comedy, movie, movie review, western

Flashback Review: May 15th, 2014 Movie – Blazing Saddles

blazing saddles

Ahh, one of my favorite westerns of all time. I remember the first time I saw this movie years ago as a kid and I will admit that I did not get many of the jokes. However, the farting scene for some reason stuck in my head and made me laugh. Now I would have the chance to watch this many times since then and as I got older, I was able to understand more of the jokes which made this movie even funnier. Now I had this movie on DVD but it was one of the movies my ex-wife had bought so when she left and took her DVD’s with her, I made sure to pick up my own copy of Blazing Saddles as soon as I could.

The plot: In the Old West of 1874, a group of workers are busy laying down a new rail line but the workers aren’t too fond of the overly racist crew giving them orders. When the foreman, Taggart, sends two black workers, Bart and Charlie, ahead as there were reports of quicksand in the area. Bart and Charlie drive a hand cart down the line and end up stuck in quicksand and when they call out for help, Taggart and his assistant use a rope to save the hand cart, leaving Bart and Charlie to fend for themselves. As they manage to crawl to safety, Taggart figures out where they will need to re-route the railroad line and orders his assistant to send a telegram with the information but Bart grabs a shovel and hits him in the head. At the office of Attorney General Hedley Lamarr, Taggart is telling him of the new route through the town of Rock Ridge and Hedley decides to take advantage of the situation to try and grab the land for himself so he will be rich. When he tries to figure out a way to get rid of the townsfolk, Taggart says he and his men can ride through town, beating and raping everyone in town, and Hedley agrees to let him do it. When he notices Taggart is injured, Taggart tells him about Bart and Hedley speaks to the executioner and squeezes Bart in to be hanged on Monday. Taggart and his men do just as they say and the townsfolk hold a meeting to figure out what they should do. Roused by the gibberish of Gabby Johnson, they decide to stay in town and wire the governor to send them a new sheriff. At the Governor’s office, Governor Lepetomane is going over the days business and when his assistant hands him a telegram from Round Rock asking for a sheriff, he assigns Hedley to send them a sheriff. Not wanting to hinder his plan by sending someone competent, Hedley notices Bart in line to be executed and comes up with an idea. Sparing Bart, Hedley takes him to see the governor, who is shocked at Hedley’s suggestion but Hedley says that by being the first man to hire a black sheriff, Lepetomane would become famous and could manage to swing a cabinet position. Geared up for his new job, Bart heads out to Rock Ridge and the townsfolk start to give him a warm welcome until they realize what color his skin is. When Bart starts to read the notice from Lepetomane about his appointment, the townsfolk all pull guns out and point them at him and he is forced to pull out his own gun and hold himself hostage in order to fool the people into letting him get into the sheriff’s office alive. As the day passes and Bart gets settled in, the drunk in one of the cells starts moving and Bart introduces himself. As he helps the drunk out, the man introduces himself as Jim a gunslinger once known as “the Waco Kid”, and the two share a brief history of each other. Meanwhile, Taggart and his men learn about the new sheriff, but not his identity, and decide to send Mongo, a large, dim-witted brute, to kill him. The next day, Bart heads out to make the rounds, trying to win the town over, but is disheartened by their constant insults. When Mongo rides into town and starts beating up the people in the saloon, Bart heads out there to deal with him, using a box of exploding candy to knock Mondo unconscious. Later, Taggart is with Hedley saying he doesn’t know how Mongo failed to kill the sheriff and Hedley decides to use a different tactic to beat Bart. Back in Rock Ridge, the townfolks start to warm up to Bart, though they try to keep it secret from everyone else, and Jim decides to take him to see Lily Von Shtupp perform. Unknown to him, Hedley has approached Lili, whom he has used before to seduce people, and has told her to seduce and leave Bart in order to reduce him to an emotional wreck. After her performance, Bart is given a note to see Lili back stage and he ends up staying the night with her but the next day, it is revealed that Lili is the one that has become enamored with him and tries to get him to stay with her. When Bart returns to the sheriff’s office, Jim tells him that a telegram came ordering Mongo to be released per Hedley’s orders. Bart wakes up Mongo, he easily breaks the chains holding him, and tells him he is free to go but Mongo doesn’t want to leave, as he likes Bart since he is the first person to beat him in a fair fight. Bart and Jim asks Mongo if he knows why Hedley is interested in Rock Ridge and Mongo says it has to do with the “choo-choo”. Bart and Jim head to where the railroad tracks are being laid out and Charlie and the others are happy to see Bart is still alive but are shocked when he tells them that he is the sheriff of Rock Ridge, as Charlie tells him that the railroad is going through the town. When Taggart and some of his men show up and try to kill Bart, Jim quickly shoots their guns out of their hands and they are forced to run away. Hedley and Taggart tie up Lili to question her about what went wrong and when she says that Hedley will need an army to beat Bart and Hedley decides to do just that. In Rock Ridge, the townsfolk learn about the army recruitment and want to leave town but Bart convinces them to give him 24 hours to find a way out of this. Sneaking in to where Hedley is interviewing people, Bart and Jim disguise themselves as a pair of KKK members but when Bart’s skin tone is revealed, they are forced to run. Sneaking into the railroad camp, Bart and Jim tell Charlie to get all of the workers and gather supplies, then meet him outside of town. At the meeting place, Bart explains to the townsfolk that they are going to build an exact replica of the town in order to fool Taggart and his army, with the railroad workers helping in exchange for some land to call their own. The townsfolk don’t want to at first but realizing they have no choice if they want to survive, they agree. In the morning, the decoy is finished but they realize that they forgot to include people so Bart, Jim, and Mongo go to stall Taggart’s army while they quickly build some people. With the decoys finished, everyone watches as Taggert’s men head into the fake town. Bart goes to blow up the town but the detonator fails so he has Jim shoot the dynamite to set them off. With Taggart’s men disoriented by the explosions, Bart leads the townsfolk to fight with the ruffians as the camera pans up to show them in a Hollywood sound stage. On another stage, a musical number is being filmed when the fight breaks through the wall of their set. As the director yells at the men, Taggart punches him and the men in the musical join in the fight. The fight spills into the studio cafeteria, where people start throwing pies at each other. Hedley happens to be at the cafeteria and when he sees what is going on, he quickly ducks out of the building, though not without getting hit by a pie himself. Hailing a cab, Hedley heads to a theater and goes to watch a movie, only to see Bart riding up to the theater on the screen. Hedley tries to leave but Bart confronts him and after Hedley tricks him into dropping his gun, Bart manages to avoid getting shot and kills Hedley. Jim comes up and congratulates Bart on killing Hedley, and the two decide to get tickets to see how the movie ends. In the movie, Bart is leaving the town, much to the townsfolk’s dismay as they have grown to love Bart, but Bart says that With Hedley dead, the town has become boring and doesn’t really need a sheriff anymore. As Bart leaves town, Jim decides to go with him and the two ride off for a ways until the meet up with a limousine and hop inside and are driven away into the sunset.

Blazing Saddles met with mixed reviews initially but has since come to receive high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Daring, provocative, and laugh-out-loud funny, Blazing Saddles is a gleefully vulgar spoof of Westerns that marks a high point in Mel Brooks’ storied career.” CBS and Warner Brothers would produce a TV series titled Black Bart as a means to keep the broadcast rights for Blazing Saddles and any future sequels but the episodes were never aired (aside from the pilot that starred Louis Gossett Jr.) and when management changed within Warner Brothers, the plans for a sequel were dropped and the unaired show was canceled, though 4, 6-episode seasons had been filmed. The movie was a smash hit at the box office, earning $119.6 million off of a $2.6 million budget and would receive three Academy Award nominations. Widely considered to be one of the greatest comedies of all time, the movie would end up selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2006.

Let’s not mince words here, there is some racist humor in this movie but it is still an incredibly funny movie to watch. The acting was great, with Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder doing great jobs as Sheriff Bart and Jim respectively. I also thought that Harvey Korman was fantastic as Hedley Lamarr while Slim Pickens was great as Taggart. The story had a deeper meaning beyond the comedy, using satire to highlight the issue of racism that existed in the past and how it was “overlooked” when Hollywood made movies about the Old West. Yes, Mel Brooks was pretty blunt with the racism but that was to prove his point and actually did help with some of the comedy. The comedy was Mel Brooks usual blend of quick wit, play on words, and slapstick that worked to almost pure perfection in this movie. It may seem dated and is definitely crude but this is still a great comedy and one worth watching.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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