Friday, 8 October 2021

Blazing Saddles (1974)


Sheriffen skyder på det hele

“Blazing Saddles” is the second Mel Brooks film for 1974. Considering how happy I was with “Young Frankenstein”, I had high hopes for “Blazing Saddles”, but alas, this is in my humble opinion a far inferior movie.

“Blazing Saddles” is a spoof on every Western ever made, trying as it is to cramp every trope and cliché of the genre into a single movie and turning them upside down. This is the lonely sheriff (Cleavon Little) against ungrateful townspeople, a drunkard of a gunslinger as the sheriff’s sidekick (Gene Wilder), an evil railroad baron (Harvey Korman as Hedley, not Hedy, Lamarr), a corrupt governor, uncivilized cowboys, exotic saloon performers and so on. On top of that Brooks throws in racism and bigotry as a major theme.

The story is… well, I am not too certain what the story really is, because it is very clear from the get go that the objective here is to fire off as many jokes as possible far more than drive a story forward. I imagine there was an outline of a story somewhere, but in some frenzied brainstorming among the scriptwriters it sort of got lost. It is something about a railroad baron who needs to drive his railroad through a town and so he needs people to move. To that end he gets them a black sheriff, expecting that will drive them out of town. Then he wants to get rid of the sheriff and then get rid of the townspeople again… well, I am not too sure.

In any case, the jokes here have totally taken over the movie. They fail more often than fly, and that is not necessarily because they are bad, but mainly because they flood the movie. It all becomes terribly silly and infantile and it seems as if Brooks forgot the principle that worked so well in “Young Frankenstein” that every joke needs a straight partner. There are no straight partners here. What would have been a funny scene in any other context or as a stand-alone scene becomes a wish-wash of silliness.

A wonderful scene like Gene Wilder telling Cleavon Little that these people are “just simple villagers, the clay of the West, you know, morons” is super funny when I watch that snippet, but in the movie, I hardly smiled at it and it is such a shame. Madeline Kahn’s Lili Von Shtupp sings the wonderfully terrible “I am Tired”, but in the context it is almost boring. There is simply an overload of jokes, and this is unfortunately Mel Brooks as I know him.

The anarchy of it all goes all in towards the end with a complete breakdown of the fourth wall, with actors of this movie breaking into the set of another movie and trashing it and sheriff and sidekick wondering off to find a cinema to watch the end of their own movie while talking to the audience…

With “Young Frankenstein” Brooks could restrain himself enough to maintain a balance and it worked. With “Blazing Saddles” that balance is completely gone. I am sure it works for some people, I am almost convinced my son will like it, but it did not work for me. When I start glancing at my watch it is a bad sign.

When I think about it, I could say almost the same things about “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, but with a completely different outcome. There it all works. Curious…



  1. Woo, someone else that actually disliked this one. I had a discussion with friends a while back and Mel Brooks movies were brought up, and I mentioned that I hated almost every one I'd seen, including this one, and I then felt like I basically had to defend myself for the next few minutes. Young Frankenstein has its moments (though admittedly not many for me), and The Producers was a lot more honed, but this one was just... crass. And pandering. And the jokes have not aged well at all to boot.

    1. I would not go so far as to say I hate or even dislike Brooks' movies. The Producers was okay and I did like Young Frankenstein, but this one just was not funny. I am not offended by it, I can see the jokes for what they are. I just think Mel Brooks did not know how tro restrain himself, but went with the mantra more is better. In this case he went way to far and aimed way too low.

  2. This is an interesting analysis. I get it--it doesn't work for everyone, and I'm not a fan of the ending. I enjoy a lot of it, but it does lose control in the third act.

    1. Yeah, the ending... It starts a lot earlier for me with a lost focus as it tries to fire off as many jokes as possible. Some of them are great, but they drown. I love that everybody are called Johnson, but then we are quickly off to the next joke. I thought I would love this but I could not get into it.