Dir: Mel Brooks, 1974
Continuing with the retrospect of Gene Wilder’s films, it was inevitable that Blazing Saddles would be next.
Set in the Old West, a railroad is being built through a town called Rock Ridge using minorities as slave labour.
Bart (Cleavon Little), a black worker, is about to be hanged for assaulting one of his employers.
The Attorney State General, Headley Lamarr (Harvey Korman), wants the towns occupants to leave.
To solve this issue, Lamarr appoints Bart as the towns new sheriff, reasoning that the town would not take kindly to a black sheriff and leave.
Lamarr’s plan works and the town disrespect him but, after arresting the troublesome Mongo (Alex Karras), he is soon accepted.
Realising his plan hasn’t worked, the general send several of his men to terrorise the town and force them to leave.
It is up to Bart, The Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) and the townspeople to put a stop to Lamarr and his gang of hoodlums.
This is, arguably, Mel Brooks’ most famous film but it’s hard to see why.
There are a lot of funny scenes in it and, at times, the dialogue is a bit raw but still hysterical.
But then, it suffers from the same problem as the director’s other films; it simply loses its way.
To compensate for this, Brooks’ and his team of writers, which include a pre-famous Richard Pryor, send Blazing Saddles off down on obscure route and starts to make fun of itself.
The movie becomes a film within a film.
It suddenly swirches from the Old West to 1970’s America where the characters go to a cinema and see Blazing Saddles (a similar joke is reused in Brooks’ Star Wars parody Spaceballs).
Maybe, if the writers had stuck to the Western theme throughout instead of going off on an obscure tangent the film would be better.
The scene with Dom Deluise as the camp director trying to direct a cast of effeminate dancers is sheer brilliance.
Madeleine Kahn as a Marlene Dietrich parody called Lilli Von Schtupp, is hilarious. One of her finest roles.
Even though the film goes off the rails, there are still many moments of fun to be had, however slight.
Cleavon Little as the black sheriff is perfect. The role was, originally, going to be played by Richard Pryor but the studio felt that he wasn’t a big enough draw.
Wilder as The Waco Kid is rather subdued, taking a back seat to the proceedings and not given much to do.
His character is redundant, really, and the film wouldn’t be any different without his character.
Gene Wilder was a brilliant comic actor so it makes for very confusing viewing when he isn’t given a major role.
But forty years after its release it still has the ability to raise smiles.
The infamous camp fire scene is still a riot.
It’s worth a watch and you’ll definitely get some laughs out of it, but, just don’t expect the masterpiece that it is often hailed.