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Blazing Saddles (1974)

  Directed by: Mel Brooks
Written by: Mel Brooks
Starring: Mel Brooks, Harvey Korman, Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder
Links: Blazing Saddles on the IMDb, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 7.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Blazing Saddles (1974) is also mentioned in mino's review of Shrek 2 (2004).

"A comedy potpourri" - a review by mino

The comedies of Mel Brooks are fairly divisive. Many of us grew up on his films, and can recite slabs of them off by heart, much as we can with, say, Monty Python movies: others, who perhaps don't have those memories, think that they're juvenile crap.

In a way, they're both right. I think having seen these movies a hundred times adds quite a rosy tint: not only is the memory prone to gloss over the weaknesses of the films, but a lot of Brooks' comedy just seems dated — old-fashioned yuks that just seem out-of-place these days. However, the fact is that when it comes to old-school vaudeville laughs, Brooks is a master, and not many do it better than he. Sure, there's a childish element to the humour which can sometimes grate, but there is also guaranteed to be some rather sophisticated comedy that, if you write the movies off as lowbrow trash, you'll miss. Really, Brooks' movies have a bit of everything: slapstick for thems what likes slapstick, crude sexual humour, great visual gags, fart jokes, some of the most wonderfully groan-worthy puns ever, fantastic characters, razor-sharp banter — the works.

Blazing Saddles is the story of Bart, a negro working on a chain gang back in the days of the Wild West. Sentenced to hang for making trouble, Bart is rescued by the Machiavellian beaurocrat Hedley Lamarr (the wonderfully evil Harvey Korman), who wants to appoint the nation's first black sherrif — not out of benevolence, but in order to drive the townsfolk of Rock Ridge out of town, enabling him to snap up the land.

What follows is probably not Brooks' best work, but it is very funny. It's probably the fart jokes and sexual humour which most peole remember, but they're really not the best parts. What makes the movie is the fantastic characters, and their very funny interactions. While Cleavon Little is great as Sherrif Bart, the real star of the show is most certainly Brooks favourite Gene Wilder as has-been gunslinger The Waco Kid. Wilder puts in one of his best performances here, and provides a good chunk of the laugh-out-loud comedy to be found in Blazing Saddles. It's easy to forget how good Wilder is as subtle, understated comedy — he plays his characters almost dead straight, and his low-key performance is truly fantastic. He's not hindered, either, by the fact that Brooks gives the Kid the best lines (“Then, one day, I hear ‘Reach for it, mister!’. I spun around, and there I was, standing face to face with a six-year-old kid. Well, I just laid down my guns and walked away. Little bastard shot me in the ass.”).

As always with Brooks, there are quite a few noteworthy minor roles too, like Madeline Kahn, who puts in a very memorable turn as saucy cabaret artist Lili Von Shtupp, and the equally memorable performance from Dom DeLuise as a camp Hollywood choreographer (don't ask).

Blazing Saddles is never going to win any awards as the most sophisticated intellectual comedy going around, but for a 30-year-old slapstick-filled gagfest, you could certainly do a lot worse. It won't appeal to everyone, but I still laugh hard every time I see it.

mino gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 4 May 2004

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