History of the World, Part I

Review No. 487

It’s good to be watching “History of the World, Part I”.

history_of_the_world_part_i

B

WRITTEN, PRODUCED & DIRECTED BY MEL BROOKS. NARRATED BY ORSON WELLES. STARRING BROOKS (MOSES / COMICUS / TOMAS DE TORQUEMADA / LOUIS XVI OF FRANCE / JACQUES LE GARÇON DE PISSE), DOM DeLUISE (EMPEROR NERO), MADELINE KAHN (EMPRESS NYMPHO), HARVEY KORMAN (COUNT DE MONET), AND CLORIS LEACHMAN (MADAME DEFARGE). ALSO STARRING RON CAREY, GREGORY HINES, PAMELA STEPHENSON, SPIKE MILLIGAN, ANDREAS VOUTSINAS, SHECKY GREENE, SID CAESAR, BEA ARTHUR, JOHNNY SILVER, MARY-MARGARET HUMES, PAUL MAZURSKY, CHARLIE CALLAS, ANDREW SACHS, AND DIANE DAY. FEATURING CAMEOS BY HUGH HEFNER, BARRY LEVINSON, AND JOHN HURT. DISTRIBUTED BY 20TH CENTURY FOX ON JUNE 12, 1981. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH, LATIN, AND FRENCH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 32 MINUTES. NOT FOR CHILDREN, DUE TO NUDITY.

HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART I WAS WATCHED ON MAY 26, 2013.

“The lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen…Oy. Ten! Ten commandments for all to obey!” –Moses (Mel Brooks)

There’s a scene in History of the World, Part I in which Mel Brooks portrays Comicus, a “stand-up philosopher.” À la the philosophes that were put to death during the Holy Roman Empire, Comicus is sent to entertain Julius Caesar, but ends up insulting Caesar’s weight and his authority. The sequence represents the entire film. Brooks is here to prove that you can offend people as if he hadn’t in The Producers or Blazing Saddles. He can be as sacrilegious, crude, racist, misogynist, and/or homophobic as he feels like. It’s very easy to be offended, but even the most offensive moments are great with amusement.

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“It’s good to be the King.”

What the film lacks is cohesion. At times, this feels like several MadTV skits bunched into one whole. By the fifteen-minute mark, Brooks has already poked fun at the Stone Age and the Old Testament. Then comes the Holy Roman Empire, which lasts at least thirty minutes. The pacing is random and unpredictable, almost as if Brooks clearly favored certain eras over others. But all the film wants to do is have fun. Mel Brooks is a genius, and sometimes genius needs a break. He spoofs himself more often than he spoofs others, which is fine. Much like the rest of the film, the “auto-spoofing” is something that’s put there to crack up any Mel Brooks fan. And god, is this film a blast. It’s a film for those who only want to be entertained: an altered history that doesn’t especially let you go home with any one-liners, but you go home knowing that you gave your lungs a good workout.

One final note. There is no History of the World, Part II (and unfortunately, there never will be), but a Part II is teased right before the credits approach us. We’re given three things to “look forward to.” Hitler on Ice, a Viking Funeral, and Jews in Space. Sounds good to me!

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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