Saturday, October 5, 2013

History of the World Part 1 (1981)

History of the World Part 1I wasn't familiar with History of the World until someone recommended that I see it. I knew a little of who Mel Brooks was and had seen Young Frankenstein so I knew this might be good. Now I think it is one of the funniest movies ever, a genius spoof of world history troughout different period of time. You get to see prehistoric man invent art, and along with the first art came the first art critic. We see the real story behind Moses and the Ten Commandments. The best part to me was the part about the Roman times, when Comicus the stand up philosopher is introduced. I was laughing long and hard when Comicus gets a job as waiter at the Last Supper. Also spoofed are the Spanish Inquisition and the French Revolution.

History of the World is a great movie that features a terrific cast including Mel Brooks, Gregory Hines, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman and Sid Caesar. There are others, but together they give an entertaining perspective into some of history's most important events. There are also countless quotes from the movie that will stick with you for a long time after you hear them. This is something I recommend seeing, as even after 23 years it still seems as fresh as ever with the humor it provides.

Though it's not considered a classic like Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, there are a lot of laughs to be found in Mel Brooks' HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART I, a zany,if inconsistent look at Biblical times, the Stone Age, Ancient Rome, the Spanish Inquisition, and the French Revolution as seen through Brooks' demented brain. The film is not as all encompassing as its title implies, but Mel gives his own twisted vision to these particular times in earth's history, which includes Mel himself in four different roles, including Moses and his own version of Louis XIV (It's Good to be the King). Mel gathers his usual nutty repertory company together and laughs are provided by Sid Ceasar (very funny as a caveman), Madeline Kahn and Dom DeLuise (hysterical as Cleopatra and Ceasar), Gregory Hines, Cloris Leachman, and Harvey Korman as Count De Money ("That's De Monay!!!).

As always in his films, music is key and the Spanish Inquisition is presented here as a mammoth production number that is guaranteed to either amuse or offend,depending on your mood. Hard-core Brooks fans will love it, others be warned...there's something to offend everyone here.

Buy History of the World Part 1 (1981) Now

When you see a title such as this with Mel Brooks the director, you pretty much know what you're getting. And Brooks does not disappoint. He uses the same philosophy as in "Silent Movie," marrying old jokes to veteran actors with hilarious results. It's no different here, whether it's Sid Caesar as a caveman who invents "rock" music, Brooks himself as Comicus, a stand-up comic and waiter at the Last Supper in ancient Rome, or Brooks regular Harvey Kormann as Count de Money ("de Monet, de Monet") in a send up of the the French Revolution, every old joke and routine is resurrected . . . and never fails to keep us laughing.

Besides Kormann and Caesar, Brooks is ably supported by Gregory Hines (his first film, and a great flair for comedy), Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Shecky Greene, and the great Spike Milligan.

And just when you think it can't get any sillier, along comes Brooks and the Spanish Inquisition in Swingtime, a beautiful parody of MGM musicals.

The only shame of this movie is that Brooks never got around to making a Part Two.

Read Best Reviews of History of the World Part 1 (1981) Here

So many have reveiwed the movie, I would like to comment on the improvements of the Blu-ray release.

I was quite impressed, I always saw this as a grainy movie if the 1980's. This Blu-ray release is re-mastered with pure sharp images and bright clean colors. The sound also seems to be cleaned up a bit more. This movie looks like it was shot yesterday. You would not know its age until you see what Mel looks like today in the bonus material interview.

In addition to the great re-mastering, we are now treaded to bonus a documentary & trivia. Find out who was really cast for the movie & why tha last minute changes were made.

Now HISTORY gets the same deluxe treatment that BLAZING SADDLES & YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN got on their DVD releases.

Oh, and the movie itself just gets better with age.

This is well worth the upgrade, both movie qiality & monus material.

Want History of the World Part 1 (1981) Discount?

When this film first appeared more than 20 years ago, it temporarily threatened to replace world history courses in schools, colleges, and universities. Of course, that didn't happen. Probably just as well, given the fact that screenwriter, producer, and director Mel Brooks never wrote, produced, and directed Part II and its eagerly-awaited portrayals of "Jews in Space" and "Hitler on Ice." There are historians' homes in which Brooks is still not welcome. In any event, what we have in Part I is a combination of five extended sketches: The Dawn of Man, The Stone Age, The Spanish Inquisition, The Bible, and The Future. Inevitably there are some gaps.

Brooks appears in several different roles while (in fact) portraying himself: Moses, Comicus, Torquemada, and King Lou. Other members of the Brooks Ensemble Company include Madeline Kahn (Empress Nympho), Cloris Leachman (Madame de Farge), Harvey Korman (Count de Monet), Ron Carey (Swiftus), Andreas Voutsinas (B'ernaise), and Shecky Green (Marcus Vindictus). Brooks has assembled a cast of thousands. The production values are remarkably good. However, as in other Brooks films such as Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety, the quality of the humor varies from Brilliant & Inspired (e.g. King Lou professing love of "the little people" while shooting at airborn peasants who have been launched as targets: "Pull!") to Oh No (e.g. Moses reducing the number of Commandments to Ten by dropping/breaking one of three tablets while descending Mount Sinai, and, Jesus becoming confused by use of his name as an expletive). Brooks is an incurable gagster and punster. More often than not, the humor in this film works. But when it doesn't....

Several clever touches. For example, beginning the film with a parody of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with Orson Welles providing the voice-over. Also, it is fun to play the equivalent of "Where's Waldo" by trying to spot familiar actors in supporting roles such as Bea Arthur (Clerk), Charlie Callas (Soothsayer), Jack Carter (Rat Vendor), Sid Caesar (Chief Caveman), John Gavin (Marche), Ronny Graham (Oedipus), Nigel Hawthorne (Official), John Hillerman (Rich Man), Hugh Hefner (Entrepreneur), Barry Levinson (Column Salesman), Spike Milligan (Monsieur Rimbaud), Howard Morris (Court Spokesman), Jan Murray (Nothing Vendor), and Henny Youngman (Chemist). As I said, a cast of thousands...if not more.

Brooks' best films, those most effectively developed, are The Producers and Young Frankenstein, the latter being a remarkably respectful version of several earlier films. All comics are thieves. The best comics steal from the best sources. I thought about that when I saw this film again recently, wondering if Brooks' History of the World -Part I was in any way influenced by The Story of Mankind (1957), a film based on Henrik Willem Van Loon's bestseller. For purposes of parody, The Story of Mankind would be an excellent target of opportunity. Those among its diverse cast of thousands (if not more) include Charles Coburn'(Hippocrates), Ronald Colman (The Spirit of Man), Cedric Hardwicke'(High Judge), Dennis Hopper'(Napoleon), Hedy Lamarr'(Joan of Arc), Peter Lorre'(Nero), Virginia Mayo'(Cleopatra), Chico Marx'(Monk), Harpo Marx'(Isaac Newton), Groucho Marx'(Peter Minuit), Agnes Moorehead'(Elizabeth I), Vincent Price (The Devil), and Cesar Romero'(Spanish Envoy). Whenever a list of the Ten Most Pretentious Movies Ever Made is formulated, The Story of Mankind is frequently and deservedly given serious consideration.

Despite its several flaws, The History of the World -Part I remains a generally entertaining, at times hilarious film. Whenever I see it again, I feel eager anticipation as I await its strongest scenes, willing to endure its weakest meanwhile. To me at least, the previews for Part II (which conclude Part I) suggest why Brooks resembles the Little Girl with The Curl: "When she's good, she's very very good but when she's bad...."

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