I remember seeing History of the World Part 1 in the cinema. I can’t remember if I’d already seen Blazing Saddles, but I remember enjoying this at the time. It’s probably not his best work, though.
It opens with some Prehistoric Man stuff. I think that’s Brooks’ old TV boss Sid Caesar. (It just took me about six goes typing Sid Caesar’s name there, as I kept making the weirdest typos.)
Moses brings down the commandments. “I bring you these 15” – drops a tablet – “These 10 commandments.”
There’s an uncredited Bea Arthur as an unemployment clerk.
Madeleine Khan is brilliant as the Empress Nympho.
Gregory Hines plays an escaped slave.
There’s some lovely Matte Paintings supplied by the great Albert Whitlock.
John Hurt plays Jesus at the last supper.
And Leonardo Da Vinci is there to capture the event on canvas.
The action moves to the Spanish Inquisition, with another great Matte Painting.
Brooks plays Torquemada. “Let’s face it, you can’t Torquemada anything.” This is one of the big musical numbers.
He’s not in the credits, but this looks very like Desmond Llewellyn. But the credits say it’s Ronny Graham.
This is definitely Jackie Mason.
Now it’s over to the French Revolution, and Mel Brooks regular, the wonderful Cloris Leachman.
This film was made in the UK, so there’s a number of British faces, including Bella Emberg.
Another Brooks regular is Harvey Korman. “Don’t be saucy with me, Bernaise.”
Mel Brooks plays the King. “It’s Good to be The King”
Pamela Stephenson plays Mademoiselle Rimbaud
Spike Milligan plays her father.
There’s a big ending.
Also, Coming Soon, Jews in Space.
Well, overall, I like the production values, but if I’m honest, the comedy is a little too lowbrow. Perfect for my younger self, though.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 15th December 1993 – 22:20
Next on this tape, something a little more obscure, a horror film called Motel Hell. It opens with a United Artists logo.
Now, I only mention this because only two days ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about how I hated the habit, which started in the early 70s, of big corporations buying movie studios, and then slapping the corporation name all over the studio logos. And this one was the one I specifically mentioned. United Artists was a long-standing studio, formed by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, a company with a proud movie history. Who gives a fuck about ‘Transamerica’? Then or now? And don’t get me started about AOL Time Warner.
The film itself sees Rory Calhoun as Farmer Vincent, who makes meat goods.
There’s a couple of young girls who, for a change, are cute, not scary.
Farmer Vincent goes out at night and shoots passing motorcyclists. He targets a couple, kills the man, but the woman survives, so he takes her home and seems to want her to stay at the farm.
The local health inspector comes snooping around, and he discovers something gruesome hidden on the farm. Vincent has been taking the people on the roads and burying them alive, with their vocal cords cut.
John Ratzenberger plays a member of a band, who are all captured by Farmer Vincent.
Legendary DJ Wolfman Jack not only plays himself on the radio, but also plays a TV evangelist.
This really is quite poor. It’s like a warmed over Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s slightly comic tone undercuts any possible scares. And if there were any doubt that TCM was a touchstone, Farmer Vincent turns up at the end in a pig mask wielding a chainsaw. Even worse, the creepy, very rapey young sheriff appears to be the hero, rescuing the heroine who’s strapped to a conveyor belt heading for the meat slicer.
After this, there’s a couple of behind the scenes featurettes. First, Noises Off, Peter Bogdanovich’s film version of Michael Frayn’s farce.
Featuring performances by Michael Caine.
Nicolette Sheridan appears to spend most of the film in her underwear.
Frankly, the whole film looks a bit shouty.
After this, another featurette for The Remains of the Day. Directed by James Ivory.
Starring Emma Thompson
and Anthony Hopkins
Ismail Merchant was the producer, James Ivory’s longtime partner (in life too as well as work, something I only discovered this year).
Screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.
One of the producers is Mike Nichols – usually better known for comedy.
Also appearing in this film (as well as the last one) is Christopher Reeve.
I have to say, this is the most spoileriffic featurette. It appears to cover most of the film’s events.
After this, there’s the start of an Abbott and Costello movie, Dance With Me Henry.
- Bold Ultra
- Pedigree Chum
- trail: The X Files
- trail: Far and Away
- behind the scenes: Noises Off
- trail: Mini Series in February
- trail: Tonight on the movie channels