Sunday, April 12, 2020

Separated At Birth: It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Vs The Stand

Now that the End Of All Things is here and the world is slowly grinding to a halt, I find I have an abundance of free time on my hands. As a result, I've been streaming a lot more movies than normal.

Just a day or two ago I watched my own little double feature of Stanley Kramer's epic 1963 comedy It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, followed by Stephen King's apocalyptic 1994 miniseries The Stand.

Watching them back to back as I did, I realized these two wildly disparate films are actually pretty similar! No, really! As crazy as it sounds they start out almost identically, and match one another practically shot for shot. Observe:

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World: As the movie opens, ex-con Smiler Grogan roars down a two lane highway in the California desert. He's on his way to recover the loot he stole in a big tuna factory robbery fifteen years earlier.

The Stand: As the miniseries opens, Charles Campion weaves down a highway in Arnette, Texas. Campion was a guard at a secret military base in the California desert, and fled with his wife and child when a deadly bio-engineered flu virus was accidentally released.

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World: Grogan loses control of his car and flies off a cliff, where he crashes into a ravine far below.

The Stand: Campion loses control of his car and crashes into the pumps of Hapscomb's gas station.

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World: Several men witness Grogan's crash, stop at the side of the road and stare at the wreckage far below.

The Stand: Several men in the gas station witness Campion's crash and stare at the wreckage.

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World: The men rush down into the ravine, where they find Grogan's been thrown from his car. They realize he's not going to make it, so they try to make him comfortable by loosening his tie and cradling his head.

The Stand: The men rush over to the wreck, where they find Campion crawling painfully from his car. They realize he's dying from the superflu and isn't going to make it, so one of them tries to make him comfortable by cradling his head.

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World: As Grogan slowly dies, he tells the men about the $350,000 he stole from the tuna factory fifteen years ago. He says it's buried under a "Big W," and tells them it's theirs for the taking.

This event sets the entire plot of the film into motion.

The Stand: As Campion slowly dies, he tells the men that he didn't get away from the army base in time. He tells main character Stu Redman that "The Dark Man's" coming, and you can't outrun him.

This event sets the entire plot of the film into motion.

See, what'd I tell you? They're the same damn movie! Their intros are practically identical!

Now that I think about it, it's not just the opening scenes that are similar— the rest of their plotlines are pretty close as well.

In It's A Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World, several disparate groups of people race across California to get to Santa Rosita State Park, to find a fortune buried under a "Big W." Each of the groups faces various calamities and delays along the way, before they all arrive at the park. Unknown to them, they're all being secretly observed by the mysterious police Captain Culpepper, who has his own plans for the money. Once the others find the money, there's a big confrontation as Culpepper takes it for himself. A chase and ultimately a battle ensues, and the money ends up being lost to everyone.

In The Stand, once the superflu wipes out most of the population, several disparate groups of people race across what's left of the country. Some are trying to get to Boulder, Colorado, led by a 108 year old woman named Mother Abigail. Others are heading for Vegas, which is run by Randall Flagg, aka The Dark Man. Flagg observers the Boulder group, and Mother Abigail sends out a group to confront him in Vegas. There's a big confrontation between the two sides, which ends in a nuclear explosion as Vegas is destroyed.

OK, so they're not quite as identical past the intros, but there're still a surprising amount of similarities. I'm not accusing Stephen King of deliberately ripping off Stanley Kramer, but it's possible he saw the movie as a lad and the basic plot lodged deep in his subconscious.

M-O-O-N! That spells "unintentional plagiarism!"

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