Doodad Kind of Town

Hey Torquemada, Whaddya Say?
June 20, 2010, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yeah, I know all about Mel Brooks. His shtick is relentless, over-the-top and tasteless in the extreme.

But, damnit, the man makes me laugh.

I spent some time with my Dad today watching a significant chunk of AMC’s Mel Brooks Marathon, mostly “History of the World, Part 1.” It’s loaded with cheap gags and cameo appearances by old-school comics, and it’s not the Best of Brooks by any stretch of the imagination. But I yukked it up at the French Revolution section anyway, especially Harvey Korman endlessly hissing at underlings who addressed him as Count Da Money (“Count De Monet! Mo-nay!”) I know it was a retread of the running Headley Lamarr/Hedy Lamarr joke in “Blazing Saddles,” but it still worked for me.

And this Spanish Inquisition sequence shows us what Brooks does best. Whatever else you might say about him, Mel Brooks knows how to turn out a hummable Tin Pan Alley-esue tune, and how to stage a musical number with a dizzying blend of shameless vulgarity and old-fashioned razzle-dazzle. This number is the best and funniest thing in “History of the World Part 1” and it foreshadows the the kind of dead on, delirious, everything-but-the-kitchen sink musical euphoria that Brooks and director/choreographer Susan Stroman would later bring to the stage musical version of “The Producers”. Enjoy.

6 Comments so far
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History of the World, Part 1 is one of those movies that I know doesn't rank with his best work and further know has lots and lots of bad jokes in it, but things like the Spanish Inquisition sequence or Harvey Korman still make me laugh everytime.

Comment by Greg

Yep, me too, Greg.Mel is always Mel – even when the jokes are bad, he just has this way of being able to sell them.

Comment by Pat

"It's good to be the King!"That one line will forever define my memory of HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1, though for the most part it's a decent enough comedy, with the usual hits and misfires. Brooks made one supreme masterpiece (THE PRODUCERS) and one near-masterpiece (BLAZING SADDLES) though YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN has so many adherents. I was not much of a fan of Stroman's Broadway stage version of THE PRODUCERS, as for the most part I found the score pedestrian (music more than lyrics). It did have it's moments though. Brooks was always a hit and miss guy (not nearly the equal of Woody Allen in the pantheon of American comedy) but with THE PRODUCERS he crafted one of the greatest satiric comedies of all time, a feat not equaled by Woody Allen, even with his own greatest films.I did love the French Revolution section of HISTORY as well and the musical Spanish Inquisition bit is a hoot, clearly as you note the high point of the film.That's great that you got to watch this with Dad, Pat! You make me want to put the film in the DVD player myself!

Comment by Sam Juliano

Sam -I quite liked "The Producers" on stage myself – saw it twice on Broadway (although, sadly, never saw Lane and Broderick) and once when the first national tour stopped in Chicago. As a lover of the original film verion, however, you should check out the memoir of late film editor Ralph Rosenblum: "When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins: A Film Editor's Story." He worked with Brooks on "The Producers," and the tightness and econonmy of that film all came from him; he repeatedly cut out Brooks' extended schtick and groan-worthy gags, explaining to him that the real laughs were in the parts he left in. I'd agree, but Brooks was furious and never let anyone else edit his films again.Interesting, too, is that virtually every gag that Rosenblum cut out of the film wound up restored in the stage version.

Comment by Pat

Pat: I will definitely check out Rosenblum's treatment. Sounds like an essential piece.I know I am in the severe minority with the stage musical of THE PRODUCERS as I am with the Broadway HAIRSPRAY. It could well have been the mood I was in when I attended, but I'll admit there were some fine aspects in it, and can't at all blame you for your high regard. I think I was in part trying to prove that I didn'y love ALL musicals! LOL!

Comment by Sam Juliano

Hey Pat.Great movie review website. History of the World Part 1 is a classic. Love it.Sorry to send this through your comments but I could not find any other way to contact you. We just launched a movie ranking site, and many movie bloggers are signing up. At RG you can create a profile with a description of and quality link to your site.At RG, the users create categories, ranking movies in their favorite categories and browse other members rankings to discover movies they did not know. Hope you will come check it out and join.

Comment by Rankography

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