Anthony's Film Review

History of the World: Part I (1981)

The Mel Brooks version of human history is downright hysterical...

History of the World: Part I is a comedy film that, if it were up to me, could also be titled "The World According to Mel Brooks." This is the director's humorous version of the history of humankind, from the dawn of man to the space age, presented in a series of vignettes featuring an ensemble cast that includes Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Gregory Hines, Dom DeLuise, and several other actors. (Oh, and before I forget, there actually is no sequel to this movie. The "Part I" in the title is just a joke.)

One reason why this movie is funny is because it looks like a serious documentary at first, if you try really hard to ignore the jokes. For one thing, the movie is narrated by the great Orson Welles, who plays his part totally straight. Other than that, there is absolutely no reason to even think about taking this movie seriously. The cast is there to make you laugh. Nothing more.

A few segments are quick and deliver immediate punchlines. The Stone Age segment presents funny reasons behind the origin of art, music, and comedy. Also, according to Mel Brooks, Moses is on Mount Sinai when he receives from God three tablets with Fifteen Commandments, but because he accidentally drops one of them, there are only Ten Commandments to give to the people. (Makes you wonder what the other five were.)

Otherwise, much of the film is devoted to longer segments. The Roman Empire segment centers on Mel Brooks as a stand-up philosopher and Gregory Hines as a slave, both of whom have adventures that take place in Rome, Caesar's Palace (the one in Las Vegas, though without any gambling inside), and even The Last Supper (with Leonardo da Vinci as a portrait painter). Other vignettes include the Spanish Inquisition featuring a musical number and synchronized swimming (rivaling Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition), the French Revolution where it's good to be the king (at least until Madame Defarge and other rebels storm the palace), and a preview of the non-existent History of the World: Part II (including a bit about Jews in Space).

Through it all, the humor is silly with anachronistic sight gags, political incorrectness, and other wacky stuff that only Mel Brooks could conceive. There's plenty of it, too. You do not need to worry about long periods of time without any jokes or laughs. Really, the only problem is that History of the World: Part II wasn't made, because I definitely enjoying laughing with Part I. Oh well. At least this film is a Mel Brooks classic.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about History of the World: Part I, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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