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Fox Home Entertainment presents
History of the World: Part I (1981)

"It's good to be the king."
- King Louis XVI (Mel Brooks)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: April 21, 2006

Stars: Mel Brooks, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman
Other Stars: Cloris Leachman, Ron Carey, Gregory Hines, Pamela Stephenson, Andreas Voutsinas, Shecky Greene, Sid Caesar, Mary-Margaret Humes, Orson Welles
Director: Mel Brooks

MPAA Rating: R for (adult language and content, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:32m:10s
Release Date: April 04, 2006
UPC: 024543167495
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

After stumbling a bit with High Anxiety, Mel Brooks sought a return to form in 1981's History of the World: Part I. What he came up with is a film that, to me, is second only to Young Frankenstein, in Brooks' comedy canon. Beginning with the dawn of Man, History of the World: Part I is Brooks' take on the course of civilization. He looks at the Spanish Inquisition, complete with a great dance number; the French Revolution; and the Roman Empire, which makes up most of the film. It's in this extended sequence where Brooks and company utilize their slapstick talents, shedding a whole new light on this period.

The hilarious and stellar cast is led by Brooks, himself, but Madeline Kahn steals every scene she's in. As Empress Nympho, Kahn's incomparable wit is only one of her valuable assets—she could carry the movie with her facial gestures alone, coming up with some amazingly funny, spontaneous reactions. Gregory Hines is almost as memorable, showing off his famous tap dancing skills as well as his nice comedic timing. Brooks wears many hats in front of the camera, but he is best as Louis XVI. His sheer raunchiness and lack of inhibition make this his most memorable role. Still, a greater dose of Kahn, Hines, and the rest of this topnotch ensemble, could have made the film even more hilarious.

The large scope of History of the World: Part I is its greatest appeal. By stretching the setting out over a long time and many places, we get a film that is almost a passion piece for the comedian. Despite the age of the film, nearly all of the jokes hold up in 2006, a sign of Brooks' genius.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a revelation, especially when compared to the look of the film in its previous home video incarnations. Each image is crystal clear, with vibrant colors dominating each and every frame. Previous transfers were overly soft, with muted colors, and excessive print flaws. The new pristine presentation is virtually flawless, allowing History of the World: Part I to look as good as new.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is surprisingly impressive as well, keeping everything up front, but exhibiting a rather wide dynamic range, and crisp dialogue.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extra is the film's theatrical trailer.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

The Mel Brooks Collection wouldn't be complete without History of the World: Part I, one of the filmmakers' funniest, most ambitious projects. The wait for it on DVD has paid off, as the new video transfer is revelatory, given its nicely polished look.


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