Blazing Saddles (1974) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I suppose most you you already know that this film is Mel Brooks' insane Western, co-authored by Richard Pryor.

A crooked land developer intends to buy up all the property in Rock Ridge, because his position as Attorney General gives him inside information that the railroad will be going through the town. He fails in his attempts to scare all the honest townsfolk away, and the governor plans to send a sheriff to the town to protect them. Therefore, he persuades the governor to assign a black sheriff to the town, hoping that the townspeople will kill him and leave themselves once again open to attack. Together the sheriff and a washed-up alkie gunslinger called The Waco Kid manage to defeat the forces of evil and win the respect of the townspeople.

Raunchy, lowbrow, yet unfailingly crackling with social satire, arcane movie references, and genre-blasting humor, Blazing Saddles is the quintessential American comedy of the post-modern world. (Post-modernist? You bet! Curious how it comes out, the stars watch the end of the movie on the screen of Graumann's Chinese.) It's not only one of the funniest things ever committed to film, but is also one of the most scathing portrayals of racism and official corruption.

Brooks' unique brand of humor, with his own loving, good-hearted nature shining through it all, has never been successfully duplicated. Not even by Brooks himself. Brooks fired out The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein in rapid succession, but his subsequent career features only sporadic laughs.

Blazing Saddles contained lots of shock humor in its time, but the subsequent decades have melted away all that shock value. When this movie came out, all people could talk about was the scene where the bean-eating cowboys fart around the campfire, but that scene is tame by today's standards. For good or ill, the shock bar has been raised a lot since 1974.  On the other hand, our own era has created a new kind of censorship, and in certain ways we are far more conservative than we were in 1974. Because of the language, which is filled with racial slurs against various minorities, most people believe that this movie could not be made today, despite the fact that the language was necessary to portray the attitudes of the speakers (and, of course, to make Richard Pryor's jokes work correctly).

The film is not without its flaws. Gene Wilder was hopelessly miscast as The Waco Kid, in a role that called for someone like Lee Marvin. Mel Brooks tells a great story about this in his interview on the DVD. Brooks's friend Wilder begged him and begged him for the role, but Brooks kept telling him he was all wrong for the part. Turned down by his first choice, Dan Dailey, Brooks offered the role to just about everyone in Hollywood, including John Wayne, who loved the script but thought it was bad for his image. Finally, Brooks hired Gig Young, a good comic actor who really was an alcoholic, and promised to bring authenticity to the role. Filming began with Gig in the role, but he experienced severe tremors on the very first day of shooting, and had to be carted off in an ambulance.

Since every day of shooting was costing Brooks $20,000 to $30,000, he couldn't afford to continue the process of casting. He needed somebody immediately. He got on the phone to Wilder, and told him to get his ass on the next available plane. Wilder studied the script on the flight from New York, and began filming the next morning without rehearsals. Since Brooks shot the Cleavon Little close-ups the day before, the movie production continued with only about a half-day of lost time, despite the loss of its second lead.

In the interview, Brooks thanks Wilder for generously saving his ass, but doesn't mention how lucky he was that Gig Young got sick the FIRST day of shooting, instead of somewhere near the middle. Because of Gig's timing, Brooks was able to move forward without having to re-shoot any critical footage or having to rewrite the script to account for a missing character. Considering that the studio really didn't like the film to begin with, the entire project might have been shelved if Brooks had been in the position of asking for more money.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1, and a full screen version

  • Exclusive 55-minute audio interview with director Mel Brooks

NUDITY REPORT

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Saddles is pretty far down the list of the top comedies at IMDb, probably underrated, but the competition is stiff, so perhaps it is fairly placed. Here's the list from top to bottom, of all comedy films with 3000 or more votes rated above Blazing Saddles. Brooks's own comedies are in yellow.

 

Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le (2001)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
General, The (1927)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Vita č bella, La (1997)
City Lights (1931)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Duck Soup (1933)
Apartment, The (1960)
Modern Times (1936)
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Royal Tenenbaums, The (2001)
Annie Hall (1977)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Sting, The (1973)
Great Dictator, The (1940)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Almost Famous (2000)
Princess Bride, The (1987)
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Philadelphia Story, The (1940)
Shrek (2001)
Manhattan (1979)
Ghost World (2001)
Graduate, The (1967)
Christmas Story, A (1983)
Todo sobre mi madre (1999).
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
You Can Count on Me (2000)
Charade (1963)
Man Who Wasn't There, The (2001)
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Snatch. (2000)
Brazil (1985)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Harvey (1950)
Clerks. (1994)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Life of Brian (1979)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Being There (1979).
Network (1976)
Toy Story (1995)
Delicatessen (1991)
Little Big Man (1970)
Back to the Future (1985)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Player, The (1992)
Happiness (1998)
Big Lebowski, The (1998)
Producers, The (1968)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Ed Wood (1994)
MASH (1970)
High Fidelity (2000)
Airplane! (1980).
Best in Show (2000)
Hard Day's Night, A (1964)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Chicken Run (2000)
Truman Show, The (1998)
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
American Graffiti (1973)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Lolita (1962)
Wonder Boys (2000)
As Good As It Gets (1997)
Boondock Saints, The (1999)
Harold and Maude (1971)
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Go (1999)
Chasing Amy (1997)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Swingers (1996)
Fish Called Wanda, A (1988)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
 

The Critics Vote

  • filmcritic.com 4/5

  • Nominated for three Oscars: Best Film Editing, Best Song ("Blazing Saddles"), and Best Supporting Actress (Madeline Kahn)

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 7.6 of 10
  • with their dollars ... a mega-winner. These are astronomical numbers by 1974 standards.
  • Gross
    $119.5m (USA)
     
    Rentals
    $47.8m (USA)
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B+, maybe even an A if I think about it enough. The quintessential American comedy of the post-modern world. As brilliant at social satire as it is at genre parody.

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