January 22nd, 2014

BLAZING SADDLES (1974) ****

Comedies are often the hardest films to review. I mean the only way to accurately rate a comedy is by how much you laugh. And it’s hard to really gauge if a comedy will be a classic unless it holds up to repeat viewings. Well, Blazing Saddles still makes me laugh all the way through, and I’ve seen it probably over 50 times. If that isn’t a recommendation, I don’t know what is.

And for my money, Blazing Saddles is one of the funniest movies ever made. It’s in my personal Top Three comedies of all time (sandwiched in between Duck Soup and Airplane). I’ve seen this film so many times that I can almost quote it in its entirety.

The film works on multiple levels. First of all, it’s one of the most politically incorrect movies ever made. I’m sure some people will take issue with the overuse of the “N-Word”, but really, there are plenty of jokes aimed at Jews, Indians, gays, and white folk too.

And the sheer amount of jokes is dizzying. There are jokes that break the fourth wall, movie parodies, sex jokes, celebrity cameos (like Count Basie); anything goes. What’s amazing is that given how many gags there are, the film rarely (if ever) misses its mark and fails to get a laugh.

Everyone talks about the infamous campfire scene. But for me, the funniest moments are in the final act when the big fight spills out from the studio back lot and into the commissary. The finale at the Graumann’s Hollywood Theater is great too.

Blazing Saddles also contains some of the greatest comedic performances of all time. Cleavon Little is great as Bart, the sheriff and Gene Wilder is at his absolute best as The Waco Kid. Harvey Korman has never been better as the evil Hedy (that’s Hedley Lamarr) Lamarr and Mel Brooks is awesome too (in a dual role). Madeline Kahn has some wonderful moments as Lilly von Shtupp and gives what is my opinion the finest performance by a comedienne of all time. Add in some great bits by Robert Ridgely, Alex Karras, and Dom DeLuise, and you have the makings for a classic.