Nov 13, 2009

[Movies] History of the World: Part I (1981)

History of the World: Part II love Mel Brooks movies.

For this, I only have my dearly departed father to blame. He got me into this particular brand of comedy, including the Airplane! movies and Leslie Nielsen's Naked Gun movies and this probably helped contribute to my overall geekiness over the years. Mel Brooks humor is rather unique in its dry humor, generous use of puns and sight gags and other elements of "lower" humor. However he's known for doing this in a dynamic and witty way that requires the viewer to exercise quick thinking when watching his movies. You need to keep up with the sheer volume of jokes in order to catch them all.

And yes, I do think geeks are those most likely to be smart enough to keep up with all the jokes, hehe.

History of the World: Part I remains to be one of my favorite Mel Brooks movies of all time. It's a pretty extensive parody of the epic films of the time involving a re-telling of history starting from early cave men all the way to the French revolution. For synopsis purposes, the main areas covered by the movie are the Dawn of Man, the Old Testament, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition and the French Revolution. Most were just short bits which were essentially a series of comedy sketches while the Roman Empire and the French Revolution were much lengthier portions.

Mel BrooksImage via Wikipedia

Naturally Mel Brooks himself had a variety of roles in the movie ranging from Comicus the stand up philosopher, Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition and King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. Mel Brooks was never known for being an amazing actor or anything like that but he brings his own unique style of comedy to things, which only makes sense in his movies.

A lot of Brooks regulars were also in the film. I'll always give kudos to Madeline Kahn's performance as Empress Nympho, which remains one of the funniest roles in the movie. I mean seriously, how else could you turn the selection of men for the nightly orgy into a bouncy musical piece? Yes, yes, pun intended there as well.

There are a whole lot more notable comedians involved in the movie to varying degrees including Dom DeLuise as Emperor Caesar, Harvey Korman as Count de Monet and other cameos including Bea Arthuer, Gregory Hines and the best narrator of all, Orson Welles.

Sure, the story is stupid and the comedy is rather low brow but that's exactly what makes this movie great. It marked a completely different era of comedy that relied a lot more on the writing. These days you tend to get stuck with gross out, sexual comedies that rely on shock value and vulgarity to try and get a laugh. I miss movies like this.

Oh, and the movie has had its own significant impact on our social history along with key phrases like "It's good to be the king" creeping into conventional usage here and there.

History of the World: Part I is an epic comedy in itself and it's not easy to sum it up in a couple of paragraphs. It's just plain funny and worth a viewing no matter how old the movie may seem to be. This is comedic writing as it should always be - smart, witty and essentially timeless.

History of the World: Part I gets 5 mighty joints out of a possible 5.

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