Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blazing Saddles (1974)

I feel like I watch Mel Brooks movies all the time, yet somehow I've never reviewed one here. Huh. Blazing Saddles is probably my favorite of his rather large body of work because, well, it's pretty great. After clonking his racist boss Taggart (Slim Pickens) on the head with a shovel, black railroad worker Bart (Cleavon Little) is sentenced to death by power-hungry politician Heddy "That's Hedley!" Lamarr (Harvey Korman). He manages to escape his fate when Lamarr and the asinine Governor William J Lepetomane (Mel Brooks) appoint him sheriff of Rock Ridge, a small western town that Lamarr hopes to blaze a section of the railroad through after everyone's deserted due to their natural hatred of Bart's race. Bart takes the job, and appoints drunken sharp-shooter Jim "The Waco Kid" (Gene Wilder) as his deputy. He gradually wins over the closed-minded townspeople as he continually outwits the various sabotages launched at him by Lamarr and Taggart, including a German seductress named Lili Schtupp (Madeline Kahn), and eventually everyone has to band together to save the town from the greedy Lamarr.

God, where to start... this movie is just straight-up hilarious, with a good mix of visual gags, silly puns, anachronistic references, fourth-wall breaking, and clever dialogue. I love Mel Brooks, but he's definitely a bit hit-and-miss. Sometimes his humor is a little outdated or hokey, especially some of his sight gags, but with Blazing Saddles I really think every came together perfectly. It's a pretty cohesive story (something that is sometimes sacrificed in his other movies) with an ever-quotable script, interesting characters, and a killer opening song. Plus, it's a western! So there are gun fights! And corsets! And horse-punching! And Hollywood studio tours! While I know some people are frustrated by the off-topic, utterly fourth-wall-breaking ending, I appreciate that Brooks just lets everything get totally wacky- it suits the tone of the film and everything is still wrapped up nicely. Plus how else would he fit in the Dom DeLuise cameo?

Of course, it helps that the cast is compiled of some truly excellent comedic actors. I'm a little bit in love with Gene Wilder (ok, maybe more than a little) and this is one of my favorites of his roles. He's got this great easygoing line delivery and smooth demeanor that's impossible not to like. I love the crazier versions of Wilder, but this kind of low-key performance is a nice way to mix it up. Cleavon Little is rad, giving Bart a likable zaniness and natural charisma. Naturally Madeline Kahn is just radiant and funny as she works twice as hard as her male counterparts. She's always so fun to watch, and as usual steals any scene she's in. Other standouts include Harvey Korman as the ranty Hedley Lamarr, who's constantly correcting pronunciations of his name (a joke I never tire of) and Brooks himself as the incredibly idiotic and lecherous governor with aims at the presidency.

So there you have it. I love this movie. It's got jokes, the wild west, Gene Wilder, and it says no to racism. These are all things I appreciate. Plus I can quote it pretty darned well, resulting in periodic interior moments of me replaying a scene in my head and subsequently chortling to myself. Ah, what an exciting life I lead!



  1. I absolutely love this movie, with a dying passion. If I had the will I'd have put it and Young Frankenstein in my top 100, but I debated it too much.

  2. This is one of my favorites, and proof that I love my girlfriend, because she just doesn't get Mel Brooks, and I haven't fled screaming from her. Probably because she likes the Madeline Kahn parts.

    This one's a true classic, one of the best spoofs of Westerns and probably the best race comedy, for lack of a better word- it never gets serious.

  3. Sometimes I like to imagine this movie with Richard Pryor in the lead, as originally planned. COULD IT HAVE SAVED HIS LIFE.

  4. You have impeccable taste, F2! I tend to favor "Young Frankenstein" over "Blazing Saddles" purely because the former is one of his most sophisticated -- if Mel Brooks can BE sophisticated -- and complete films. Scene for scene, though, I'd say there is no funnier movie that "Blazing Saddles." And the really crazy thing about it is that every time you watch it (I must be up past 100 viewings now) you noticed something different: the "Gucci" label on Slim's side saddle, the "phony baloney jobs" comment, etc.

  5. My dad showed me this film and I wasn't sure at first but I really loved it haha what a clasisc.

  6. This film is in its 4th decade now, and while I don't watch it every year, or perhaps even every 5, it's still a laugh-out-loud exercise.

    Hopefully, Gene Wilder's START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME has found its way into your viewing.

  7. Chuck: I haven't seen REVOLUTION yet though it's been on my list for a while! I love Gene Wilder but there are still a few films of his I haven't gotten to.