Blu-ray
Recommended
3 stars
List Price
$24.99
Amazon
$9.66 (61%)
3rd Party
$7.54
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3 Stars
Supplements
0.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
1.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

History of the World Part 1

Street Date:
May 11th, 2010
Reviewed by:
Nate Boss
Review Date: 1
June 13th, 2010
Movie Release Year:
1981
Studio:
20th Century Fox
Length:
92 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition...to be a song and dance number!

I can't imagine a proper introduction to Mel Brooks' 'History of the World: Part I,' I really can't. How does one breach the topic of a film that covers the history of mankind, through a farsical lens? Possibly Brooks' most ambitious film, 'History' is wide reaching, honest, and yet, at the same time, so horribly twisted that it is probably more real than we'd like to believe.

Narrated by one of the greatest men in the history of film, Orson Welles, 'History of the World: Part I' tells the tale of mankind, through numerous historic events, from the dawn of man, a key Biblical moment, to Roman times, the Last Supper and the Spanish Inquisition, to the French Revolution, to possible events in the future. A slanted eye and ability to accept obvious mistruths is required, but for those willing to believe what they see, a great treasure is waiting.

What makes 'History of the World: Part I' different from other Brooks film is tone, in that it has a more serious sense of humor, put into context, of course. This isn't a fish out of water comedy, but a bizarro-world of sorts. What makes it funny is that it is believable, from Cesar's non-chalant half-eaten chicken throw (which has to be the best moment in the film, just for its legitimacy), to the mannerisms of the cavemen, so unaware of the workings of the world around them. The entire film takes a modern approach to history, with altered sensibilities and gags and speech patterns and phrases not becoming of their time. One could battle the Spartans at Crete, but to fight the Cretins at Spart sounds much more enjoyable!

Brooks staples Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Ron Carey, and Rudy De Luca star, while Gregory Hines does a great job with little time to rehearse, an emergency fill in. Multiple actors play numerous roles, including Brooks, who stars in every segment he's in. There is no fluff in the film, as it runs an incredibly taut hour and a half. Frankly, the film is amazing, talking about it is silly, as it's much better to experience it, and with no better way to put it, you'd have to be a eunuch to not get a rise out of the film.

When invited to Rome, we see a land of fools and...greater fools, and it's hard to imagine our society not being looked at (ahem, mocked) in the same way some two thousand years from now. From corruption to invention and politics, old time Rome seems more a take on the modern world, yet it translates well to also fit the world of excess found in the history books, perhaps one of Brooks' best bits of writing in his storied career.

The Disc: Vital Stats

'History of the World: Part I' was initially available exclusively in 'The Mel Brooks Collection' box set, but has been given a standalone release for those not interested in buying all nine movies. The disc is identical in every way, down to the numbers on the barcodes on the underside of the disc, just like 'High Anxiety' and 'Robin Hood: Men in Tights.'

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

With a 2.35:1 1080p AVC MPEG-4 transfer, 'History of the World: Part I' benefits from the jump to high definition, though not as drastically as other releases in the set.

From the start, in dark cave shots in the early man sequences, delineation issues pop up, with sparse shadow detail. The rocks in the sets have fine detail, as does the sandy ground the actors trod along. Aliasing is not an issue, even in the large blocks of Rome. Whites are clean, while colors are natural, if not slightly subdued. The picture is quite deep, to boot.

Not all is well, though, as some shots have a hazy/soft appearance along the edges, slightly reminiscent of 'The Final Countdown,' while other shots have serious haloing issues, so thick and dark that they cannot be missed. Brightness can flutter in shots, while matte paintings stand out due to their dullness compared to the rest of the picture. Soft shots are occasional, though few and far between, while dirt is kept to a minimum. A solid transfer, though far from sparkling.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

With a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (along with a pile of Mono tracks in varying languages, including English), 'History of the World: Part I' is more or less passable, nothing to get excited about.

The opening moments of score had my hopes up, but they quickly came crashing down as the sound built, with no bass to be found. Trumpets in the title sequence were robust, thankfully, not shrill. Dialogue is comprehensible for the most part, though Moses' lines sound muffled from time to time. Ambience is light, and far too low, considering how crowded many scenes are, especially in Rome. There's no rear activity to speak of, even in the most crowded of rooms or streets. There were a few moments of localization spread across the sound stage to justify calling this track a 5.1 mix. 'History of the World: Part I' is no frills, and somewhat cheap sounding, even for its age.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The lone extra found on the DVD release of 'History of the World: Part I' was the theatrical trailer, which is also included on this release. The remainder of the extras are new and exclusive to this Blu-ray.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

The majority of the extras on this release are exclusive to the Blu-ray.

  • Musical Mel: Inventing "The Inquisition" (HD, 10 min) - A look at Brooks' musical talent, with his thoughts on how cruel the lyrics can be and still get away with it. Nearly every inch of the musical number for the Inquisition is hit, even if briefly. A great paced feature that's definitely worth a look.
  • Making History: Mel Brooks on Creating the World (HD, 10 min) - The story behind an emergency casting, with interviews discussing inspirations and experiences on set. Plus, stories about the great Orson Welles, something I can never get enough of.
  • The Real History of the World Trivia Track - A track full of historical content, mostly pertaining to the parody of events on screen. Attributions on cameos and inaccuracies are also listed, as well as homages to other films and novels. A solid track, though a bit sparse.
  • Isolate Score Track - The John Morris score gets the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 treatment.

Final Thoughts

'History of the World: Part I' is a great, great film. Sure, it's a tad scatterbrained, but it's so easy to get into, with tons of humor and a story far more coherent than any straightforward film covering the history of mankind could be. With good video and audio qualities added to the mix, this one would have been a definite purchase, but the small pile of extras limits the value on this disc. It's still worth a look at the very least, and is definitely worth a purchase for fans who didn't buy the box set.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD50 Dual Layer Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English Mono
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, French Text, Spanish, Spanish Text, Portuguese, Portuguese Text, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin

Supplements

  • Theatrical trailer

Exclusive HD Content

  • Making of feature
  • Trivia track
  • Isolated Score

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List Price
$24.99
Amazon
$9.66 (61%)
3rd Party
$7.54
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»

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