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There's a little something to offend everyone in this hilarious history lesson, with some personal research by Mel Brooks. To me, it's funnier than, say SILENT MOVIE or HIGH ANXIETY, but not as good as BLAZING SADDLES or maybe YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. My personal feeling is that HISTORY OF THE WORLD-PART 1 succeeds as being so hilarious due to the fact that it is so incredibly crude. It's a miracle that it gets shown on TV (even in a censored version). I own the book written by Mel Brooks in 1981. It is a telling of the movie complete with MANY photographs taken from the film. Sometimes, I think that the film gets mean-spirited, and that is when it isn't funny anymore. Mel Brooks is the undisputed comedy genius of the latter half of this century. Without a doubt, he has made more people laugh than any one else. His comedy is unique because while it is in bad taste, he somehow makes us feel good. Even in his first film, he makes us laugh at something in bad taste. This is where he is different from other, run-of-the-mill comics like Adam Sandler or Eddie Murphy, or SNL or anything like that- because Brooks' really knows what is funny. From his earliest effort to his latest, he remains a genius. But as for HISTORY OF THE WORLD. It seems to be his most popular movie with today's generation. BLAZING SADDLES is still popular, though. Of course, THE PRODUCERS, THE TWELVE CHAIRS, SILENT MOVIE, HIGH ANXIETY, TO BE OR NOT TO BE, and LIFE STINKS were all aimed at older audiences, his films like BLAZING SADDLES,YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, HISTORY OF THE WORLD, SPACEBALLS, ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS and DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT will always be popular with the younger audiences.
Sharing a similarity in structure to Monty Python's Meaning of life and
sharing, I presume, the same type of public at the time we can fully "
appreciate " the near-disaster that is Brooks effort : just compare the
Monthy 's Sperm is Sacred part to the Spanish Inquisition of this one(
which must have still used a good chunk of the movie's 11 million
dollars budget )
About 5 good jokes( some of them actually being after the movie in a preview to a part 2 which was never made ).
My favorite joke : the one about Oedipus, it last about 2 seconds.
Pathetic jeux de mots and what was fresh and new in movies like Airplane ! are frankly embarrassing when Mel Brooks tries to be as witty only a year later.
The french revolution is perhaps the best segment but it comes at the end of a dreadful trip.
Bland performances throughout but then again maybe even Belushi as a decadent Cesear would not have done much with such a bad script.
Every so often, HOTW:Part One is shown on a TV station and I endeavor to watch it through, just to see if my initial assessment was a result of a bad hair day. Not so. There are funny scenes and funny moments, but the better portion of the movie plays out like a series of outdated Vaudeville acts. Out of all the Mel Brooks movies, this one most suggests having a drummer stationed in a corner, following up the punchlines with a pa-DUM-pum-crash on a snare drum and cymbal. (THAT might actually help, come to think of it.) I find the scene in the Roman Forum amusing; Madeline Kahn makes the most of the very short scene that features her; and the Spanish Inquisition is memorable--but it's no match for Monty Python's TV skit and its absurd incongruities. With the exception of "Young Frankenstein", the opening 20 minutes of "The Producers" (especially the original, 1968 version) and, grudgingly, "Blazing Saddles", HOTW is like every other Mel Brooks movie: same stereotypical references, same uneven pacing--as though the actors are pausing for the laugh from a live audience--and not much that's truly fresh and original. Watch it once, just so you can reference it as needed, and judge for yourself.
When "History Of The World Part 1" came out in 1981, it had been four
years since Mel Brooks' last screen comedy, and given his track record
at the time and the long wait, "History" could not fail but disappoint.
Watch it today - devoid of such high expectations - and you know what?
It's still weak.
An overview of history from caveman days to the French Revolution, "History Of The World Part 1" introduces us to such characters as Moses, Comicus the Roman stand-up philosopher, and King Louis XVI, all played by Brooks' favorite actor - Mel himself. In various bits, we see man emerge from erotically fixated primitives to erotically fixated primitives with silly wigs.
"History Of The World" is really two mini-movies, one about Comicus the Roman and the other a "Tale Of Two Cities" parody of the French Revolution in which King Louis is replaced by a lowly lookalike, played of course by Mel. A few other bits are thrown around in the way of padded one-liners, but it's really more like Brooks couldn't be bothered with shooting a full-length movie this time. The French one at least is funny in parts, but much of what shows up on screen seems too thin for a story conference, let alone a movie.
And the jokes! Puerile third-grade schoolyard stuff. "In the year 1,000,000 BC, it is thought the first homo sapien marriage occurred," intones Orson Welles as we watch caveman Sid Caesar club a woman over the head. "It was shortly followed by the first homosexual marriage." The Rome segment is just bizarre, with pointless cameos from Hugh Hefner and Henny Youngman and a long joke involving a chariot with a giant reefer.
I believe Brooks' gradual decline as a filmmaker had to do with his increased focus on himself as central presence, and he really makes a case for it here. Why, in a film co-starring one of the great song-and-dance men of his generation, Gregory Hines, do you have the one big song-and-dance number star Mel Brooks?
At least the French segment works somewhat in the classic Brooks vein, with some familiar faces from his other movies getting some quality time like Harvey Korman, Andreas Voutsinas, and Cloris Leachman, in the last of her Brooks crone roles as bitter Madame Defarge: "We are so poor, we don't even have a language, just a stupid accent!"
It's also the segment that delivers the best lines. "It's good to be the king" is what Louis says after molesting various ladies of the court, and Brooks is just right for the part there, probably because he WAS the king on the set and knew what he was talking about. Korman's "Wait for the shake" is also a favorite of mine, right up there with "Walk this way" and "Where the white women at?" from past Brooks' classics.
But why Mel thought a chess gangbang would be so funny is lost on me, as is the comedy potential of a burping Dom DeLuise, or Jews being tortured by nuns in bathing suits. Call it hubris, but the sad fact was, for its many faults, "History" would be the last Brooks comedy that got within shouting distance of his "Blazing Saddles" peak. He could have just have easily subtitled this "Decline And Fall".
Good not great Brooks... That means you get slightly more kitsch, vulgarity and old gags to the dollar than you can take but for every old-as-Methuselah gag (he even gets the old "Walk this way" staple in there), there are enough compensatory puns and sight gags present, with more than a few in-jokes at the expense of past Hollywood historical blockbusters along the way. Me, I'm the kind of guy who laughs at a line like "Judea Judea Judea" delivered in knowing Cary Grant style and there are plenty more where that came from. The extended scenes in Ancient Rome and Revolutionary France work best (and are cinematographically well rendered too, something people often overlook with Brooks) as his stereotypically skewered band of characters have fun with more double-entendres than even Sid James would cackle at. Of the cameos, Pamela Stephenson (Mrs Billy Connolly now) thrusts her chest about wo - manfully and Gregory Hines does something similar with an equally libidinous part of his anatomy. I enjoyed the film, a funny romp and one senses the players did so too.
There are a few inspired bits, but nothing to rest a whole movie on,
and that's exactly what Brooks has attempted to do- base an entire
movie on a few cheap tricks that don't really deliver in the first
Brooks' best work (Young Frankenstein, The Producers) had both inspired bits and strong stories to keep them going. History of the World: Part I has only a little of the former and none of the latter. The reason the movie doesn't fail completely is because there are glimpses of genius hidden in it- the Spanish Inquisition scene, for example, or both the performances of Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman. The Pissboy joke fits in that category too.
But that's pretty much it. A few of the jokes, like the 10 Commandments one, have been replayed over and over in the popular consciousness that it's just not funny on screen. It was worth seeing, if only because it's a Mel Brooks movie and it reinforces how great his better movies are, but I don't care to see it again.
I cannot believe this movie ever made it to theaters, not to mention
DVD. The jokes just weren't there! None of them were funny. This may be
in part because Mel RE-USED JOKES FROM HIS OTHER MOVIES. He took jokes
directly from young frankenstein and murdered them by putting them in
this movie. And I also noticed that several of the jokes that failed
(all of them) he re-used in some of his later movies!
The movie is awful: 1/10
I went to see this movie when it first came out hoping to find another great Brooks film such as my favorite- "Blazing Saddles." I remember sitting stone faced throughout waiting for it to get good and even being offended just a little bit. My girlfriend loves this movie so she got me to watch it and I must say 20 years has not changed my perception one bit as far as this film goes. I think I may have guffawed once or twice and apart from that sat through countless awkward moments and blown gags. I actually felt sorry for Mel in some scenes and found myself thinking I wasn't going to make it through, but alas, it is mercifully short which saves it from being among the absolute worst of all time. This movie marked the end of one of the greatest comedic filmmakers career, but I guess some people didn't realize it!
Mel Brooks' colorfully offensive spoof of history was lambasted by the critics upon its release, but time has been kind to it (and legions of fans now defend it). Large cast of game players from Madeline Kahn to Cloris Leachman, Sid Caesar to Brooks himself, work hard at making this gag-filled romp a rollicking spectacle, but Brooks' heavy-hand as a filmmaker causes an oppressiveness that is tough to shake off. The Prehistoric opener, the French Revolution and the Spanish Inquisition are all brightly accomplished, but the cheap-looking Roman Empire section is hammy and dull, practically stopping the movie in its tracks. As with many of Brooks' films (particularly from this period), ninety-percent of the jokes are groaners and there's far too much shouting amongst the players (as if the world had gone deaf). Some big laughs do emerge from the morass, and it's indeed one of Brooks' more ambitious efforts. *1/2 from ****
You can admire Mel Brooks and his kind of humour (and I actually do), but
History Of The World was such a disappointment! And I was so looking forward
We see a couple of stages in history, like Moses and his 15... erm 10 Commandments (the best joke of the movie) and some scenes from the Roman era as well as the Spanish Inquisition.
Not enough (good) jokes, way too long, this is not the standard one would expect from Brooks. Let's just hope and pray Part II will indeed never come...
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