Movies Worth Rewatching – Blazing Saddles

This week on Movies Worth Rewatching we’re talking about the outrageously over-the-top Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles (1974, Warner Brothers Pictures).

I honestly can’t recall the first time I saw Blazing Saddles.  My father, who to this day laughs so hard at this film he nearly chokes, is a huge fan of Mel Brooks and would regularly watch this film as I was growing up.  With that in mind, it would be a safe assumption that the first time I saw Blazing Saddles I was too young to be watching it.  I was also WAY too young to understand its blatant attacks on ignorance and racism.

Blazing Saddles, like so many of Mel Brooks’ films, is all over the place story wise.  The film follows our hero Black Bart, played by Cleavon Little, as he struggles against the racism of the small frontier town of Rock Ridge as their new “black” sheriff.  Gene Wilder costars as Jim “The Wakko Kid,” a former gunslinger turned drunkard, and Harvey Korman as the dastardly evil Hedley Lamarr, an attorney general with plans to exploit Rock Ridge for his own financial gain.  The film is full of genre nods to the old hollywood westerns, most of which are turned on their heads to point out the often racist nature of their “fantasy” retelling of the settling of the west.

So, how does it hold up today?

Blazing Saddles is outrageously fun to watch!  From beginning to end, this film is full of the sight gags, songs and raunchy humor that make a Mel Brooks film what it is.  The script is smart and edgy, but never allows itself to be taken too seriously by way of all the low-brow fart jokes and intentionally uncomfortable stereotype references.  The cast is stellar, with some of the funniest actors of the time working beautifully together.  Special mention goes out to Madeline Kahn as the man-killer Lili Von Shtupp and Slim Pickens as the frontier moron Taggart.  Oh, and did I mention it’s funny?  Like, laugh out loud because you just remembered one of its scenes while standing in public funny?  ‘Cause it is.

Blazing Saddles excels as a hysterical love letter and parody of the western film genre, while simultaneously calling westerns of old (and America as whole) out on their subtle and not so subtle racism.  I often find Blazing Saddles gets lost amongst Mel Brooks’ large and quite awesome filmography, usually being overshadowed by the likes of Young Frankenstein or The Producers.  Although I’m a huge fan of both of those films, and most of Brooks’ body of work, I always find myself returning to Blazing Saddles before any of his other films when I really want that Mel Brooks experience.  For me, Blazing Saddles is THE quintessential film of Mel Brooks’ long and hilarious career.

The Library of Congress selected Blazing Saddles for preservation in the National Film Registry back in 2006, and it’s easy to see why.  Mel Brooks, the team of writers behind the script (which included Richard Pryor and Andrew Bergman) and the incredibly talented cast of the film all push the envelope of comedy in the best possible way.  They shine a light on the truths of society we all recognize but are often too embarrassed to comment on or correct, but, viewer be warned, they do all of that in an unapologetically rude and abrasive fashion.  Blazing Saddles is full of intentionally distasteful dialogue, racial slurs and sexual references (and I watched this film when I was in grade school?).  The film literally goes out of its way to earn an R rating from the MPAA.  If all that’s not a deal breaker for you, I highly recommend you check out Blazing Saddles for yourself.  It’s available on Blu-ray and DVD and is definitely worth your time and money.

Blazing Saddles is the best kind of offensive I can think of, aka, a typical Mel Brooks film.

by Mel Dale


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4 Comments on “Movies Worth Rewatching – Blazing Saddles”

  1. Geeks Who Play Outside May 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    This is a very awesome movie I saw Blazing Saddles for the first time when I was like 19. I have a friend who is obsessed with this movie and he finally wore me down to watch it and I loved it! But a movie I love and watch as often as I can this I suggest you give a look see, is Harlem Nights with Eddie Murphy, Red Fox, and Richard Pryor as well as a host of other funny black actors of the 80’s and 90’s. If you haven’t seen this movie you are so missing out! you will be rolling!! And you will love it as much as I loved Blazing Saddles for the first time.

    Panther Prowl

    “Live long and Prosper in the Force of Rock On Awesome!”

  2. trickyfly May 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    One of the Greats!

  3. jonsuther May 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Great pick. Love that movie.

  4. Richard W Scott May 14, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    This is one of those films that I watch over and over. I’m a fan of all of the cast members (including Alex Karras as Mongo), and could not agree more that this is a masterpiece symphony of film art. Yes, the jokes lean to the crude side, but I believe, as you do, that they do so for a reason. Certainly Mr. Brooks has had his share of bullying.

    I put this film into my “short stack” of comedies that I watch on a regular basis. These include “Princess Bride” (I wore the sound track off of two VHS copies before getting the DVD), Delirious, Young Frankenstein, Zero Effect and Captain Invincible,

    As always, I enjoy your in-depth looks at films.

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