Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mel Brooks, Part Three: Blazing Saddles

This is it. The moment we've all been waiting for. Just in time for the Oscars, a review of a true classic. Blazing Saddles is a torch to light the way for comedy.

The year is 1974, and Mel Brooks creates a movie about 1874. The place is the West. It's a movie that the studio wanted to censor, that TV stations wanted to make cuts to, and that a number of paraniod people wanted to call racist. It's a comedy legend, challenging all its viewers to push the limit and go for what's really the funniest. And it is funny.

The railroad has hit a patch of troublesome quicksand, and the line needs to be redirected. But where? Hedley Lamarr (with an L, thank you very much, and played by Harver Korman) has the notion to put it through the peaceful town of Rock Ridge. The rail supervisors (one of which is played by the larger-than-life Slim Pickens) ransack Rock Ridge, really raising a ruckus (say that five times fast) and driving away the town's sheriff.

Who to send in as a replacement? Lamarr has a notion about that too, tricking the governor (Mel Brooks) into making the new sheriff someone so offensive, he will be able to do nothing: a black rail worker named Bart (Cleavon Little). What will happen? I'll let you find out, but it involves a man named Jim (Gene Wilder). Most people, of course, call him... Jim.

This movie is simply a riot. Perhaps Mel Brooks's finest film is one of his first. It pokes fun at everything, and I've barely scratched the surface of what the film includes: an Oscar-nominated performance by Madeline Kahn, a cameo by Dom DeLuise, and an ending that is one of my favorite movie scenes...ever. I love this movie for everything that it does to parody as much as possible.

There's so much I could say about this film: what it means for freedom of expression, why it wouldn't be made today, what makes it so great. But that could make you almost forget that it's really funny. Even the American Film Institute puts it as #6 on their "Greatest Comedies of All Time" list, coming up behind only a few greats like Bringing Up Baby, Dr. Strangelove, and Some Like It Hot. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the efforts of comedy's equivalent of a mad scientist.

My rating: 10/10

Coming Soon: Young Frankenstein.

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