Back in 1963, United Artists premiered director Stanley Kramer's 192-minute version of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"--then slashed the star-studded comedy without his approval to 154 minutes. That's the version we see today on TV and videocassette.
Now devotees of the Oscar-winning film (best sound and music) are pressuring MGM/UA Cinema to find the missing 38 minutes and put it back.
The "Mad"-fan-atics publish the Mad World Update, an intermittent newsletter sent to 250 readers dedicated to the campaign (the latest issue contains 16 pages of movie stills, telegrams of encouragement from the film's stars and even a Mad World Honor Roll of supporters). Editor Eric Federing also sends copies to MGM/UA Cinema, along with inquiries about the cut footage, but they "have not responded with so much as an illiterate form letter."
(There are discrepancies about how many minutes actually were cut, possibly because part of the missing footage includes overture and exit music and bogus police calls that played during intermission.)
Kramer, calling the trims "a crying shame--that 20 minutes comes out of one's soul"--told us: "There are certain bits that are classic. There is a conversation between Buster Keaton and Spencer Tracy on the telephone. (Keaton's line is "yep.") And a garage scene with Tracy and Keaton, with Keaton doing that funny out-of-sync step that he does."
A UA spokesman said the company wants the film restored because it could mean new life for "Mad" in cable and on videocassette. But he added that the company is only looking for 15 minutes of "visual" footage in their far-flung film labs. The intermission sound footage probably no longer exists, he said.
"If we find anything, we're either going to find all of it or we won't find anything." And he added: "I'll be honest--it's not a priority."
Speaking of classics, multiple-Oscar-winner Kramer ("Inherit the Wind," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"; his productions have won 15 of the statuettes), who turns 74 on Sept. 23, may be announcing a project after a near-decade absence from feature directing. ("The Runner Stumbles," 1979, was his last.)
He said he has three projects in development, but it's still too early for details.