Blazing Saddles (1974)

“There is one thing standing between me and that property — the rightful owners.”

Synopsis:
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:

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?
    Korman: Kinky…

Must See?
No; this one is only recommended for Brooks fans.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Blazing Saddles (1974)”

  1. A once-must, mostly for the performances.

    Having now revisited Mel’s 3 most successful films (in terms of how they work as films), it seems ‘BS’ does trail behind the other two.

    As I recall when I first saw it in the theater, timing was everything here. The film was (and is) so politically incorrect that I think average audiences got swept up in its ridiculousness. Alas, though moments of it remain effective (and some are very funny indeed), ‘BS’ has not stood up as well as ‘The Producers’ and ‘Young Frankenstein’.

    That said, it’s still enjoyable seeing how these particular actors throw themselves into the material – esp. Cleavon Little, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman and Slim Pickens. I also love Dom DeLuise in his brief role as the movie musical director near the end. (Gene Wilder is less memorable because he’s not actually called on to do much.) Overall, this is not classic comedy at a potent level, but it’s clear the cast is having fun and that makes it all watchable.

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