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USA 1974
Directed by
Mel Brooks
93 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Blazing Saddles

Mel Brooks’s best-known comedy, the spoof Western Blazing Saddles was huge commercial hit in its day, its gleeful vulgarity setting a new low for mainstream comedies and winning audiences in droves.  As a movie it’s a mess but that is what it tries to be and it is at times very funny.  Those times are largely confined to the first half of the film and largely thanks to the double act of Harvey Korman and Slim Pickens.  Had it been able to keep the gags coming at that rate it would be a classic but the second half loses steam badly, slows to a plod and then takes off again in a deconstructive slapstick free-for-all but to no great effect.

The familiar story line involves a greedy land speculator (Korman) who wants to drive the residents of Ridge Rock out of their homes so that he can grab their land. Aided by his dim-witted right-hand man (Pickens) and a corrupt State Governor  (Brooks) he comes up with the idea of giving the redneck backwater a black sheriff, Black Bart (Cleavon Little), assuming that this will be anathema to them but with the help of dipsomaniacal gunman, The Waco Kid (Gene Wilder), Bart saves the day.

Written by Brooks and Richard Pryor amongst others, Blazing Saddles has some droll one-liners but also some decidedly off-colour jokes, notably about rape. Even under the umbrella of puerility which is where the film shelters (its most famous scene involves a campsite of farting cowpokes) they are wince-inducing.  In its day the persistent racism was regarded as in poor taste, and it still is, but the opening scene in which a Negro chain-gang breaks into Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out Of You” while their minders get carried away showing them how to sing “De Campdown Races”  is a brilliant parody of racial stereotyping.  




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