- Written, Produced, and Directed by Mel Brooks
- June 12, 1981
Mel Brooks looks at everything from the Old Testament to cavemen to the French Revolution in this satirical historical comedy.
While History of the World, Part 1 may not be among the best of Brooks’ films, it is still a good example of the general silliness that has made him one of the great comedic filmmakers of American film. Somehow he manages to be dumb yet smart in all his works to some extent and here it starts with the title which is a play on The History of the World, Volume 1 by Sir Walter Raleigh. Who would even think to do that?
The vignettes have no real connecting thread other than mostly Mel Brooks showing up and cover the Stone Age, the Old Testament, the Roman Empire, The Spanish Inquisition, and The French Revolution. The bulk of the film focuses on two stories taking place during the Roman Empire and The French Revolution with a large helping of anachronistic humor and general weirdness.
We even get a few pokes at such bits of classic film like The Ten Commandments, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even the original Star Wars. “Jews In Space”, the Star Wars spoof, is particularly memorable and one of the better-known shorts aside from “Hitler on Ice”. And I swear the enemy ships in “Jews In Space” were reused in Enemy Mine for the humans. Not improbable for the time that models would get reused.
As with any Brooks film it’s fast paced and frenetic. The humor ranges from raunchy to just silly with elements of gross thrown in but it’s all done with a childlike intent. There are no attempts at irony or just being mean spirited. This is done by someone as if they were a 10-year-old child having fun. And that’s part of the joy of Brooks’ films. It’s juvenile humor but juvenile humor done well and as alluded to earlier with a certain level of intelligence.
And he populated it with comedy all-stars of the time. We have main cast members that include Mel Brooks, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Ron Carey, Gregory Hines, Pamela Stephenson, Shecky Greene, Sid Caesar, Sammy Shore, Orson Welles, and Carl Reiner. There were cameos by the likes of Charlie Callas, Henny Youngman, Hugh Hefner, Barry Levinson, John Hurt, Art Metrano, Bea Arthur, Pat McCormick, Jackie Mason, John Hillerman, Andrew Sachs, and Nigel Hawthorne among many others. You may not know some of them today, but they were quality performers back then.
One of my favorite parts is the song “The Inquisition.” It is a great sendup of those song and dance numbers of the 1930s that managed to shoehorn in swimming. The song itself is bouncy and delves into some of the tortures of The Inquisition yet does so in a funny manner.
History of the World, Part 1 is a classic bit of silly and juvenile raunchy comedy from the genius of Mel Brooks. I don’t think anybody could ever do it as well as Mel Brooks did. It’s just silly and fun and thoroughly enjoyable. If you like to have a good laugh and forget your troubles, then this movie is for you!
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