How It Should Have Happened – A review of History of the World Part 1 (1981)

by Cesidia on October 5, 2011

thumbnailBeing a big fan of Mel Brooks, I have seen most of his movies. The collection would not be complete without History of the World Part 1, a comedy that spends most of its time making fun of every aspect of history rather than creating a story line. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s funny enough without one, not to mention it could be kind of difficult to cover thousands of years and stick with just one story line. There are parts in the movie that do have a plot, but most of them poke fun of human civilization. Whether it is the cavemen becoming the first artists, or even Moses and the 15 (err…10) commandments, Mel Brooks creates scenes for you to literally laugh out loud.

One of the major parts in the movie is the Roman Empire section. Here we have the first glimpse of a real story line. Comicus (Mel Brooks), a stand up Philosopher, is unemployed and having trouble finding work. His agent ends up landing him the main room in “Caesar’s Palace”, which ironically looks almost like a hotel… On the way they befriend a Vestal Virgin, Miriam (Mary-Margaret Humes), and slave (Gregory Hines). Josephus, the slave, is about to be sent to the Colosseum, and in effort to escape his fate he tries to show that he can be an entertainer and does a tap dance. He then hits a roman citizen and now the police are after him. Just as they are about to take him away Empress Nympho (Madeline Kahn) enters and spares his life. A Mel Brooks film is not complete without Madeline Kahn starring in something. She has the best comedic timing and is a great actress in general. It’s sad that she died early. For me, it’s her character that makes this part. Whether it’s her crazy voice or her witty lines, I can’t help but smile when she’s on the screen. Unfortunately she does not show up in any of the other ages in history. The four manage to escape Rome after being chased by the soldiers after a bad show in front of the emperor. It ends with Comicus being a waiter and being painted, well, sort of, into the picture “The Last Supper”.

The other part that really contains a story line is the French Revolution. Here it is basically about King Louis XVI (Mel Brooks) and his quest to get with essentially every woman in the vicinity of the palace. Count de Monet (Harvey Korman) brings the peasant’s revolution to the king’s attention and they decide that finding a stand-in for the king while he goes into hiding is the best way to save the king. They get the Jacques – the garçon de pisse – (also Brooks, no wonder they look alike) to dress up as the king. As they are finishing up explaining everything to him a woman from the kingdom, Mademoiselle Rimbaud (Pamela Stephenson), comes up saying she will sleep with the king so he will free her father, as the real king promised her. Jacques, confused but more understanding than the king, signs a release form for her father without wanting any sexual favor. Jacques is almost beheaded for being King when he is saved by Miracle, a horse that saved the 4 characters during the Roman Empire.

At the end of the movie, Josephus, Jacques, Mademoiselle Rimbaud and her father ride of in the distance to “The End” (A huge rock with the words “the end” carved into it) of the movie.

Overall I thought this movie was pretty funny, some parts more than others. The story lines Brooks created were hilarious. Even the ones that didn’t really follow a story line were funny, like the Spanish inquisition. The song reminded me of Brooks’ older movie, The Producers with the classic song and dance. The nuns were a funny touch too. As much as I liked this movie, it’s not one of his best. It’s not that it was bad, there are just ones that are better. It had the comedy but I would much rather prefer Robin Hood Men in Tights or my all time favorite The Producers.

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