Variety - 06/17/1987
"...Some of the action sequences are terrific....Hall has a nice sense of timing, provides the film's best physical humor and has the funniest line..."
Los Angeles Times - 06/12/1987
"...MILLION DOLLAR MYSTERY is a pleasant surprise....A showcase for an array of young, talented comedians....[The filmmakers] bring to the film a terrific pace and a great, clean look..."
When double-dealing government agent Sidney Preston (Tom Bosley) wanders into Apache Acres, a dusty, roadside cafe in the middle of the Arizona desert, he barely has time to try "the best chili in the Southwest," before he has heart attack. Before dying, Preston tells the assembled customers that he has hidden $4 million and gives obscure clues to the four locations where each million is stashed. The twenty-two hapless adventurers then embark on a madcap race across the Southwest in search of the missing millions.
MILLION DOLLAR MYSTERY is loosely based on IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. Stanley Kramer's 1963 movie was huge, both in width (shot in 70mm Cinerama) and length (two and a half hours), and full of well-known comedians. In contrast, Richard Fleischer's movie, made 24 years later, is taught, tight and short; it lasts only 95 minutes and has a relatively unknown cast. As with all his films, Fleischer obtains strong and vigorous performances from his cast, including Kevin Pollack (THE USUAL SUSPECTS) in his first film as a man who unleashes a series of dead-on impressions. Other characters include Pam Matteson as the waitress at Apache Acres, Rich Hall as a disgruntled soldier, Douglas Emerson as the smart-ass young son, and especially Jamie Alcroft and Mark Dryden as the two wisecracking policemen who trail Sidney Preston to Apache Acres. In that rundown cafe, cook Tugger's (Royce D. Applegate) specialty is "the best chili in the Southwest." He tells Preston that it is made from "choice cuts of the finest beef, pork, rattlesnake, and armadillo delicately blended in a very special secret ingredient of my own." Moments before he suffers his fatal heart attack, Preston figures out the special ingredient--beer.
Theatrical release: June 1987.
MILLION DOLLAR MYSTERY was shot on location in Page, Arizona; Bisbee, Arizona; Lake Havasu City, Arizona; London Bridge Resort, Arizona; and Vermillion Cliffs, Utah.
MILLION DOLLAR MYSTERY is one of the last movies photographed by the great British director of photography Jack Cardiff. He had worked with Richard Fleischer twice before, on THE VIKINGS and CONAN THE DESTROYER.Cardiff's other notable films include John Huston's THE AFRICAN QUEEN and King Vidor's WAR AND PEACE. However, he is best known for his extraordinary Technicolor photography on three films directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in the 1940s: A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, BLACK NARCISSUS, and THE RED SHOES.
This was the final film of famed stuntman Dar Robinson, who died performing a stunt in the picture.