I’m really not very good keeping up with the current news about all things DVD and Blu-Ray and I’m thinking of removing the news list entirely, but once in a while there’s something really exciting worth mentioning. This time it’s Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – which has been out on DVD for ages and was even released on Blu-Ray in 2011, but only in the short 161-minute version. In the 1990s, the director himself had attempted to reconstruct his 192-minute premiere version with limited success and later film restorer Robert Harris lobbied literally for decades to save the original version of the movie. Now he seems to have succeeded, because a couple of days ago, Criterion announced that the movie will be released in a newly restored version on January 21st.
The press release and its thread on the venerable Home Theater Forum just about says it all – the general release 161-minute version will be accompanied by a reconstructed 192-minute version encompassing all the still available material including scenes that have been returned to the film here for the first time. The long version, previously only available on laserdisc, has been restored in high-definition, but the general release version was even transferred in 4k, all from the original 65/70mm elements in the original apspect ratio of 2.76:1 (it is possible, though, that the 4k transfer of the short version is the same as on the 2011 Blu-Ray, which would be absolutely fine). There are also a lot of amazing extras including a new audio commentary, several featurettes and archival material, but missing are the hour-long 1991 documentary and the deleted scenes (which are contained in the 192-minute version) from the MGM releases. But considering what else is there, this will be one hell of a fine release.
My only complaint is that it’s a dual-format version containing both the Blu-Ray and DVD. While I really like the approach of Criterion that everything is replicated 1:1 on both formats, this makes the set outrageously expensive. At a list price of $50 this is unaffordable for me and unless there will be some hefty discounts or I find a solution to just get the DVDs from the set, the Criterion release will be unfortunately off-limits for me. But I plan to write something about it nevertheless when it’s out!