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 Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)

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scherpschutter
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PostSubject: Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)   Sun May 30, 2010 11:57 am

BLAZING SADDLES

1974 – Director: Mel Brooks – Cast: Cleavon Little (Bart), Gene Wilder (Jim, the Waco Kid), Madeline Kahn (Lili), Mel Brooks (Gov. Le Petomane/Indian Chief), Harvey Korman (Lamarr), Slim Pickens (Taggart), Dom DeLuise (Buddy), Alex Karras Mongo), Jack Starrett (Gabby Johnson), John Hillerman, David Huddleston, Liam Dunn, Anne Bancroft, Count Basie

Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks’ legendary western spoof, was made in the mid-seventies, when political correctness was not yet an issue. It offers not only farting cowboys and Yiddish speaking Indians, but also racist town folk and spicy jokes about blacks, Germans, Jews and Irish. They don’t make ‘m any more like this, neither the film nor the jokes.

Brooks knew a spoof needs a series of recognizable genre elements. Therefore Blazing saddles is about a railroad, a land grabber trying to frighten decent people of their land, an unsuspected hero helping the defenceless against the wicked, and a alcoholic gunslinger seeking redemption. Does that all sound familiar to you? It should, but in the hands of Mel Brooks and his fellow scriptwriters (one of them was Richard Pryor) these over-familiar elements serve to tell one of the most bizarre stories ever told about the Frontier.

It goes (more or less) like this: The route of the Railroad has to be changed because it ran into quicksand, and will now go through a frontier town called Rock Ridge, where all inhabitants are called “Johnson” (Don’t ask me why). Hedley Lamarr (Hedley, not Hedy) plans to drive the Johnsons out of their homes with the help of a bunch of ruffians, led by the clumsy Taggart (played by a particularly funny Slim Pickens). When the townspeople ask the governor to appoint a new sheriff, Lamarr tells him to pick a convicted black railroad worker for the job. He reckons the townspeople will be so offended by the sight of a black man appointed as their sheriff, they will abandon their houses, or sell them for a few bucks.

As usual in comedies, nothing goes as planned. The new sheriff is no fool (and besides he has no other place to go) and manages to outsmart Lamarr’s first secret weapon, Mongo, an incredible muscle man who, when addressed by a man on a horse, knocks out the horse, and Lamarr’s second secret weapon, the seductive singer Lily von Shtupp (the Teutonic Titwillow!). With the help of an embittered gunslinger, formerly known as The Waco Kid, he manages to scare off the rest of Lamarr’s men. Then Lamarr assembles an army consisting of the biggest scum anyone can find on the face of this earth, that is (in Lamarr’s words): “rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, half-wits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists”. In other words: the final battle for Rock Ridge will be a fierce one!

Despite the familiar story element, Blazing Saddles is more a series of burlesque vignettes than a movie, a true fusillade of jokes, some funny, some not so funny. When you watch it for the first time, it may seem rather incoherent and flattened out by too much surrealist ‘weirdness’, such as the appearance of Count Basie & his orchestra in the middle of the desert. Madeline Kahn’s Marlène Dietrich parody is far too protracted and some of those post-modern tricks (acors talking to the audience for example), thought to be very hip in the seventies, come off as heavy handed today. But some other jokes, like the farting cowboys, the cardboard set the townspeople trick the villains with, and sheriff Bart’s arrival in Rock Ridge (the new sheriff is a Ni *BOING!) have become part of the collective memory of mankind. The end is particularly fine, with the movie literally breaking through the walls of the studio, debouching into a another movie, a musical (directed by Dom Deluise!), and absorbing the cast of it: the final battle between the townspeople and Lamarr’s army continues, but is gradually ‘corrupted’ into a Laurel & Hardy kind of pie fight.

It’s often said that Blazing Saddles was a favorite of John Wayne. When he was offered a role in it, he refused because of image problems, but he said he would be one of the first to buy a ticket. I don’t know if this is true, but I sure do like the story.


References:

* Philip French, Westerns, Revisited version, 2005 Manchester
* Paul Simpson, The Rough Guide to westerns
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PostSubject: Re: Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)   Sun May 30, 2010 5:31 pm

Grat film - and again thanks for the review (I should post one myself)!
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PostSubject: Re: Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)   Sun May 30, 2010 5:34 pm

scherpschutter wrote:

Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks’ legendary western spoof, was made in the mid-seventies, when political correctness was not yet an issue. It offers not only farting cowboys and Yiddish speaking Indians, but also racist town folk and spicy jokes about blacks, Germans, Jews and Irish. They don’t make ‘m any more like this, neither the film nor the jokes.
Agreed - you would automatically be called a racist, nazi, fascist, communist, pornstar... whatever!
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PostSubject: Re: Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)   Mon May 31, 2010 8:09 pm

scherpschutter wrote:

Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks’ legendary western spoof, was made in the mid-seventies, when political correctness was not yet an issue. It offers not only farting cowboys and Yiddish speaking Indians, but also racist town folk and spicy jokes about blacks, Germans, Jews and Irish. They don’t make ‘m any more like this, neither the film nor the jokes.
Even today, I doubt Brook's would be bothered much by political correctness; after all, he did make "The Producers"!
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PostSubject: Re: Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)   Fri May 10, 2013 2:09 am

I love this western. I liked it the best when the Wehrmacht and everybody else was going to attack Rock Ridge.
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