Film Review: Blazing Saddles
In 1974 Mel Brooks directed Blazing Saddles that starred Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, Slim Pickens, Dom DeLouise, Liam Dunn, George Furth, Burton Gilliam and John Hillerman with Brooks in four roles. The film grossed $119.5 million at the Box Office and though Korman’s character mentioned risking an “almost-certain” Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, he didn’t receive a nomination. On the other hand, he film was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Film Editing and Best Music, Original Song along with two BAFTA nominations for Best Newcomer and Best Screenplay. But it did win the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.
In 1874, the construction of a railroad halts due to quicksand. The path is going to be re-routed, but the town of Rock Ridge stands in the way. In order to get his hands on the real estate, Attorney General Hedley Lamarr schemes by hiring thugs to ill the sheriff and make the locals leave. But when they don’t, he appoints a black man as the new sheriff in the hopes that he will be killed by the townspeople.
Blazing Saddles is a great film that’s unapologetically offensive and politically incorrect. But that’s where its charm lies in its efforts to illustrate the stupidity of racism as there.is a blatantly racist tone that this film has, but the film itself isn’t racist and the reason that the two can coexist is that the film illustrates how stupid racism is namely with the residents of Rock Ridge and the villains, which is contrasted with Bart being the smartest character in the film. The stupidity is immediately apparent with the town’s residents in the fact that when they’re about to shoot him for being black, he’s able to fool them by taking himself hostage. Jim then confirms that the people are just plain morons, but once they start to warm up to Bart because he saved them from Mongo, they do start to get a little bit smarter and end off far smarter than they were in the beginning, able to construct a fake Rock Ridge with Bart’s help in a single night after agreeing to partner with the Irish and Chinese as well.
But let’s not forget the villains who are even stupider than the residents of Rock Ridge. The apex of this stupidity can be seen when Bart fools the posse going after him with a toll booth in the middle of nowhere. They’re so stupid that they don’t think about just going around it but think that the only way on is to go through it after getting a “shitload of dimes.” The posse is also so apparently stupid that they can’t tell that a town is fake until they get into it and take a closer look when they realize that no one is reacting to anything. And the two clansmen are so stupid to capture Bart by themselves that they don’t think about informing everybody else in front of them.
But the stupidity caused by racism is only one avenue of comedy in this film. In fact, there’s a lot of comedic avenues that include Brooks’ usual fourth wall breaking and anachronistic style. The biggest example of the former is when the final fight scene spreads into the studio next door, where another film’s being made, that grows into a brawl that reaches the commissary and ends right outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre where Blazing Saddles is being shown where Bart and Jim watch the end of their own movie. And that in turn leads into the anachronistic humor where they watch themselves leave their horses and drive off into the sunset. But that’s not the only source of anachronistic humor, as in the lineup to go after Sheriff Bart, there’s Nazis and bikers. But it’s also there early on in the film when Bart is riding to the town of Rock Ridge and he comes across a modern bandstand.
There’s also an interesting what if about the film due to casting choices. Jim was almost played by John Wayne, who though the script was hilarious but that it clashed with his onscreen persona, and Bart was almost Richard Pryor.
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