History of the World---Part I (1981)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Parody/Spoof, Slapstick, Absurd Comedy  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

History of the World Part I is the kind of uneven comedy whose bad parts are so unworthy of its good parts that it creates a state of total schizophrenia. As those who shook their heads at the sputtering ending of Blazing Saddles will attest, Mel Brooks can be brilliant in stretches, but he often fills the gaps with eye-rolling idiocy, or simply ceases to try. Give him credit for making an ambitious parody with dozens of familiar faces hamming it up, but then take some away for the indifferent execution that falls away progressively as the movie moves forward. As usual with Brooks, the silly puns and other obvious jokes are sometimes quite winning; in a prime example, the director wrings genuine laughs from a scene in which a confused Jesus Christ keeps responding to the modern usage of his last name as an expletive. But he milks the winners for way too long. As the king in the French Revolution piece, Brooks winks at the audience and pronounces, "It's good to be the king" after engaging in one act of kingly lasciviousness after another. At first it's funny, but as the segment drags out interminably, it quickly becomes desperate, and groans soon follow. The film is worth a look for what it does right, including a priceless sequence in which the inimitable Madeline Kahn, as the Brooksian-named Empress Nympho, does a sing-songy selection between studs on the basis of their endowment. Still, it's definitely best that Brooks never tried a Part II.