“There is one thing standing between me and that property — the rightful owners.”
A corrupt politician (Harvey Korman) hoping to build a railroad through the town of Rock Ridge plots to drive out its racist, ignorant inhabitants by appointing a black man (Cleavon Little) as sheriff — but Little enlists the help of an alcoholic gunslinger (Gene Wilder) in fighting back against Korman.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Gene Wilder Films
- Mel Brooks Films
- Satires and Spoofs
Response to Peary’s Review:
While I disagree with Peary’s sour take on Mel Brooks’ delightfully irreverent debut film The Producers (1968), I’m in full agreement with his review of this follow-up western satire, which may have been “an enormous hit” but remains “graceless and stupid”, with “humor” that’s “crude, rude, obvious, repetitive, [and] self-impressed”. Peary writes that “scenes are like clunky Carol Burnett Show routines combined with stilted burlesque revue acts”, and argues that “Brooks consistently relies on either raunchy humor or anachronisms to get laughs”; the fact that the film’s “most famous scene has cowboys breaking wind around [a] campfire” indicates the level of humor generally at work. While it’s true that Brooks “shows no fondness for the western genre”, even worse is how his attempt to satirize racism falls completely flat: he shows us African-Americans (referred to repeatedly as “N*ggers”) and Asian-Americans (“Chinks”) being treated worse than animals, with the intention that we’ll laugh at how absurdly ignorant these bigoted white townsfolk come across — but the satirical “pay-off” is far too facile, and doesn’t begin to make up for having to sit through such offensive behavior and language.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder as Bart and Jim
- Occasional snippets of humorous dialogue:
Korman: What’s your crime?
Little: Stampeding cattle.
Korman: That’s not much of a crime.
Little: Through the Vatican?
No; this one is only recommended for Brooks fans.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)