concealed the information from police, who show up at the wreck soon afterward, they are being tailed from the start by law enforcement under the direction of two-time Oscar winner Spencer Tracy, a police captain who has been trying to catch Durante and the money for 15 years.

Kramer, in the process, enlists the help of nearly every comedy mainstay in every medium going back nearly 50 years, some of whom don’t even speak in their cameos.

Ron Gersh of Forest Hills saw the movie when it first debuted in theaters. He was with a group at MoMI last Sunday to see it again.

“I’ve probably seen it four or five times,” he said. “I like Stanley Kramer’s movies. And I think a lot of people today may not have even heard of this. I don’t think you could make a movie like this today, especially with all the cameos — Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown — first, you couldn’t afford to pay them all.”

Aside from Tracy, Berle had Emmys to his credit and long had been known as “Mr. Television;” Ethel Merman was a star of screen, stage and the music industry; Jack Benny and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson were radio stars in the 1930s; Buster Keaton had his first starring roles in silent comedy movies in 1920.

And you can’t tally all your cameos without a scorecard.

Along the way as the group forms alliances, comedic crosses and double-crosses, Kramer introduces viewers via cameo — the list on the website IMDB is three pages long — to Jerry Lewis; Carl Reiner; the future Mr. Howell from Gilligan’s Island (Jim Backus); a young Peter Falk five years before Lt. Columbo; the last three Three Stooges; both landlords from the 1970s show “Three’s Company” (Norman Fell and Emmy-winner Don Knotts) and many, many more.

‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’
When: Sat., Sept. 7, 2 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 8, 5 p.m.
Where: Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Ave., Astoria
TIckets: $15, includes museum entry;
(718) 777-6800;