As a fan of old movies and old TV shows, I sometimes find myself thinking about how modern technology can immediately take an entire show or movie and destroy it. Just to prove my point, I will quickly look at a movie that I have been meaning to write about for some time – It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).
This movie is a classic and almost anyone who is anyone in comedy was in it. The main characters are played by Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, and Buddy Hackett. There are countless comedian cameos throughout the entire movie.
Here is a quick synopsis: A criminal who has been just released from prison has a car accident and drives off a cliff. Five motorists who witness the accident rush down to help the driver (Jimmy Durante) who is fatally injured. Just before he dies, he tells the motorists about $350,000 that he has buried in Santa Rosita State Park under “a big W.”
As police arrive, and question the motorists (who say nothing about the money), they climb back up to their cars and all eventually pull over to discuss what has transpired. They decide that they will all go to see if there even is any money, but first begin arguing over the best way to divide up the money between themselves.
After failing to come up with a satisfactory way to split the money, it becomes every man for himself and everyone begins racing each other to the park. What they don’t know is that they are all being watched by a police captain who has been following the case for years. The remainder of the movie consists of car chases, plane mishaps, car thefts, and plenty of property destruction as the motorists race across the country to get to the money first.
You don’t have to think hard about what piece of modern technology would stop the plot of this movie dead in its tracks – a cell phone.
All these motorists would have to do is call someone close by to look for the money, right? As a matter of fact, in the film Ethel Merman’s character calls her son (Dick Shawn) to tell him about the money because he lives close by. However, the son is so dumb and doesn’t listen to her and gets in his car and drives toward her instead of to the money.
Sid Caesar’s character charters a plan for him and his wife and the actually arrive in town first. They go to a hardware store to buy tools to dig with. They enter the store as the store closes for lunch (who does that anymore?) and are locked in the basement. A cell phone would have easily allowed them to call for help. Without the cell phone, however, he and his wife manage to destroy the basement of the store with fire and even dynamite!
It’s funny to think about how modern technology could change or completely erase story plot. The characters only knew that the money was buried under a “Big W.” They didn’t even know what that meant! Many of them were shown driving in their cars guessing what it could be (A water tower, or a windmill). Today, you could simply type into Google or ask Siri, “What’s a Big W located in Rosita Beach State Park?”
You could easily watch countless movies and TV shows from the past and say, “That would never happen today!” Think about how many old detective shows or courtroom shows would be different just because of the use of DNA evidence today?
What IS important is to sit back and watch these classics understanding the culture of the day and remembering the time frame they were created in.
What are your thoughts?