Blu-Ray (1981, 2010)
“History of the World: Part 1″ was written and directed by Mel Brooks in 1981. Mel Brooks’ silly parody of history makes it onto Blu-Ray with a sharper picture and better sound. Whether it is cavemen, ancient Rome, the Spanish Inquisition, and the French Revolution, it still tickles the funny bone to watch. There are so many great quotes!
“You flunked flank? Get the flunk out of here!”
and of course…
“It’s good to be the King.”
More so than the longer stories in Rome and France, the quickie jokes with Moses, the Cavemen, Jesus, and the Inquisition are the funniest parts of this film. A few jokes in the script are more dated now but most hold up very well still! This is one of most hilarious takes on history since “Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail” but it goes over several different periods of time when each short could have been made into its own full-length feature.
Mel himself takes on several roles as Moses, a stand-up philosopher in Rome, the leader of the Spanish Inquisition, and double roles as the king of France and the piss boy in one story. He never takes on an accent but he doesn’t have to. He sets up silly situations and comparisons to modern times and is never afraid to just go there and feels the more ridiculous, the better.
Orson Welles has one of the best voices on film ever and he actually narrates a few of the sequences linking the film together. Other fantastic actors involved are Dom DeLuise as Emperor Nero the fat pig, Madeline Kahn as Empress Nympho who gets to choose partners for her evening orgy, Harvey Korman as Count de Monet (“Count the money, count the money”!), Gregory Hines as dancer/slave Josephus, and Sid Caesar as the Chief Caveman.
Unfortunately “History of the World: Part 2″ advertised at the end was never made into a film though I know we’d all like to see Hitler on Ice and Jews in Space!
This movie has been watched dozens of times by many people, but there is now a “Real History of the World” Trivia Track that you can play along the bottom of the screen while watching! It’s a great way to learn some new facts while watching and mostly confirms actual years things began like that scientists now believe man discovered fire way earlier than the previous estimate. Occasionally facts are revealed about the movie as well such as the Vestal Virgins were played by Playboy Playmates. There is also an isolated score track that can be used with the film.
There is a featurette on Mel’s love of musicals and how his movies always incorporate a musical number into them at some point. When they were selecting portions of history that they wanted to visit in this film, they just decided to make “The Inquisition” a big elaborate number and the further and more ridiculous he went with it and the more wrong it became, the more RIGHT it became and now it is one of the most remembered sequences of the film. This featurette talks about the different elements of the number and how the swimming nuns were able to come out of the water dry with sparklers on their heads, etc.
The last featurette is “Making History: Mel Brooks on Creating the World” on how easily the jokes came when writing the script and piecing the time periods together. Richard Pryor was originally slotted to have a role in the film but had an accident and Gregory Hines was brought in for screen testing and was instantly given the part. Orson Welles was booked for one-week’s worth of work to narrate “History of the World” but since he did most of it in one take, he was finished by 4:30pm the very first day. This film has developed into almost a cult classic.