Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I

I love this movie! Definitely one of the top comedies of the 70’s.

Anyway, the Part I at the end of the title: was that part of the joke, or did Mel Brooks intend to make a Part II?

NOTE: At the end of Part I, there’s a “preview” for Part II that is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t mean that Mr. Brooks couldn’t have intended to make a Part II at some point.

And now for some apropos of nothing favorite quotes from that movie:

SOLDIER: Hey Josephus!

JOSEPHUS: Hey motherfucker!



Hey Torquemada, whaddya say?

I’ve been away at the auto-da-fé!

Auto-da-fé? What’s a auto-da-fé?

It’s what you oughta not do… but you do anyway!

Did you recognize John Hurt (Caligula, Ollivander, S.R. “Wanna take a ride?” Hadden) as Jesus?

My favorite moments are “the first critic” (in which Mel gave old boss Sid Caesar a job), “These fifteen… ten, ten commandments!” and “don’t get saucy with me Bearnaise!”, though the Inquisition number is what I always have to watch whenever I catch it surfing.

Some gays were offended by Howard “Ernest T. Bass” Morris (one of Brooks’ closest friends and another Sid Caesar veteran) as Faggus, the Court Announcer in Rome, but by that time he’d insulted Jews, blacks, philosophers and everyone else, we were due. As for the Part 2, there may have been one planned but Part 1 was a flop financially due in large part to the number of huge movies released around the same time (Arthur, On Golden Pond, Cannonball Run, Tarzan, etc.).

PS- LOVE Jackie Mason (when he was down and out in real life between being big in the 60s and his 80s comeback) in the Inquisition number.

*Auctioneer: Where are you from?
Josephus: Ethiopia
Auctioneer: What part?
Josephus: 125th Street. *

A fun but erratic movie. The French Revolution piece fell flat for me. This movie started the downward slide for Mel, I think.

Just so you can get the whole joke, that SOLDIER is named Oedipus (you know, the original motherfucker).

It’s not a soldier at all. Oedipus is walking along, blind, with a sign around his neck saying “Alms for Oedipus. Alms for Oedipus.”

One of the films you love or hate, it seems. I loved it and can’t help but watch it anytime it’s on. I wonder if the style just wasn’t right for the time, as noted above with the other films that overshadowed it. (Though, as much as I like Connonball Run, this was better IMO. Arthur just kicks everyone’s ass so it shouldn’t be used in comparisons.)

I could see a Part II at some point. If Part I is used as a strict template for style, it’s possible, if the right people collaborate on it. I saw this movie first when I was about 9 and never forgot the excitement I still feel when I see the “previews” of Part II. Sadly, with the current entertainment formulas, it may never be able to live up to the predecessor. But there is just so much to work with.

Too many great scenes and lines. But I love the segment of Gregory Hines rolling a fattie and “stoning” the Roman Centurians.

*Narrator: * *And of course, with the birth of the artist came the inevitable afterbirth - the critic. *
It was a hit in some Latin American countries, so much so that other movies of Mel then got the “History of” attached to the title of his movies.

So Spaceballs became: “La Loca Historia de las Galaxias”!* The Crazy History of the Galaxies!

  • A reference to Star Wars, that was called “Guerra de las Galaxias” (War of the Galaxies) in Spanish.

[Our heroes escape wearing Trojan disguises]
Alchemist - Need something?
Roman Soldier - “I’m looking for a pack of Trojans”
Alchemist - “Sorry, I’m fresh out”

As wonderful as the line “Don’t get saucy with me Bernaise” is, I agree that the French Revolution piece fell flat, and since it follows much stronger segments, and since they ended on it, it really just brings the movie down.

I always thought there should have been more and shorter segments. Part of the reason the film feels so uneven, is just that it really is uneven. I’ve never timed it, but the Rome segment and the French segment are HUGE then there’s a bunch of other fun little numbers, particularly at the beginning.

Even if those two segments were trimmed just a little and there was a third segment with the same weight, with the fun little numbers scattered throughout, I think that would have felt better. Things make more sense to me in 3’s. To have just two major segments, with the other skits scattered, always felt weird and poorly planned to me. So much importance was placed on the Rome segment, why not just make an entire film set in Rome???

Better still, I think would have been to have a few quick bits in the first 15 minutes then have about 5 segments weighted almost equally at 10 to 15 minutes each with quick stuff in between. For this concept, I really think a better format would have been the format followed for Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask.

Still, a very funny movie.
Flawed, but funny. I’ve enjoyed many viewings, and I just got the Mel Brooks DVD Box Set and watched it again very recently. I always laugh at stuff I missed before, and always laugh at stuff I laughed at the first time.

Did you bullshit this week?
Did you try to bullshit this week?

Oh come on!

*Execution Execution Execution Execution, whew, tough guy!

Your majesty, you look like the pissboy!

The peasants are revolting! You’re tellin’ me, they stink on ice…*

Not to mention Brooks’ Best. Line. Ever.

It’s good to be the king…

I never noticed that aspect of the joke. Thanks for pointing it out!

Oh, sorry. My memory is a little hazy.

Second best line: [don’t remember the lead up, something from Louis XIV about how he’s sovereign of France and as such loves his people]- “PULL!” (skeet shoots a slung peasant)
We’ve seen Mel Gibson’s take on the subject. Mel Brooks’s Passion of the Christ might be interesting as well.

Agreed the French Rev isn’t as funny but it has it’s moments.

Cloris Leachman/French peasant: We charge you with being an enemy of France!
other peasant: frahnce…
Cloris Leachman: FRAHNCE!

“Andy you look like a bucket of shit!”
“Count dee Money”
“Du Moh-nay… du moh-nay!”

(One disappointment over a missed opportunity: after several “count deh money”/“du Moh-nay” corrections I was hoping when they screamed “off with his head” du Monet would say “It’s Headley!”

Jews in Space was really high tech for the time as I recall.

The French Revolution scene, didn’t it also have all the peasants laughing like Maurice Chavalier?

Unemployment Lady: What is your occupation?
Roman: Philosopher.
Unemployment Lady: Did you bullshit today? Did you try to bullshit today?

That joke doesn’t work if you pay attention to the credits. Why would anyone pronounce “Monet” as “money”? Now, if it had been “Monee”…

Mel Brook’s film previous to History of the World, Pt. I was the brilliant Hitchcock parody, High Anxiety, which had been preceded by the brilliant slapstick of Silent Movie, which in turn was preceded by the one-two punch of Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

I think Brooks took a look at the changes in comedy in the late 1970s brought on by Saturday Night Live and Cheech and Chong. When ZAZ came along with Airplane!, I think he got nervous that he’d met his match in terms of genre parodies, and tried to jump on board with the more contemporary, underground stuff. His filmmaking is clearly not as confident here as in his previous work, and suffers as a result.

Some funny moments, but none of the sustained lunacy of his best work.

Better than that:

"Did you kill anyone this week? Did you try to kill anyone this week?

Bea Arthur can be so droll…

“We are so poor, we cannot even afford a real language. All we have is this stupid accent.”

(from memory, may not be exact quote)

With* the Producers* as an exception, Mel just can’t write a good ending to a film, they just peter out.