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Boro man stages ‘Mad Mad’ movie night

When Richie Bernstein first saw “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” in 1963, a lifelong love affair with the film began that has inspired the Flushing resident to spend much of his own money to bring the movie to a Fresh Meadows theater.

“It’s one of my favorite comedy movies of all time, and I wanted other people to be able to see it and laugh the way I’ve laughed,” Bernstein said.

The movie that stars such big names as Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, and Buddy Hackett will play at the AMC Loews Fresh Meadows 7 Sunday, May 23, at 1:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Bernstein, who was 11 when he first saw the movie about a wild pursuit of $350,000, brought the film to the same theater last year but was disappointed when only about 25 people came to see a movie he has seen a “countless” number of times.

This year Bernstein is once again spending about $1,000 to rent the space and play the movie for a wide audience and has ramped up efforts to advertise the event in the hopes the theater will be packed. The theater can hold 145 people.

“Over the years it’s been on television, but I’d like to see this on a big, wide screen,” Bernstein said. “You can’t really appreciate it on a little screen.”

Bernstein, a city Department of Environmental Protection employee who moved from Manhattan to Flushing 28 years ago, becomes nostalgic when speaking about the older comedies he said are in a whole different league from today’s pieces. “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” is similar to Bernstein’s other slapstick favorites, including The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello and practically anything with the Marx Brothers.

“Movies and TV then, it could be simply downright, laugh-out-loud funny,” Bernstein said.

He hopes the film attracts people of all ages and walks of life to the theater, a place Bernstein said is a haven for anyone who wants to retreat from a stressful world for a bit and just laugh.

Directed by Stanley Kramer, who also made “Inherit the Wind,” among many films, “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” is about a gangster who has just been released from prison and is off to find the $350,000 he had hidden in a California park. The audience soon sees the character careen over a cliff and the dying man tells four bystanders where the money is buried. A crazy chase across the state for the cash ensues.

And what happens at the end?

“Oh no, no, no, no, you can never tell something like that,” Bernstein said. “You’ll just have to come and see for yourself.”

The AMC Loews Fresh Meadows 7 is at 190-02 Horace Harding Blvd.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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