Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blazing Saddles (Brooks. 1974)

"Have you gone berserk? Can't you see that man is a ni?....."

I have to admit that there will be some films on the 1077 Films to See Before You Die that I will never want to watch again. In fact, I would bet that there are several hundred films on this list I will never want to see again. Blazing Saddles is NOT one of those films. A personal favorite of mine since JR High, Mel Brook’s comedic masterpiece is one of the most re-watchable films ever made. Though it may not be as funny as it used to be, it is still one of the funniest and most controversial films in American history.

When I say that Blazing Saddles is not as funny as it once was, I am not really being honest. The film is still as hilarious as it was upon release in 1974. The reason I WANT to say it is not as funny is because the style of humor is sophomoric, offensive, slapstick and very silly. Mel Brooks is the first of many comedic directors who could get away with anything. He incorporates several offensive racial slurs throughout the film that nobody was able to get away with at the time. How did he avoid trouble? He simply shrugged his shoulders and said “meh, it doesn’t offend me.” And people followed his lead.

Blazing Saddles follows that story of a corrupt political boss and his desire to commandeer the town of Rock Ridge. He sends his henchman into the town in an attempt to make the peaceful western community unlivable. After the sheriff is murdered, the townspeople ask the governor for a replacement. Governor Lepetomiane, brilliantly played by Mel Brooks, is pressured into appointing the first ever black sheriff to the western territory. This is just another attempt to render the town helpless, but Black Bart becomes a more than formidable adversary.

The film has absolutely no structure, but that is what makes it so hilarious. Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens and Harvey Korman all show that they have impeccable comedic timing as they perfectly embody their goofy characters. But the most memorable, and only Academy Award nominated, performance in Blazing Saddles is given by Madeline Kahn. She plays the promiscuous and sultry saloon singer, Lili Von Shtupp. She may not have a ton of screen time, but she will leave you in stitches.

Blazing Saddles is a prime example of everything coming together perfectly. Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor wrote a brilliant script, the cast portrays undeniable comedic chemistry and the humor is silly enough to remain timeless. So sure, maybe I don’t find myself laughing at the baked bean scene anymore, but you will still find a million things to laugh at in my favorite comedy ever made. This is a classic comedy that everyone should see. You may be offended, but Mel did that on purpose. 6 films down. 1071 to go.

Blazing Saddles: A-

My Next Film.....Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstien. 1925)

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