But we don’t want the Irish!
Blazing Saddles (1974): 10 out of 10: Mel Brooks takes on westerns when a hick town under attack from a corrupt attorney general gets a new sheriff. It turns out he is black. (Though to tell the family secret, his grandmother was Dutch.). A touching drama about acceptance and forgiveness does not ensue.
The Good: I can’t go a minute without laughing and I can recite the script in my sleep. Everything works. From the great songs to the acting and costumes. Blazing Saddles is a win all the way around.
The Bad: Most comedies that are almost fifty years old are going to have some references and jokes modern audiences won’t get. And certainly seeing all those old western stars in small roles in the film will be lost on those not seeped in the genre. Still, the comedy works so brilliantly there are jokes for everyone.
Speaking of jokes for everyone, there is always a concern with old movies, particularly comedies, that the subject matter and language may not be appropriate for today’s more sheltered audiences. Well, I am happy to report that Blazing Saddles is as politically correct today as the day they released it.
The Ugly: I always enjoyed the cool demeanor from another time that Cleavon Little centers the film with. One of the keys to a good comedy is to have some grounding and, as crazy as Blazing Saddles is, it has some grounding thanks to Mr. Little.
So I question what Cleavon simply never became a bigger star than he did. He was so good in Blazing Saddles. He really makes the film. (Blazing Saddles writer Richard Pryor certainly would have been a good choice but Cleavon just had that straight man cool Richard didn’t at that time in his life.)
In Conclusion: When Obama was elected President I thought of Sherrif Bart from Blazing Saddles. (His supporters were comparing him to Superman. An illegal alien. Really? Morons.)
I love that undercurrent in the film. The gradual acceptance of the other due to bad circumstances. (Except the Irish, of course. You got to have some standards.)
Mel Brooks throws everything at the screen, and it works. He learned some lessons from The Producers as Blazing Saddles has fewer dead spots and a rousing ending.
Mel would continue to make funny films (Young Frankenstein is a particular standout) but I don’t think he would ever make one as funny as Blazing Saddles.