History of the World, Part I

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History of the World, Part I
History of the World poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mel Brooks
Produced by Mel Brooks
Written by Mel Brooks
Narrated by Orson Welles
Music by John Morris
Cinematography Woody Omens
Edited by John C. Howard
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 12, 1981 (1981-06-12)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million[2]
Box office $31.7 million[3]

History of the World, Part I is a 1981 American anthology comedy film written, produced, and directed by Mel Brooks. Brooks also stars in the film, playing five roles: Moses, Comicus the stand-up philosopher, Tomás de Torquemada, King Louis XVI, and Jacques, le garçon de pisse. The large ensemble cast also features Sid Caesar, Shecky Greene, Gregory Hines (in his film debut), Charlie Callas; and Brooks regulars Ron Carey, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Andreas Voutsinas, and Spike Milligan.

The film also has cameo appearances by Royce D. Applegate, Beatrice Arthur, Hugh Hefner, John Hurt, Phil Leeds, Barry Levinson, Jackie Mason, Paul Mazursky, Andrew Sachs and Henny Youngman, among others. Orson Welles narrates each story.

Despite carrying the title Part 1, there is no sequel; the title is a play on The History of the World, Volume 1 by Sir Walter Raleigh, as detailed below.


The film is a parody of the historical spectacular film genre anthology, including the sword and sandal epic and the period costume drama subgenres. The four main segments consist of stories set during the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition, and the French Revolution. Other intermediate skits include reenactments of the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Last Supper.

Previews of coming attractions[edit]

The end of the film presents a teaser trailer for History of the World, Part II, narrated by Brooks, which promises to include Hitler on Ice, a Viking funeral, and Jews in Space, and a parody of Star Wars.

Despite the preview, no sequel has been released, and the “Part I” of the film’s title is merely a historical joke[4] (The History of the World was written by Sir Walter Raleigh while prisoner in the Tower of London; he had only managed to complete the first volume before being beheaded).[5]



According to Splitsider, Richard Pryor was considered for the role of Josephus.[6]


Box office[edit]

History of the World, Part I was a box office success, grossing $31.7 million from a $10 million budget. It grossed $4.8 million in its opening weekend, finishing second at the box office.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

The film currently holds an approval rating of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 26 reviews.[7] However, it is generally regarded as one of Brooks' lesser films, Roger Ebert describing it as "a rambling, undisciplined, sometimes embarrassing failure".[8]


  1. ^ "History of the World Part 1 (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. July 22, 1981. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  2. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989, p. 259
  3. ^ a b "History of the World, Part 1". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 2, 2016. 
  4. ^ Brooks, Mel. "Director Trademark: Mel Brooks". Retrieved on August 11, 2010.
  5. ^ "Sir Walter Raleigh". Britishexplorers.com. September 30, 2000. Retrieved February 21, 2012. 
  6. ^ Evans, Bradford (September 1, 2011). "The Lost Roles of Richard Pryor". Splitsider. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  7. ^ https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/history_of_the_world_part_i
  8. ^ Roger Ebert, "History of the World Part 1" review, January 1, 1981

External links[edit]