After last week’s review of the atrocious Red Zone Cuba, I now take a change of pace with one of my favorite movies, Blazing Saddles. While I would probably appreciate it more if I were a fan of westerns, I still view it as a clever and hilarious satire of the Old West and one of the building blocks of comic legend Mel Brooks’ career.
This film is about corrupt Attorney General Hedley Lamarr, who finds out that a railroad being built has to go through a town called Rock Ridge. When the attacks he arranges fail to get everyone to leave, Lamarr convinces the Governor to appoint a black Sheriff, believing that the townspeople will either leave in protest or kill the Sheriff, either settling things for Lamarr or going a long way towards that.
This Sheriff is Bart, played by Cleavon Little. He proves to be a quite energetic and funny comic actor. As a character, he’s a guy who, despite being on the receiving end of the racism of the Old West, saves the town he’s charged with policing and eventually earns the respect of his people. His deputy, Jim is played by the always awesome Gene Wilder. Jim is a former gunslinger who was nicknamed the Waco Kid and appears to be the only one in town who isn’t (at first) racist. Probably because as a wondering cowboy, Jim must have met a lot of strange people, so Bart’s skin color isn’t as big a deal to him. Harvey Korman is a great comedic villain as Hedley (not “Heddy”) Lamarr. He caricatures Hollywood villains in many ways, such as him laughing so long and hard that he starts coughing. Other notable actors include Madeline Kahn and Dom DeLuise.
What makes Blazing Saddles work is how effective the humor is. The problem with reviewing comedies is that taste in them is so subjective that it can be difficult to effectively critique them without giving too much away. I’ll just say that this film brilliantly satirizes the Old West. All kinds of western cliches ranging from gangs of desperadoes to the ride off in the sunset are parodied My favorite line: “I spun around. and there I was face-to-face… with a six-year-old kid. Well, I just threw my guns down and walked away… little bastard shot me in the ass!”
It’s no secret that Mel Brooks loved to push the envelope. Here we have satirizing of the racism of the old west. Brooks does it here, complete with a number of uses of the “N”-word. Hey, they did talk like that back then. Still, one wonders why it hasn’t made this movie more controversial. Because it was so good? Or maybe it’s because the movie is parodying racism. Or both.
If you haven’t seen Blazing Saddles, you really should. It’s every bit as hilarious as everybody says it is.
Overall: 9 out of 10