April 1, 2024

Revisiting BLAZING SADDLES at 50

1974 / 93 min
Available at www.MovieZyng.com
Review by Mr. Paws😺

Reviewing this Blu-ray re-issue of Blazing Saddles is the first time I’ve sat down to watch the film in its entirety since the 1980s. Back then, it was often the movie of choice during Friday nights when a work buddy, Brian, would swing by my apartment to partake in a bit of herbal enhancement. 

Brian happened to be African-American, and when he first spotted it among my small VHS collection, he said it was one of his favorite movies. I was initially hesitant about watching it with him, especially with its liberal - and notorious - use of the n-word. But it was actually during the more racial-charged scenes when we always ended up laughing the hardest. 

Of course, anyone with a modicum of intelligence who’s actually seen Blazing Saddles - as opposed to knowling it by reputation - realizes the movie isn’t racist…it’s about the stupidity of racism, played for laughs (which it still largely earns 50 years later). That’s arguably why the film hasn’t been quite as retro-condemned as, say, Gone with the Wind, Sixteen Candles or Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Cleavon finds Gene's tickle spot.
Still, we live in a different world today, and revisiting the film resulted in a few personal takeaways…

  • The movie is still funny without weed, though I missed Brian sitting on the sofa next to me. His laughter was infectious.
  • Actually, I was thankful to be watching it alone this time. My daughters - both in their 20s - cannot stand racial epithets, no matter the context. Sure, the n-word is only spoken by bad guys and bumpkins (both depicted as idiots), but it’s weird to hear it used so often.
  • If there’s one aspect of Blazing Saddles that could still be considered truly offensive, it’s the film’s cartoonish depiction of gay stereotypes. 
  • I’ve heard a lot of people - mostly right-wingers - who claim Blazing Saddles couldn’t be made today because of woke culture. The fallacy in that statement - besides being a tired old cliche - is that so-called "woke" liberals are far less likely to take the humor at face value.
  • Speaking of face value…now that I’m older, with more discriminating tastes and a heightened sense of humor, the campfire scene is still funny as hell. Of course, fart gags are common (and overused) today, but Brooks did it first…and did it big.
  • “S’cuse me while I whip this out” is one of the funniest lines in movie history.
  • Harvey Korman might very well be the movie’s MVP.
  • Cleavon Little should have been a bigger movie star than he was. His delivery and comic timing are perfect.
  • No one used anachronisms or broke the fourth wall better than Mel Brooks.
  • Speaking of Brooks, it may be his name above the title, but even when prominently casting himself, he always gave the best roles, scenes and dialogue to his fellow actors.
  • Watching the pilot episode of “Black Bart,” a proposed TV spin-off based on the movie (and included as a bonus feature), reminded me that network television didn’t have a problem with the n-word back then.
  • Ironically, the same network felt compelled to edit the movie’s campfire scene for its TV broadcast, replacing the farts with belches (that scene is also among the bonus features). Racial slurs are okay, but God help us if impressionable viewers hear gas passing. The '70s were weird.
  • Having seen a lot more classic westerns over the years, I appreciate Blazing Saddles’ satirical elements a lot more than I used to.

Those are my takes, anyway, and some might think I’m way off base on a few of them. But 50 years later, Blazing Saddles remains Mel Brooks’ funniest, most subversive film. Certain surface aspects notwithstanding, perhaps it’s even his most enduring, with underlying themes beneath the farce (and farts) that are still relevant.


FEATURETTES - Back in the Saddle is a retrospective documentary featuring interviews with many of the surviving (at the time) cast & crew, including Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, Dom DeLuise, Andrew Bergman and Burton Gilliam. Intimate Portrait: Madeline Kahn is an excerpt from the Lifetime biography series, made in 2000.

BLACK BART - Pilot episode for spinoff series that never happened, featuring Louis Gossett Jr. in the title role. More interesting than funny.




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