very easy to dismiss the Mel Brooks canon if
you grew up knowing him as they fellow who inflicted
Dracula: Dead and Loving It or
Robin Hood: Men in Tights on an
unsuspecting populace. That’s not Mel Brooks.
Nor is the recent Hollywood hard on for The
Producers a fair barometer of the man’s
contributions to comedy.
Brooks is Young Frankenstein.
Mel Brooks is The History of the World,
Part One. Mel Brooks, God bless him…
is Blazing Saddles. After a rather
lame snapper case offering that I and many people
like me gladly plunked down our dough for a
few years ago, Blazing Saddles
is celebrating its 30th anniversary
with a nicer, cleaner, and more respectful DVD
this a classic in name alone or does the Mel
Brooks magic still hold up in its fourth decade
nice to get a film to review now and then that
is all pleasure and no bullshit. Even the really
good films and shows demand you to peel back
the layers and find more than just the superficial
bells and whistles [though admittedly I tend
to not get too into the subtext because I’m
either dumb or don’t want to bore you]. Blazing
Saddles has a load of depth, especially
for its time and while most of the jabs, zingers,
and social commentaries still ring true, there
are few comedies this pure and surprisingly
resonant. Comedies often have a short shelf
life, especially the ones that are too reliant
on sight gags or gross-out humor but this movie
juggles so many different kinds of gags both
clean, dirty, and just plain outrageous that
it’s like going to Napa Valley after a steady
diet of Ripple.
was the first time since college that Annette
had so many Johnsons lined up behind her.
the seven of you that aren’t familiar with Brooks’
[written with Andrew Bergman and Richard Pryor,
among others] classic, it’s the “new sheriff
in town” staple from the Western genre turned
on its ear. To further their political careers,
the villains of the piece played by comedy heavyweights
Brooks and Harvey Korman engineer the choice
of the new lawman in hopes of making the town
bend under their will. They choose a black man
(Cleavon Little, R.I.P.) who they’d previously
slated for hanging.
that’s not drama. That’s a page out of the newspaper.
Politicians are using any tool they can, including
choosing minorities just for the voting benefits
of saying they did rather than because that
person’s skills. It’s not comedy, though it
is comically transparent. In Blazing Saddles
it’s downright incendiary.
in the day during the lulls in good theater,
Wild Westerners would recreate their favorite
moments from Brainscan.
of the humor in the film comes from the fact
that the sheriff is black and that the townspeople
are shamelessly racist. I’d be lying if I said
it wasn’t refreshing to see such matters handled
without kid gloves on. The notorious N-Bomb
is dropped often and without fear, and some
of the film’s biggest jokes stem from it. The
reason it works is not only because the emphasis
of the joke is never demeaning towards the black
characters but also because it exposes not only
the true and boneheaded lunacy of racists and
their close-mindedness and Brooks and gang were
fully aware of the stigma of the word. Today,
the word is even more taboo. Aside from a few
people like Quentin Tarantino whose liberal
use of the word has angered folks like Spike
Lee [unfairly, in my opinion], the usage of
the word “nigger” is now tantamount to racism.
Blazing Saddles throws caution
to the wind and it’s timeless and hilarious.
George Carlin spoke about how even rape can
be funny, depending on what the focus of the
joke was. He couldn’t be more right. In the
right hands, just about anything can be funny
and something about a frail old woman delivering
that taboo word when you least expect it is
side-splittingly brilliant. Only Mel Brooks
would have a scene where a couple of Klansmen
are in line to join a hunting party to kill
the sheriff and his town and have a smiley face
and “have a nice day” on their backs.
I was told that by signing up for the militia
I’d be able to participate in Klandestine operations…”
crude stuff but it works like you wouldn’t believe.
I also am of the belief that it’s more respectful
toward a black audience than some recent lowest
common denominator comedies geared strictly
for a black audience.
course, Blazing Saddles is hardly
just a receptacle for race commentary and humor.
It has visual gags of both the subtle and over-the-top
[Lincoln Hawk not included] variety. It has
Mel Brooks mugging for the camera in multiple
roles, Harvey Korman twisting his mustache at
a high rate of speed, and Gene Wilder at his
wild-haired and relaxed best. There’s Madeline
Kahn’s musical numbers (which have staled for
me though she is a goddess of comedy) and her
brilliant “It’s twue!” scene. It has Slim Pickens
doing what he does best. It has the then-potent
but now gratuitous campfire farting sequence.
It has the bizarre tonal shift in the last ten
has a whole lot.
makes sure the coast is clear before performing
his namesake act of intestinal ballet.
the pantheon of comedy, Blazing Saddles
is right up there with Monty Python and
the Holy Grail, Annie Hall,
City Lights, Duck Soup,
The Big Lebowski, and Airplane
as one of the transcendent and ageless films
of all time. Insanely quotable, brave to the
point of controversy, and fueled by whip-sharp
writing and performances, Blazing Saddles
is nothing short of perfection.
Brooks’ Hellraiser spoof lacked
the ambition and the budget of his more memorable
comedies but still managed to succeed in France.
you’re eighteen years of age or younger and
haven’t seen Blazing Saddles,
you need to. It may not seem like much after
a steady diet of Farrelly films and American
Pie efforts, but you’ll see why those
films exist and just maybe you’ll see why Mel
Brooks is something truly special.
you’re sixteen years of age or younger and are
female, email email@example.com.
back Jerry. For once I’m gonna handle this erection
all by my lonesome!”
out of 10
Bacon, I believe you’re hired.”
first DVD of this film looked only slightly
better than the career of Patrick Muldoon, so
it’s good to see that the new edition got a
more deserving and high quality presentation.
It’s weird to see this film so crisp. After
decades of fullscreen television and VHS viewings,
it’s like seeing the film for the first time.
There are scratches and little imperfections
from time to time but this is still a hearty
transfer. The film is very Earthen in tone and
like many Westerns from that time period it
has that look that’s both timeless and restricted
in palette. The resulting image is very brown
and tan without much variance but also crystal
clear. For some reason the film seems older
now. It seems like an OLD MOVIE.
way, it’s a nice transfer.
out of 10
“Wait, didn’t I make it perfectly clear
that I wanted the younger, thinner model of
Jeff Lebowski? That’s the last time I let you
purchase gentlemen off the Internet.”
isn’t a film whose audio presentation is going
to rotate your buttons, even when it’s cranked
up on your surround set (though you can now
hear campfire farts coming from all directions
if that’s among your lifelong wishes). It just
presented in Dolby 5.1 and it all comes through
just fine but you just can’t weave gold from
out of 10
“I figured I’d just chill out here until
Ash and Bobbie Joe got back.”
I was jazzed
when I heard that they were doing a special
edition of that film. Scratch that, I was more
than Jazzed. I was Wheeljacked.
the special features aren’t nearly what you’d
expect for a film as beloved as this from the
same studio that brought us amazing editions
of other catalog titles like Amadeus,
Unforgiven, and Casablanca.
It was a shame that they cancelled Landing
Strip Sally and The Newspaper Reading Lamp
before the show had a chance to spread its wings
a commentary track by Brooks himself, which
is a definite upgrade over the weird 30 minute
monologue that played over the film on the first
disc. Still, it’s not scene specific and for
every vignette (it’s obvious that Richard Pryor
wasn’t the most reliable guy in the world back
then) there’s a lot of silence and moments where
Brooks is just talking about the people he was
writing with. It’s not as compelling as you’d
expect from a true master. It does have its
moments, but Brooks obviously hasn’t listened
to a lot of commentary tracks.
tracks tend to be a little stale, something
that is surprisingly evident in a lot of comedies.
Hilarious films coupled with benign commentary
tracks. I guess it’s logical. How do you compete?
also an unearthed gem of sorts in Black Bart,
the thirty minute television pilot (starring
the Enemy Mine himself, Lou Gossett!)
that Bregman created that evolved from Blazing
Saddles. It seems as if it were done
BEFORE the film though, because some of the
characters are so thinly drawn that the show
feels like a sketch. But, it apparently wasn’t.
no surprise that the show never made it to the
television with its racial slurs and rather
offensive attempts at humor. It’s fun to see
some familiar faces (Noble Willingham and C.H.U.D.
II‘s Gerritt Graham) but the ultimate
result is a television pilot that was grounded
for a good reason.
a brief but loving Madeline Kahn tribute (how
she dies and Margot Kidder lives is beyond me)
and a rather nice little retrospective documentary
that runs just under thirty minutes that showcases
the madcap creation of the film but is mostly
interesting because it shows a handful of deleted
scenes, some of which that are quite good and
because it shows just how old some of these
people have become. It’s really nice to see
Harvey Korman, especially. I’ve seen next to
no behind-the-scenes stuff from him and it’s
deleted scenes are also available separately,
should you want to view them that way.
a decent but unremarkable special edition in
the long run, however.
out of 10
the cover art, so you cannot go wrong. Plus,
it’s not a snapper case, a fact which warms
the heart, pants, and midriff in glorious fashion.
years old. That’s incredible. It seems like
yesterday that my father was introducing it
to me as a kid of 6 or 7 back in the late 70’s.
out of 10
THE LOOK: 8.0
THE NOISE: 7.0
THE GOODIES: 6.5
THE ARTWORK: 8.0