I am endlessly fascinated by the impact that IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD had on movies that followed in it's wake for years afterward. I realize that is a much beloved film by many, but I find it to be pretty intolerable on many levels. What it did allow for though is more all-star cast comedies to come out for more than two decades. Films like 1941, MIDNIGHT MADNESS, MILLION DOLLAR MYSTERY and RAT RACE among others clearly come out of this tradition. Now MIDNIGHT MADNESS has a very special place in my heart due to the fact that my sisters used to rent it on VHS over and over when we were kids. As a result, it had become engrained in me and part of my DNA. Loving that movie as much as I do, I have always sought out films like it and that was how I came to first see IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (and not the other way around). So when I discovered that SCAVENGER HUNT even existed (this was back in the late 1990s), I had to see it as soon as possible and when I did, I kinda loved it.
So the setup is that a kooky old game inventor (Vincent Price - who sadly only has a wordless cameo at the beginning) passes away and leaves his two hundred million estate to a motley crew of relatives and other oddballs. The catch is that they have to play a game to win the money and the game in question is a scavenger hunt. As with MIDNIGHT MADNESS the next year, the game players end up divided into teams. They consist of the inventor's sister (Claris Leachman), her lawyer (Richard Benjamin) and her man-child son (Richard Masur), the servants from his mansion (Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowall and James Coco), his nephews (Dirk Benedict and Willie Aames), his son-in-law (Tony Randall) with his pack of children in tow and an imbecile taxi driver (Richard Mulligan). Cameos and small roles from Ruth Gordon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Morley, Stuart Parkin, Avery Schreiber, Meat Loaf and Scatman Crothers are just icing on the cake of this epic comedic ensemble.
Furthering the story - each of the teams is provided a list of one hundred items that they must gather by any means except purchasing and thus the proverbial wackiness ensues. Now this film is very much the broadest of broad comedies and must have even seemed quite antiquated when it came out in 1979, but there's this less critical part of my brain that really responds to it nonetheless. There's even elements of Looney Tunes in here (including a character that speaks like Sylvester the cat). Part of my enjoyment of this and other all-star cast films is just watching these actors perform and interact with each other. As it stands now, SCAVENGER HUNT can still be enjoyed with children and family as a frenetic goofball farce and I couldn't be happier to finally see it on disc (as it hadn't been available on home video since it was released on VHS).
Kino Lorber Studio Classics continues their tradition of creating extras for their discs here. Included is a brand new commentary with director Michael Schultz and new interviews with actors Richard Benjamin and Richard Masur. The commentary is pleasant enough, though it gets a little sparse as the movie goes on. Still, it's pretty delightful to hear Schultz's recollections of making this nearly forty-year-old film. It's neat to hear him talk about working with the incredible comedic talents in this cast (many of whom are no longer with us).
Buy SCAVENGER HUNT on Blu-ray here: