Classic Movie Review: Blazing Saddles (1974)

Posted: October 11, 2015 in Comedy
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In 1874, in the old West, Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) finds out a railroad has to be diverted through the town of Rock Ridge.  Lamarr wants to buy the land where Rock Ridge is built, but he has to drive out the people first, in order to buy the land.  He comes up with an idea to drive out the residents by offending them, the idea is to replace the recently deceased sheriff with a black sheriff, and have the people leave in droves.  Former railroad worker Bart, (Cleavon Little) is saved from a hangman’s noose, and made sheriff by Lamarr and Governor Lepetomane, (Mel Brooks) much to the chagrin of the townspeople, who try to shoot Bart, as soon as he comes to town.  Bart escapes harm, and with the help of a washed-up drunk gunslinger named Jim (Gene Wilder) wins over the townspeople.  Lamarr then sends in the heavy artillery, a mountain of a man named Mongo (Alex Karas) to intimidate Bart, but Bart and Jim win Mongo over too.  Lamarr then tries beauty to persuade Bart to leave town, in the form of German chanteuse Lilli Von Shtupp, (Madeline Kahn) but Lilli falls for Bart.  But Lamarr is undaunted, he has one last trick up his sleeve.  Does it work, or do Bart and Jim vanquish Lamarr once and for all?

Most movie critics think that Young Frankenstein is Mel Brooks best work, but I think Blazing Saddles is a much funnier and much more daring movie.  The idea of a black sheriff in the old west is a pretty edgy idea and this movie never ever plays it safe, but goes for big laughs with every joke, and the jokes deliver, most of the time.  There are plenty of running gags, like a bad guy named Hedley Lamarr, and how Hedley corrects everyone who calls him Hedy. There are anachronisms like Bart carrying a Gucci saddle bag, and Count Basie playing as Bart enters Rock ridge. There are so many iconic scenes in this film, the flatulence scene, Mongo punching a horse, Bart riding in to Rock Ridge to absolute silence, as the townspeople ( all named Johnson) realize he’s black.  The Busby Berkeley  choreography scene interrupted by a western fight scene, it’s all hilarious.  There are even a few jokes stolen from Bugs Bunny.  But, if you’re easily offended, you will find some of the language not to your liking, but relax, this movie was co-written by Richard Pryor and Mel Brooks, two of the funniest people in modern history, and they manage to offend everyone, equal opportunity outrage.

The acting is great.  Cleavon Little is perfect as Bart, so hip, so cool, so totally in charge of every situation that I can’t think of anyone better suited to play the role.  Gene Wilder who was the lead actor in Young Frankenstein, ably plays a sidekick here, something he would do again with great success with Richard Pryor in Silver Streak.  Harvey Korman is the perfect bad guy, a slimy worm named after an old time female movie star constantly plotting and scheming, and getting huge laughs.  Madeline Kahn, another of Brooks’ favorites does a perfect Marlene Dietrich from Destry Rides Again, and steals every scene she’s in.

The direction is fabulous, Brooks really milks every scene for maximum humor. The pace never slows down, jokes, jokes and more jokes, and he gets superb performances from everyone.

Blazing Saddles: Saddled with tons of laughs.

  1. Raviananda says:

    Blazing saddles. There may not be a movie that I quote more in my everyday life than this one. I agree that this movie is daring, especially for the time it was made. I am grateful though, for in our overly PC world, I’m not sure if this movie would have gotten released today. This movie in my opinions is Mel Brooks’ finest work. The jokes in this movie are present in exponential form. One joke just trips over the other to the point where almost every line is a punchline. The older I get, I find more and more people that have not seen this movie, and it breaks my heart. My father made sure this movie was a part of a balanced breakfast as a child, and I think that should never stop being the case. This movie is timeless and will most definitely be a part of my children’s diet, or else they will be disowned.

    • I love this movie, because there are so many laughs and no subject is off limits. What a cast! Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn doing her best Marlene Dietrich, Gene Wilder, and Clevon Little, perfect casting.

      Dom DeLouise cracks me up when they do the Busby Berkley satire, that scene would be “controversial” today.

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