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"My name is Jim, but most people call me...Jim." And most people call Blazing Saddles deliriously funny. Filmmaker, star and paddle-ball whiz Mel Brooks goes way out West and way out of his mind with a spiffy spoof set in an 1874 Old West where 1974 Hollywood is just one soundstage away-and where nonstop fun blasts prejudices to the high comedy heavens. Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn and more join for horseplay and horselaughs, making Blazing Saddles the #6 choice among the American Film Institute's Top 100 Comedies. Give these out to the boys in lieu of pay. And enjoy.
For more about Blazing Saddles and the Blazing Saddles Blu-ray release, see the Blazing Saddles Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on June 16, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, David Huddleston, Mel Brooks
Director: Mel Brooks
» See full cast & crew
Blazing Saddles Blu-ray Review
"Hello handsome, is that a ten gallon hat or are you just enjoying the show?"
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, June 16, 2009
I was about twelve the first time I caught a highly content-edited version of Blazing Saddles on television. A lot of the jokes obviously went whizzing through the then-blank space between my ears, but I remember laughing uproariously at Mongo sucker-punching the horse, the infamous campfire fart scene, and at the general Loony Toons level of insanity on display—complete with quicksand, fast-forward fight scenes, and an Acme-inspired exploding candy-gram. It wasn't until I was quite a bit older that I caught on to the film's subversive elements, the way it toys with staples of the Western genre, goes hog-wild in its unhinging of stereotypes and, as Gene Wilder puts it, "smashes racism in the face." On the surface, Blazing Saddles is many things—scatological, puerile, and just plain ridiculous—but it also knows precisely where it stands, and behind every slapstick moment there's a gleam of teeth and a not-so-subtle wink. This was a bold film in 1974, for many reasons, and in a few crucial ways it seems even more shocking today.
If you've never seen Blazing Saddles (are there any of you out there?), the year is 1874, or 1974 in 1874, as Mel Brooks describes it, and an expanding railroad operation has run into quicksand. State Procurer Hedy, I mean, Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) hatches a scheme to divert the railway through the podunk town of Rock Ridge, an inbred burg where everybody's last name is Johnson. Intending to scare off the townsfolk so he can buy up their land on the cheap, he convinces cross-eyed, doofus Governor William J. LePetomane (Mel Brooks) to hire the country's first black sheriff to police the town. Black Bart (a suave Cleavon Little) rides into Rock Ridge on a horse with Gucci saddlebags and, despite a heavy dose of race hate from its citizens, sets up shop in the town's sheriff office. Nearly comatose in the drunk tank is Jim (Gene Wilder), the one-time "Waco Kid," a former gunslinger who lost his steady hand in a bout with the bottle. When Hedley assembles a rag tag crew of "rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, half-wits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists" to scare off the moronic townspeople, Bart and Jim devise a plan to save Rock Ridge. The film's climactic battle bursts quite literally through the fourth wall, and the two amigos obliterate one final cliché as they ride off into the sunset.
None of this is important, and the skeletal plot only serves as a frame on which to hang the film's shaggy coat of comedy. Re-watching Blazing Saddles, I laughed more and harder than during just about all of the studio comedies I've seen in the past few years. While the farting scene wasn't nearly as funny as when I was twelve, keep in mind that Blazing Saddles was the first major movie to feature outright flatulence. It's easy to take that for granted in an age when gross-out humor is the norm. The performances—across the board—are zany, madcap takes on characters we've all seen before. Harvey Korman's Hedley is so devilish and conspiratorial you can practically envision him twirling a greasy mustache as a damsel lies tied before him to the tracks. Madeline Khan (in an Oscar-nominated performance) slumps across the screen as Lili Von Schtüp, the tired, Teutonic Titwillow, a sly parody of a de-sexed and disinterested Marlene Deitrich. And embodying every cowboy cliché imaginable, Slim Pickens and Burton Gilliam wrap their mouths around some seriously hate-filled dialogue with hammy, in-the- know showmanship.
Blazing Saddles holds back very little, and some of the film's racially insensitive language may cause modern viewers to cringe. We're simply not used to hearing derogatory titles thrown about so carelessly, even in jest. The rightfully dreaded "N" word makes no less than 17 appearances in the film, and I can think of no contemporary productions that could get away with this, with the telling exception of The Dave Chappelle Show. As most of you remember, Dave Chappelle abruptly abandoned his massively successful sketch program after coming to the realization that some people were laughing at his racially charged skits for all the wrong reasons. Subversive comedy walks a fine line, and Blazing Saddles is no different. We're clearly meant to view the film's townsfolk as intolerant bigots and buffoons, but there will always be a minority of viewers who simply can't or won't understand how the film attempts to undercut racism.
In some ways, Blazing Saddles seems like a precursor to the many multi-racial buddy movies we've seen in the years since—from Dawn of the Dead and Lethal Weapon, to Rush Hour and Harold and Kumar. Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder are my favorite pairing, though, mostly because their partnership seems grounded in genuine affection and understanding. Both actors deliver timeless, inimitable performances in what, to this day, is a timeless and inimitable film. There may be many comedies, but there's only one Blazing Saddles.
Blazing Saddles Blu-ray, Video Quality
This 2.4:1 1080p VC-1 transfer is a Technicolor dream, even for a Blu-ray disc released in 2006. Colors are strong and well-saturated throughout (check out the curtains during Lili's anti-burlesque show), black levels are deep and un-crushed (see Hedley's suits), and while not razor sharp by today's standards, Blazing Saddles shows an extraordinary amount of clarity for its age. The print has a handful of specks and flecks, and I noticed some extremely heavy grain in the wagon train sequence that stands out from the film's otherwise warm and well-dispersed grain field. This is, however, no fault of the transfer and all goes back to the source material. After years of cruddy VHS releases and good-but-not-great DVD transfers, it's great to see Blazing Saddles get the crisp cinematic treatment it deserves.
Blazing Saddles Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Blazing Saddles' original monaural track has been expanded here into a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that occasionally falls off its horse while galloping across the sound field. The many musical numbers are warm and dynamic; instruments are spread across channels pleasingly and ring true, at least to my ears. That said, the track generally lacks bottom end heft and comes across tinny at times. Voices are occasionally muddled by the surrounding sound effects, which, while not exactly immersive, do offer up some rear channel action. The crowd is especially lively during Lily's song- and-dance, and bullets careen and pi-ting with comic hyperbole. While this is certainly the best that Blazing Saddles has ever sounded, the mix could still use some work, and I do wish that the original track had been included for reference purposes.
Blazing Saddles Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Any owners of the 30th Anniversary Edition DVD of Blazing Saddles will be immediately familiar with the special features offered here. All features are in standard definition.
Back in the Saddle (28:21)
I found this short retrospective enlightening, especially regarding the genesis of the story and the writing process with Richard Pryor. Mel Brooks, writer Andrew Bergman, producer Michael Hertzberg, and several cast members provide plenty of insight into the audacity and controversial nature of the film.
Intimate Portrait: Madeline Kahn (3:40, excerpt)
The back of the Blu-ray case is misleading in calling this short featurette a "documentary." Basically, it's a brief tribute the wonderful Madeline Kahn, and it's a shame we couldn't have gotten the Lifetime TV special from which this was excerpted.
Black Bart: 1975 Pilot Episode of the Proposed TV Series Spin-off
It's clear why this concept wouldn't work well on television--the racial attitudes are a bit too fierce for primetime. None of the principal actors return, and the laugh track cheapens the deal.
Commentary by Director Mel Brooks
This commentary is very detached from the actual film. It seems like someone just set up a microphone, let Mel Brooks tell some stories about Blazing Saddles, and then let his ramblings play over the movie.
Deleted Scenes (9:40)
Theatrical Trailer (2:14)
Blazing Saddles Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Comedy is the most fickle and subjective of genres, where one man's ho-hum trash is another's hilarious treasure. If you've seen Blazing Saddles, you're sure to have an opinion of it, one way or another. Either way, Blazing Saddles has stood time's test and been vetted as a verifiable American classic. For the uninitiated (I'm sure there are one or two of you left), get out and rent it. But for fans, this Blu-ray release is a no-brainer, as I can't imagine Blazing Saddles looking or sounding any better for a long time to come.
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