Monday, April 25, 2011
Movie of the Week
HISTORY OF THE WORLD- PART I (1981)
Starring- Mel Brooks, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise
While this film isn't the height of Mel Brooks' cinematic work, it has some of the most memorable moments and lines of all his movies. Told in several vignettes, History of the World takes on Ancient Rome, the French Revolution and some Bible stories in hilarious fashion. Using many of his regular actors, Brooks switches from satire to goofball to slapstick and spares nobody in his quest to make his mark as he skewers humanities achievements.
Narrated by the booming voice of Orson Welles, the film begins with a look at ancient man, using the comedic talents of the great Sid Caesar, who had employed Brooks as a writer on Your Show of Shows. While the jokes in this section are a bit on the cheesy side, there are a few real belly laughs that make you grateful for Caesar's participation in the film. Following that segment Brooks does a short Biblical bit where he plays a clumsy Moses. Then the film goes into a lengthy vignette about the Roman Empire that is probably the film's strongest and funniest bit. Brooks is Comicus, a stand-up philosopher, who finds himself playing the main room at Caesar's Palace. Caesar (DeLuise) is a farting, burping treasure bathing pig and his wife, Empress Nympho (Kahn) is a nympho- go figure.
The Roman scenes are full of memorable Brooksian moments, and finish up with a great parody of the Last Supper. A big song and dance number follows, as Mel and friends make light of the Spanish Inquisition. Only Mel Brooks would dare to turn a dark chapter in human history into a hilarious, bubbly musical parody. The film ends with another long story that is set during the French Revolution. Comedy greats Cloris Leachman, Harvey Korman and Spike Milligan guest star in this segment that sees a Piss Boy (Garcon de Piss) step in to double for King Louis as the peasants attack the palace. All you need to know about this part is that it's good to be the king.
Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein are better films in almost every way, but there is enough good stuff in History of the World- Part I that it makes you wish that Mel had gone on to make Part II. Oh well, we can only sit around and think about what might have been.
Things to watch for-
A young Gregory Hines as Josephus
My favorite Golden Girl- Bea Arthur
Hitler on Ice
"Don't get saucy with me, Bearnaise."