Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: "History of the World: Part I" is as Funny as Ever (Happy B'day, Mel Brooks)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 205 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I (1981)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
EDITOR: John C. Howard
COMPOSER: John Morris


Starring: Mel Brooks, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Ron Carey, Gregory Hines, Pamela Stephenson, Shecky Greene, Sid Caesar, Mary-Margaret Humes, Rudy De Luca, Andréas Voutsinas, Spike Milligan, and Orson Welles with Barry Levinson and John Hurt

The subject of this movie review is History of the World: Part I, a 1981 comedy film from writer-director Mel Brooks. The film is a parody the various kinds of historical films, including period costume dramas and sword and sandal epics. The catchphrase “It’s good to be the king” originated in this film. History of the World: Part I contains mock coming attractions for “History of the World: Part II,” but that was a joke, as no actual sequel was planned.

Mel Brooks writes, directs, produces, and plays five roles in his comedy semi-classic, History of the World: Part I. The film can be considered an anthology or a series of vignettes that take a farcical, skewered, and wacky view of history from the dawn of man through the cavemen, the Roman Empire, and the Spanish Inquisition, to the French Revolution. The film also features some appearances by Brooks’ films semi-regulars including Madeline Kahn and Harvey Korman.

I can’t imagine why Brooks picked the particular pre-historical and historical periods he did; perhaps, they were the funniest to him or he found in them the most to send up. However, the film is only mildly funny until the Spanish Inquisition segment, which is a musical number with a dance routine that even features water ballet. Both the song and the dance numbers are both awesome and freaking hilarious. Perhaps, the film’s best bit is the closing segment, the French Revolution. Some of the most famous quotations from Mel Brooks’ films come from this side-splitting section. It alone is more than reason enough to see this film.

Most of the jokes here are sight gags and anachronisms, but when Brooks and his cast are “on” in this film, the picture really works, as in the aforementioned second half. It’s worth noting that History of the World: Part I is not a great work, but because of it does have some great moments, it’s not to be missed.

7 of 10

Updated: Friday, June 28, 2013

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