Friday, February 3, 2012

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Blazing Saddles (1974) ★★★★ 3/5

From a story point of view, this is a great movie with a good twist on the classic Western. However when it is brought to the screen, much of the story is lost in overacted nonsense, particularly when director Mel Brooks appears on screen. His over-exaggerated, forced humor completely takes away from everything and slows the movie down.

The story is that of a Western town that finds itself target of Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman), a statesman who wants to run the townsfolk out town to lay down a railroad. The town, full of residents all with the last name "Johnson" is in need of a Sheriff. Bart (Cleavon Little) is pulled from lynching to serve as Sheriff. To the town's dismay he is Afro-American, which serves as the basis for a slew of racial jokes. Bart befriends town drunk Jim (Gene Wilder) who is known to have once had the quickest hands in the West. This is a clear homage to Gunfight At The OK Corral and the role played by Kirk Douglas. References are also made to High Noon throughout the film. Madeline Kahn appears as Lili von Shtupp, the token brothel dancer often associated with Western films.

The highlight of the film is undeniably the end of the film when a false town is created to divert Lamarr's men. A fight ensues and the action moves off the set of the film and onto the set of another Warner Brother's movie being filmed by Dom DeLuise. From there, the action moves to the Warner Brother's cafeteria.

There are constant sexual innuendos and racial jabs throughout the film. There are also elements from other genres of film scattered through the picture, as well as elements that do not belong in a Western. Among these are operational toll booths, Nazis, Klansmen, references to the Academy Awards, and so much more. This makes the film a great "I Spy" game, but not necessarily a great movie. Korman is quite enjoyable in the film. He is highly likable as an actor in the film. Wilder has several performances in other films that far exceed this role. While enjoyable, it is far more over rated as a comedy. Watching it, I feel like Brooks takes liberties with the placement of himself in film and abuses them. He is not as funny as he thinks he is, but chances are nobody was going to tell the director that his appearance in his own film would completely take away from it. Had Brooks not been in this movie, it probably would have been a lot funnier.

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