Million Dollar Mystery (1987) Poster

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It was sponsored by Gladbag. Need I say more?
The_Film_Cricket13 July 2000

Is it me? Or are you just asking for trouble when your movie is sponsored by a company that makes trash bags? Many movies use huge ad campaigns but I swear 'Million Dollar Mystery' is the only movie that I can think of that IS an ad campaign.

Commercials at the time featured Tom Bosely informing us that there was a million bucks stashed somewhere in the United States. Half the clues were in boxes of Gladbags, the other half were in this movie.

The movie is more or less beside the point. It is a dimwitted remake of Stanley Kramer's 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'. A dying man (played by Bosley) stumbles into a diner and just before he dies he informs the other cast members that he has hidden $4 million bucks and gives them clues on where to find it. Maybe I'm being greedy but don't you feel kind of gypped that they get 4 million bucks for their troubles and we only get one?

The funniest scene in Kramer's comedy is when Jimmy Durante kicks the bucket, literally. It's a classic gag that filmmakers of this movie wisely chose not to steal. If they did it would have taken time away from the other 25 plus sponsors who have product placements throughout the movie.

Once upon a time Walt Disney took a gamble at whether or not audiences would sit through a movie where the cartoon was the feature and made 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. Producer Dino De Laurentis apparently took a gamble on whether or not audience would sit through a movie where the commercial was the feature and failed miserably. How many people do you know who have seen this movie?

Rating: * (of four)
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May use standard dash-for-the-cash comedy devices, but it's still quite funny. (spoilers)
vertigo_149 December 2005
Nevermind that Gladbags sponsored this film, as one viewer has already pointed out in previous comments. Actually, a better indicator of quality here is the appearance (in a more minor role) of Eddie Deezen. Not for the brilliance of his performance or anything, but because if you've seen previous Deezen b-grade comedies that usually go unnoticed on the video shelf (such as the cult favorite, Surf II), then you've noticed that he sticks with a pretty stable selection of these comedies. That's not to say that Million Dollar Mystery was bad, because by any measure, I actually found it to be surprisingly funny (and you needn't take something so silly so seriously...never with movies like these). But, it is what I would at least consider Deenzen's typical choice in comedies. So, at least you know what kind of comedy you're in for (although minus the gratuitous nudity.

Million Dollar Mystery was originally a movie sponsored by Glad Bags and DeLaurentiis Entertainment. But, offering more than just a standard movie-viewing experience, the sponsors asked that its audience also participate in a real-life hunt for a secret stash of cash (see the trivia page).

Million Dollar Mystery borrows heavily for its plot from the 1960s comedy classic It's a Mad Mad Mad World and the 1980s Cannonball Run. Guests at a middle-of-nowhere restaurant (conveniently all at the same time) arrive just as a man (Tom Bosley, Glad Bag's old spokesman), wanted for stealing a large sum of money, drops dead of a heart attack. But, before he dies, he explains to his guests that there are four locations in which he has hidden one million dollars each. The details are scant and the guests hurry in their dash for the cash. So naturally, they first team up to track down the money before their greed gets the best of them, and they endure one misadventure after another trying to beat each other to their rich destinations. Although, it follows most of the standards of this dash-for-the-cash genre, with all the added slapsticky misadventure and running gags we'd expect, it is funny, nonetheless, and well worth a lazy 'noon viewing.
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At the time, I might have been this movie's biggest fan.
FeverDog28 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I was one of the few who paid to see this in theatres. Twice, in fact. Big things were, I assume, expected of it, since it opened on two screens. That's not uncommon nowadays with today's huge multiplexes screening every decently-marketed movie on multiple screens the first two weekends. But in the 80's only the biggest blockbusters (like INDIANA JONES movies) shipped duplicate prints to moviehouses, and then it was rarely, if ever, more than two. (In contrast, INVINCIBLE opens this weekend on three screens at my local 'plex.)

MDM was unspooled on two of my local theatre's five screens, and I went that first Saturday afternoon for the matinée in the bigger of the two houses. I was one of less than thirty people there. I went again the following Saturday, and the film had already been demoted to just the one, smaller house. And it was even less in attendance.

What went wrong? I thought it was pretty funny (I was 13), laughing loudly a good bit of the time. The open ending was intriguing, which is why I went a second time. I seem to remember solving the mystery of the missing millions' whereabouts, or at least hearing the common consensus. If it entertained this junior-higher, why not millions of others? Oh, I see: checking IMDb's release schedule, I discover this movie opened a week after HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS (a small success that catered to a similar demographic) and directly against PREDATOR, which was a big hit (and was--we can all pretty much agree--a better movie). Either or both of those movies may have eroded MDM's audience.

There were two differences between the theatrical and home video versions that stick in my mind. The first is the ending. Originally the movie ended with the two detectives talking about where the rest of the money might be and then breaking the fourth wall to allude to the real-life contest. The video release, however, had the detectives talking about the characters on their wild goose chase, along with some kind of coda about destiny or futility or something (it's been a while).

The second concerns not the film exactly, but rather the different ways I saw it. It's a 2.35 widescreen movie and I remember a shot of a row of eggs with a word on each that, when unscrambled, revealed a clue to where a portion of the money was hidden. (The final egg, which contained the most vital word, was broken to check for the presence of a bomb, or something. Again, I'm going back years here.) The eggs made a long line that the director showed in a single static shot. When I later viewed the movie on TV this shot was now a slow pan. I didn't know at the time why this was, but looking back now it was my first conscious sighting of panning-and-scanning. (My eyes weren't truly opened about the necessity of letterboxing until a few years later when I saw a widescreen version of HALLOWEEN.)

As for the merits of the movie itself, it's a distant third behind MAD MAD WORLD and RAT RACE (and I'm not a fan of either). Certain images linger in my memory: a Volvo melting in a pond of toxic waste; a K-car with really bad rear shocks; a slapstick encounter with a Murphy bed; a hot-air balloon (see Ebert's Little Movie Glossary for what that signifies); and a car stolen from a lot. The characters I remember are Eddie Deezen as a newlywed, a ginger waitress in a pink(?) uniform, a rock singer(?) with two groupies, and a yuppie family headed by Rick Overton, I think. Gotta check the cast listing here, hold on. Yeah, it was him, and, hey, I forgot Rich Hall was in this movie. It doesn't get any more early-late 80's than Rich Hall.

The $4M in the movie was hidden in four different locations in identical amounts. Let's see if I can recall. One was of course the final quarter up for grabs in the Glad Bag contest (revealed in the Trivia section). One was under or inside a bridge in Arizona, maybe. Another may have been connected in some way to a well. As for the fourth, I have no idea.

Is there enough consumer interest to warrant a decent DVD release (or any release)? I'd buy it if it were priced under $15, and I can't be the only one. It deserves at least a no-frills release as an interesting cinematic curio, along the lines of the bare-bones DVD for LEONARD PART 6 . Like that infamous Cosby turkey, MDM bombed badly in the 80's, but Hollywood doesn't seem to want its embarrassments from that era digitally remastered for excavation today (note the absence of HOWARD THE DUCK and ISHTAR on DVD). It's certainly less dated than MAD WORLD and more child-friendly than RAT RACE.
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hunting afar
lee_eisenberg29 May 2012
Richard Fleischer's "Million Dollar Mystery" has essentially the same plot as Stanley Kramer's "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". Here a strange man (Tom Bosley of "Happy Days") dies in a diner and tells everyone in the vicinity that there's $4 million buried, and so they spend the rest of the movie experiencing a series of mishaps trying to find it. Obviously it's not even in the same league as "IaMMMMW" - and the product tie-in certainly weakens the movie - but it's good for a few silly laughs. As can be expected, Eddie Deezen is a riot. Equally funny is Kevin Pollak as a cop who's more into impersonations than crime-fighting. The movie's probably OK seeing once. I recommend the original version more.
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In the tradition of Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, this newer comedy has quite a few funny moments
inkblot1116 May 2017
In a small Arizona town, Sidney (Tom Bosley) drops into a diner for a bite. Asking what is good to eat, he learns the chili is very hot but tasty. Despite uttering words that it wouldn't matter if his stomach gets upset, Sid orders it. Not two minutes later, he is on the floor dying. But, before his final breath, he gives notice that he was a government worker, stole some money as revenge, and has hidden a cool million under four Arizona bridges. Whoa, that's incredible news! In the diner at this moment are the chef and his wife, an accountant with his wife and precocious son, a ladies man and his entourage, and a honeymoon couple. They all heard the news and start off on a wild chase for the money. Along the way, they pick up a crazed Nam vet, Slaughter (Rich Hall), a pair of law enforcement officers and two FBI agents in pursuit of Sidney. Only the smart kid seems to have a brain to figure things out, while the honeymooners have to stop often for a sly tryst. As they all locate the first million, the suitcase holding the dough opens and money blows in the wind. Aargh!. As they move onto the next bridge and the next, does this group of bumbling folks have any chance of becoming rich? In the tradition of Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World and coming before Rat Race, the concept of ordinary folks making fools over themselves in an impossible run for the money is still very entertaining. Most of the cast is unknown, although nicely adept, while Bosley, Hall, and Kevin Pollack are big hoots. The clever script is a huge asset, while the Arizona highways and byways are a delight, too. Naturally, the direction keeps up a fast, fast pace. Folks, why buy cable or watch reruns when you can entertain the family with gems like this?
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