Thursday, 19 April 2012

History Of The World: Part 1 (1981)

History can often be a dull, dry subject. So any movie covering the history of the world is something that you may approach with some trepidation. Knowing that the movie is written and directed by Mel Brooks, however, puts a very different spin on things.

Taking potshots at a few different chapters in history, from the days of the caveman to the days of the Roman Empire and from The Spanish Inquisition to the French Revolution, we get the usual scattershot approach. Gags of all varieties fly thick and fast and if you find yourself groaning at one then don't worry because another, that you'll probably laugh at, will be along within a couple of minutes.

The cast are all superb, and many of them will be familiar to anyone who has already enjoyed other movies from Mr. Brooks. The writer-director himself takes on a number of roles, Gregory Hines really enjoys himself in his first cinematic outing, Dom DeLuise and Madeline Kahn are as much fun as they usually are and more laughs are delivered by Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Spike Milligan, Pamela Stephenson, Sid Caesar and Shecky Greene.

A lot of the jokes are obvious, but not necessarily less funny because of it, and it's quite reassuring to actually see the old "walk this way" gag. There are so many little treats throughout that it's hard to select favourite moments to mention in this review but the undeniable highlight for me, however, was seeing The Spanish Inquisition given the glossy, Hollywood, musical number treatment (with absolutely wonderful and hilarious lyrics AND a catchy melody).

It's sad to think that modern audiences may only know Brooks for such films as Robin Hood: Men In Tights and Dracula: Dead And Loving It when his work in the 70s and early 80s contains moments of sheer brilliance to set it on a par with any other classics that you can think of. This movie may not be one of his very best but it's full of enough intelligence and wit to make you glad that you gave it a watch.


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