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Given the movie’s notorious running time, it seems appropriate that Saul Bass delivered one of his longest film title sequences here. Clocking in at a little over four minutes, this animated piece gave Bass the chance to display a wit that had often been buried in his serious collaborations with Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcock. Directed by Stanley Kramer and jam-packed with every working and/or semi-retired comedian in Hollywood, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World contains slapstick piled on top of slapstick, with a thin plot line about a hidden treasure of stolen money stringing the action together.
To capture this antic spirit, Bass created a cartoon segment revolving around a white globe-shaped ball divided into symmetrical lines. The ball is carried onto the screen by a little man with a black hat who incidentally bears an uncanny resemblance to Boris from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. The background is red, and for the most part, Bass sticks to this simple color scheme.
As the sequence progresses, the globe undergoes several transformations. After being hoisted onto the screen by the little man, it becomes a bouncing ball, trampling its carrier. In a knowing wink to the large volume of talent (and by association, clashing egos) involved in the film, a pair of scissors emerges from inside the ball, cutting out a square shape from which a hand sticks out and begins to rearrange the billing order of the actors’ names being shown alongside it. Soon after, the globe’s top half pops off to reveal fireworks, which in turn take the shape of the film’s title. Carnival-like music plays throughout these various incarnations, reinforcing the fairground spirit of the action to come. Although the film itself hasn’t aged especially well, the spirit of infectious fun Bass infuses into the title sequence still stands out.