From the dawn of man to the distant future, mankind's evolution (or lack thereof) is traced. Often ridiculous but never serious, we learn the truth behind the Roman Emperor, we learn what REALLY happened at the Last Supper, the circumstances that surrounded the French Revolution, how to test eunuchs, and what kind of shoes the Spanish Inquisitor wore. Written by
Murray Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
History Of The World Part I (Mel Brooks, 1981) **1/2
I had watched this as a kid, a popular but not highly-regarded Brooks effort. It is wildly uneven but, also, undeniably funny at times (even if most of the gags are, unsurprisingly, of the vulgar kind).
Brooks managed to rope in Orson Welles to provide indifferent narration over his lampoon of various historical eras (the film's one-liners, too, read better than they play). Still, "The Stone Age" (featuring Sid Caesar) offers a nice parody of the "Dawn Of Man" sequence from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) while the brief but hilarious "The Old Testament" sees Brooks himself as Moses accidentally lose a third of God's original 15 Commandments! "The Roman Empire" the longest segment features Brooks veterans Dom De Luise and Madeleine Kahn, the film's single best joke (the Senators' spontaneous reply, in unison, to a fellow members' concern over the plight of the city's poor), plus wonderful conclusion involving John Hurt as Jesus Christ. "The Spanish Inquistion" is, again, brief but surely one of the film's highlights with its tastelessly inspired depiction of this infamous period as a Busby Berkeley-ish production number (though Brooks' typical Jewish jokes seem baffling in this context). Just as Monty Python had done the definitive parody of the Roman Empire with LIFE OF BRIAN (1979), "The French Revolution" follows on from the "Carry On" gang's DON'T LOSE YOUR HEAD (1966). The results are just as middling (involving the inevitable impersonation of the King by a commoner) but highlighting two established presences in Brooks' films, Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman. Easily the funniest bit from this segment is the King's outrageous shooting practice.
Still, at the end of the day, Brooks can't avoid repeating himself: the "Walk This Way" gag from YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) turns up here as well; Brooks' lecherous French king is virtually a copy of his Governor characterization in the Western spoof BLAZING SADDLES (1974); and the surreal nick-of-time escape at the very end, which also derives from the latter film.
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