History of the World, Part I appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not flawless, the transfer held up well after almost 30 years.
Sharpness consistently seemed strong, with only a few instances of softness to be found during the movie. Some wide shots looked slightly ill-defined, but none of these examples caused concerns. All were brief and minor, so the majority of the flick appeared crisp and distinctive. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. In addition, the film suffered from only a smattering source flaws. Other than a handful of specks, it looked clean and fresh.
Colors seemed nicely bold and accurate, with some especially lush and rich reds on display at times. All the hues looked quite good and were quite lively. Black levels were dark and deep, and shadow detail seemed appropriately opaque without any excessive heaviness. This was a consistently positive transfer.
Expanded from the original monaural track – which also appeared here - the film's DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio provided pretty solid pizzazz. Granted, the soundfield didn’t reinvent too many wheels, as it remained moderately limited. However, music showed fairly nice stereo spread, and the soundscape opened up a bit. Most scenes just contributed some ambience – such as during crowd scenes – but a few were more expansive. With its Star Wars-style audio, “Jews In Space” gave us the most involving material.
Though a bit dated, audio quality was usually fine. Speech occasionally sounded a little dull, but the lines remained natural most of the time and seemed perfectly intelligible. Effects showed acceptable range and clarity; they didn’t excel, but they were fine. Music fared pretty nicely, as the score was reasonably vivid and concise. While nothing here dazzled, the audio was more than acceptable given its age and origins.
How do the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to the
prior DVD? Both offered improvements. I thought the previous mono track seemed dull and flat, so the new 5.1 mix gave us more dynamic material. The visuals also demonstrated greater tightness and vivacity; while the DVD looked very good, it couldn’t compare to the Blu-ray.
While the DVD included virtually no extras, we get a smattering of elements on the Blu-ray. First comes a featurette called Musical Mel: Inventing the “Inquisition”. In this 10-minute, 40-second show, we hear from writer/director Mel Brooks, composer/lyricist Marc Shaiman, composer John Morris, Broadway director/choreographer Susan Stroman, choreographer Alan Johnson, Sledge Hammer! producer/creator Alan Spencer, writer/actor Rudy De Luca, associate producer Stuart Cornfeld, and actor Dom DeLuise. We learn a little about the film’s “Inquisition” scene and the creation of the musical number. Though we get too much generic praise of Brooks, we find a few decent notes about the song.
For the second featurette, we find the 10-minute, four-second Making History: Mel Brooks on Creating the World. It presents notes from Brooks, Spencer, Cornfeld, and De Luca. We learn a bit about various gags, cast and performances, sets and locations, and the flick’s reception. The other Brooks Blu-rays tend to provide longer featurettes, so I don’t know why World came with such a short one. Yeah, “Musical” compensates, but “Creating” still seems awfully brief and superficial. It throws out a smattering of useful details, but don’t expect much from it.
A subtitle commentary comes next. The Real History of the World Trivia Track gives us background about the periods/events depicted in the movie. It also tells us a little about cast and crew. Other Brooks trivia tracks tended to balance the two areas better, whereas this one doesn’t offer much about the film’s production. It’s a decent way to get some historical information, but it’s not as good as the other commentaries.
Movie music fans will be happy to find an Isolated Score Track. This presents the music in DTS-HD MA 5.1. If you dig film scores, you’ll be interested in this bonus.
Finally, we get a collection of trailers. The DVD includes ads for High Anxiety, History of the World Part I, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Silent Movie, To Be Or Not to Be and Young Frankenstein.
History of the World Part I stands as a perfectly dreadful flick. If there's any fun to be found in this clunker, I must have nodded off during those scenes. The Blu-ray itself provides very good picture and sound along with some interesting extras. Unless you're an absolutely fanatical Mel Brooks fan, skip this one, as it isn't worth the effort.
Note that this version comes as part of the nine-movie “Mel Brooks Collection”. It also includes The Twelve Chairs, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, To Be or Not to Be, and Robin Hood: Men In Tights. The “Mel Brooks Collection” packages all nine movies together with a hardcover book for a list price of $139.99.
To rate this film visit the Mel Brooks Collection review of HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART I