Friday, February 7, 2014

A 10 Gallon Hat: Blazing Saddles Turns 40

By Steve Evans

One of the great American western films, Blazing Saddles, was released 40 years ago today by Warner Bros. It's still just as funny -- and offensive -- as ever. And that was the point. Mel Brooks held a mirror up to racism and discrimination of almost every kind and showed it to be what it always has been: stupid. At the same time he managed to send up that uniquely American film genre, the Western, while subverting every audience expectation imaginable. If Brooks can be said to have created a masterpiece, this is the one (although I like The Producers with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder a helluvalot).

Comedy is all about timing, and with Blazing Saddles Brooks showed pin-point control of his material. Brooks had help on the screenplay from several writers, including Richard Pryor, who was supposed to be cast as Sheriff Bart, but Warner Bros. was afraid of Pryor's partying reputation and scotched that plan. Gene Wilder was Brook's second choice to play the Waco Kid, but when Gig Young took ill, Wilder won the role. There are many stories about Brooks' battle with Warner Bros. over various aspects of the production, use of racist and racy language, even the classic scene of Alex Karras (as Mongo) knocking out a horse with one punch. Brooks had negotiated final cut into his contract, so all of the elements that gave studio executives a fit remained in the picture.

Brooks conceded in a 2012 interview that he could not make Blazing Saddles in today's politically-correct environment, where satire sails over the heads of the overly sensitive.

As an 11-year-old I saw this R-rated film on original release by bluffing my way into the long-gone University Theater in Charlottesville, VA. I remember laughing the hardest during the infamous campfire scene, although you can really pick any random 10 minutes of this movie and enjoy a laff.

This clip is NSFW nor for those with delicate sensibilities. But you already knew that, didn't ya?

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2014 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Cinema Uprising values comments and feedback from readers. Although we cannot reply to every message, we do read comments and take your thoughts into consideration as we continuously produce fresh content.