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It's buried under a big W...
A classic madcap comedy, starring several of the major comedians of the day (1963), with an additional host appearing in cameos: Buster Keaton, Jerry Lewis, The Three Stooges, Jack Benny, Don Knotts, Stan Freberg...
When 'Smiler' Grogan (Jimmy Durante) sails his car off a cliff, he tells the various strangers who gather to help him where to find $350,000, hidden loot from an old robbery. He then kicks the bucket. After a spirited... negotiation... session breaks down, the witnesses decide to race each other to dig up the money. Hilarity Ensues.
The initial racers are:
- Milquetoast seaweed-salesman Russell Finch, his voice-of-reason wife, and her mother, Mrs. Marcus (Milton Berle, Dorothy Provine and Ethel Merman)
- A dentist named Melville Crump and his wife (Sid Caesar and Edie Adams)
- Friends Dingy Bell and Benjy Benjamin (Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett)
- Burly moving-van driver Lennie Pike (Jonathan Winters)
Before long, all these characters are in deep trouble. The Crumps get locked in a hardware-store basement, and set it on fire trying to escape. Benjy and Dingy have to fly a plane after its inebriated pilot (Jim Backus) passes out. The van driver demolishes a gas station after the conman tricks two attendants into attempting to tie him up. The conman drives into a river. Mrs. Marcus starts multiple fights.
Meanwhile, the police are monitoring all this, and betting on who will win the race. The police chief, Captain Culpepper (Spencer Tracy), intends to confiscate the stolen money after it's found and presumably return it to its rightful owners, but after being buried under an ever-increasing mountain of bad news from his homelife and regarding his police pension (or lack thereof), he devises A Simple Plan to get the dough for himself and skip on down to Mexico for his "retirement".
- Agony of the Feet: This happened during the scene where Russell and Col. Hawthorne fought each other. Both fell victim to this trope.
- The Alcoholic: Jim Backus as Tyler Fitzgerald, who we first meet suffering from a raging case of Hangover Sensitivity.
Tyler Fitzgerald: (flying the plane!) You know what I need? I need a drink. There's some ice and stuff back there. Why don't you make us all some Old Fashioneds?
Dingy Bell: Old Fashioneds?! Do you think you oughta drink while you're flying?
Tyler Fitzgerald: Well stop kidding, will ya, and make us some drinks! You just press the button back there marked "booze". (laughs) It's the only way to fly!
- All-Star Cast: Everyone from Jerry Lewis to the Three Stooges is in this movie.
- The Alleged Plane: Which was built in 1916.
- Amusing Injuries
- Animated Credits Opening
- Banana Peel: The very end of the movie.
- Bench Breaker: Lennie breaks the chair that he was tied to after breaking himself free from the pillar and duct tape that the gas station attendants tried tying up him to.
- The Big Race
- Big Screwed-Up Family: Culpepper's wife and daughter, as well as the Finch/Marcuses.
- Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: Subverted:
Police Chief Aloysius: "Now you know the word for this, your honor: it's called Blackmail."
- Brick Joke: Melville's insistence in divvying up the money.
- Briefcase Full of Money: The object of the search.
- Butt Monkey: Everyone in the movie is a victim of this, but Lennie Pike and Melville Crump get the worst of it.
- The Cameo: It lives for cameos.
- Comically Missing the Point: Sylvester employed this trope when Mrs. Marcus tried calling him. He ended up misinterpreting his mother's pleas to come over and help in the search for the money, believing that she was in trouble and needed his help.
- Cool Car: A whole bunch of them.
- Cool Old Guy: Culpepper until he double-crosses everyone, that is.
- Cool Shades: Dingy wears these for the first 15 minutes of the film.
- Covered in Gunge: The Crumps fall victim to this. Mrs. Crump sustains some Clothing Damage, as well.
- Crash-Course Landing: Benjy and Dingy have to make one after the pilot passes out.
- Dope Slap: Dingy did this to Benjy a few times.
- Dumb Muscle: Jonathan Winters' van-driver character. Also Sylvester.
- Efficient Displacement: Lennie Pike leaves a man shaped hole in the gas station wall during his rampage.
- Epic Movie: The comedy take on the genre -- it has a long run time to the point that it has an overture and intermission in the most complete cut, many more characters than usual for a comedy, an A-list cast, elaborate stunt sequences, and Ultra Panavision cinematography.
- Epic Race
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Played straight.
- Everybody Owns A Chrysler: And drinks Coke (see below).
- Evil Matriarch: You know who it is.
- Exploding Moving Van: Justified in that it's involved in a wild high-speed chase and a collision before Pike opens it up.
- Eye Poke: Russell does this to Hawthorne during a fight.
- Fat and Skinny: Benjy and Dingy, respectively.
- Final Speech
- Funny Foreigner: Terry-Thomas as J. Algernon Hawthorne.
- Gambit Roulette: The banana peel.
- Grey and Gray Morality
- Hidden in Plain Sight: The big W.
- Huddle Shot
- Improbable Piloting Skills: The great stunt pilot Frank Tallman actully flew a Beech 18 through a billboard for this film. He was going nearly 200 MPH and had less than one foot of clearance on either side. The plane was nearly wrecked by the stunt, too. The billboard was supposed to be balsa wood and paper, tough fabric was substituted by accident. The leading edge of the wings and windshields were torn up. Fortunately they had built the billboard right at the end of a runway and he could immediately land.
- Jerkass: Most of the main characters had their moments, but a special mention goes to Otto Meyer, a sleazy pathological liar, and Mrs. Marcus, who was arguably the most shrewish character in the entire movie. She gets her comeuppance at the end of the movie when she slips on the banana peel in the hospital.
- Jerkass Has a Point: It would have to be Mrs. Marcus who came up with the entirely sensible plan to simply split the money equally between everyone, so that it could get an ad hoc dismissal and we can have a movie.
- Of course, sensible as it is, this method behooves her as her vehicle had the most people in it.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Russell and Hawthorne grabbing Mrs. Marcus upside down and shaking her to get Hawthorne's keys back.
- Leitmotif: Several of them, most notably for the Jonathan Winters and Phil Silvers characters.
- Literal Metaphor: Smiler figuratively and literally kicks the bucket.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: It's an ensemble comedy with about a dozen main characters so it's pretty much unavoidable.
- MacGuffin: The money.
- Momma's Boy: Sylvester.
- Ms. Fanservice: Monica Crump.
- Murphy's Bed: During the climactic fire engine ladder sequence, Meyer (Phil Silvers) is catapulted from the ladder through a window onto a Murphy bed, which promptly folds back into the wall.
- Nice Hat: Lennie, Benjy, Russell, Mrs. Marcus, Meyer, Col. Hawthorne, the cab drivers, and Culpepper each have one.
- No MacGuffin, No Winner
- Oh Crap: Dingy and Benjy both get one just before flying the plane through a Coca-Cola billboard.
- Only Sane Woman: Emmeline Marcus-Finch. Which makes her little talk with Capt. Culpepper surprisingly sad:
(intercut with the rest of the cast arguing)
Emmeline: Who are you? Are you with the others, the ones that are looking?
Culpepper: I am, in a way. Aren't you?
Emmeline: No. I mean, I didn't want anything to do with it right from the start. And you know what? I know where it is. I'm the only one, and I wasn't even looking.
Culpepper: You know where it is?
Emmeline: Yes! What should I do? If you help dig it up, you can have half and I'll have half. Is that okay? I mean, is that fair? If I have half of the money... I can go away somewhere where nobody can find me. Not Russell or my mother or Sylvester, anybody. You don't know what that'd mean. And you know what? If I had enough money... I might be able to live in a convent or something.
Culpepper: I'm sorry, Mrs. Finch. I'm afraid it's too late. I think they've found it.
Emmeline: It was a nice dream. Lasted almost five minutes.
- Plane Meets Restaurant
- Plot Sensitive Latch: At the end the suitcase carrying the money pops open, dumping the cash into a crowd of people.
- Powder Trail: This is one of the many methods by which the Crumps attempt to escape from the hardware-store basement in which they have been accidentally locked.
- Product Placement: Lots of it for Coca-Cola, including a billboard asking to pause for a Coke, 30 seconds before the intermission.
- Rage Against the Heavens: As Otto prepares to try to drive across a river that's clearly too deep for his car, he looks heavenward and screams "Why? WHY?"
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Ernie Kovacs was scheduled to appear as Melville Crump (alongside real-life spouse Edie Adams) before being killed in a traffic accident.
- Reality Ensues: After their death defying stunt on the fire ladder, all the men end up in traction, lucky to be alive.
- Re Cut: The film ran a whopping 210 minutes in its original preview cut. This was trimmed down, in succession, to 192 minutes (for its world premiere at Hollywood's Cinerama Dome), 161 minutes (for its 70mm "roadshow" presentation in select theaters), and 154 minutes (for general theatrical release). The 154-minute cut is the standard version for home video, although a partially-restored 182-minute "special edition" was made for laserdisc and VHS in the early '90s and occasionally airs on Turner Classic Movies.
- Rule of Funny: The movie runs on it.
- Short Cuts Make Long Delays
- A Simple Plan
- The Stoic: That chick Sylvester dances with. Made particularly funny since it's '60s go-go dancing.
- Tagline: "Everybody who's ever been funny is in it!"
- Those Two Guys: Dingy Bell and Benjy Benjamin. Also, Ray and Irwin, the two gas station attendants who inadvertently invoked the wrath of Lennie. And at the end, the two cabbie drivers.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer gives away that the money is lost to the crowd watching them fight over it.
- Treasure Map: Grogan's last words.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: With new lines being added throughout.
- Unstoppable Rage: Don't make Pike angry. You won't like him when he's angry.
- He ... kills ... a gas station.
- Also possibly hospitalized two gas station employees
- He ... kills ... a gas station.
- Victoria's Secret Compartment Mrs. Marcus wants to make sure the menfolk don't lay their hands on those keys.
- Subversion: They get the keys anyway by shaking her upside down until they fall out. Bravo, Ethel Merman.
- The Voice: Culpepper's wife, voiced by Selma Diamond (of later Night Court fame). His daughter Billie Sue is one of these as well.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: After Jerry Lewis's character drives his car over Culpepper's hat, Culpepper immediately starts yelling for someone to get his number.
- Downer Ending \ Shaggy Dog Story: Most of the main characters end up in traction and they don't get any of the money, though they do get an Everybody Laughs Ending out of it. The police department, who have been working on the case for 15 years, salvage little if any money, the bulk of it being rained down onto a large crowd of onlookers. The Captain misses news of his tripled pension, and loses everything, but at least he gets a laugh too.