This FINALLY SAW IT moment came, of all things, out of a discussion I was having in a Discord server. Following a long conversation about life and intolerance, we got it upon ourselves to watch a movie in order to defuse, and this 1974 Mel Brooks classic, which I’ve owned the DVD of for as long as I can remember but never got around to watching until last night, was the winner of a coin toss (the other being Brooks’ highly underrated 1987 film SPACEBALLS).
In this out-and-out Western spoof, a conniving politician named Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman, whose character keeps getting his named confused with the real-life actress Hedy Lamarr—who actually sued Warner Bros. over an alleged “infringement of privacy,” of all things!) is attempting to reroute a new railway through the small town of Rock Ridge and likewise wants the town’s residents to abandon it. When the local sheriff is killed by a group of thugs sent by Lamarr, the townspeople demand Governor William J. Le Petomane (Brooks, in one of three roles) appoint a new sheriff to protect them. Lamarr convinces Le Petomane to send a black urban socialite named Bart (Cleavon Little) in order to alienate the townspeople and create chaos. Bart also enlists the help of Jim (Gene Wilder), an alcoholic gunslinger also known as the “Waco Kid,” to help smooth out relations with the townspeople. Also notable is Madeline Kahn (who also appears in Brooks’ other 1974 film, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, as the fiancée of Wilder’s titular character) in an Oscar®-nominated supporting role as German seductress Lili von Shtüpp.
BLAZING SADDLES attacks racial prejudice with some of the most hilarious and politically-incorrect comedy ever printed to celluloid. Brooks and his posse fire rounds of gags faster than a gun can shoot bullets, and they do so without regard to offending anybody (in fact, he received support from Little and co-writer Richard Pryor, both black, with regards to the use of a certain word beginning with the letter “N”). It is a perfect blend of highbrow and lowbrow, seamlessly blending Western pastiche with modern-day anachronisms and metafiction, and it is a must-watch for anyone who enjoys a true comedic gem and what it truly meant to represent the kind of no-holds-barred humor that is sadly lacking in today’s world.
In fact, Brooks has stated repeatedly that a movie like BLAZING SADDLES could not be made today. In a well-written interview with Yahoo! News in May 2014, he remarked: “They can’t make that movie today because everybody’s so politically correct. You know, the NAACP would stop a great movie that would do such a great service to black people because of the N-word […] Politically correct is absolutely wrong. Because it inhibits the freedom of thought. I’m so lucky that they weren’t so strong then and that the people that let things happen on the screen weren’t so powerful then. I was very lucky.”