History of the World: Part I Review

Mel Brooks has taught the world a lot. He has introduced us to the invention of music when a caveman dropped a rock on another’s foot. He has told us the true story of the 15… err, 10 commandments. He has informed the world of Hugh Hefner’s real backstory, and when the centerfold was invented. And wouldn’t you know it, but the Spanish Inquisition was played out with music and synchronized swimming.

Wikipedia doesn’t tell you any of that though, does it?

History of the World is a spoof, but not of Hollywood epics or a genre unless you stretch it and consider this a parody of the classic costume drama. This is a brilliant, satirical take on human history, or at least the sheer idiocy of it.

History moves quickly, passing through a brief 2001 parody, into the dawn of man. Flirting with other primitives, Brooks brings the audience into the Roman Empire, where a wonderfully flamboyant, over acting Dom DeLuise plays Nero. There is more than enough material in ancient Rome to carry the entire film, but Brooks comes back strong with the infamous Spanish Inquisition musical number. Offensive and catchy, it remains a highlight of this funny man’s career.

Brooks pushes a bit, leading into the French Revolution where the jokes fizzle out, even if it is good to be king. In a weird way, no one uses a certain four-letter word better than Brooks, utilizing shit (whoops) better than any other film comedian. When the use dies out in the final act, so does a bit of the marginally offensive charm. The horny King Louis is amusing, yet not laugh out loud funny.

After literally making it to the end of the film, one gag remains, the inevitable in-joke about a sequel that will never be made. Jews in Space would undoubtedly be an epic, as the brief trailer shows us, yet here we wait nearly 30-years later and it has yet to happen. Human history wouldn’t be complete without it.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

History of the World is a surprising stunner on Blu-ray. Fox has produced a wonderful, crisp, clean AVC encode for this underrated comedy classic. In the dark caveman scenes, detail is immediately apparent, from faces to the rock texture on the wall. Shadow delineation is superb.

Once into the bright outdoor environments of Rome, the somewhat pale color is the only notable complaint. The transfer brings out the texture of the concrete in the background cleanly, without distortion or softness. The canopy’s in the market show a wonderfully defined pattern, and even some light stitching.

The Roman troops leather armor and helmets are amazing, gold trim flawlessly delineated, and small marks on the chest plates easily visible. The slave auction has onlookers in the distance cannot just be seen, but are identifiable. The Last Supper walk-in remains a finely detailed sequence as well, especially the robes. The Inquisition, with the same level of texture in the environments, is equally impressive.

Into the French Revolution, thick foliage dominates, and remains truly wonderful to look at. Individual leaves are evident, and the encode has no problem handling the thousands of them in outdoor environments. The King’s quarters, with exquisite gold-trimmed furniture, is a marvel to see in hi-def. The grain structure is fine and inoffensive, and while black levels are not inky deep, they provide an adequate level of depth and dimension. The print itself suffers from few nagging flaws, limited to minor specks.

Video ★★★★☆ 

While the opening theme music is a troublesome cue for this DTS-HD mix (a compressed mono mix is also available) with a terribly strained, fluttering high end, other musical numbers are fine. The Spanish Inquisition is surprisingly full, with crystal clear lyrics and distinct instruments.

While the surrounds may be dead for entire film, the stereo channels play a significant part. As characters pass on screen, there is a clear side-to-side movement evident. The chase sequence in Rome makes full use of this. Dialogue is fine, maintaining a clear level of fidelity with no distortion.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Musical Mel is the first of the bonus features, a 10-minute look at Mel’s musical background and how it influenced him. Making History is a short making-of, again around 10-minutes, that delivers the basics and little else. A pop-up trivia track offers the actual history of the events unfolding on-screen, while an isolated, uncompressed score and trailers remain.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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