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Blazing Saddles (1974)

Blazing Saddles 30th Anniversary Special Edition Box Set

Never give a saga an even break!

Directed by:

Mel BrooksMel Brooks

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 93 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15


If, like me, you haven’t seen ‘Blazing Saddles’ for a while, you might well have forgotten that there’s a bit more to it than a bunch of cowpokes sitting round a fire, scoffing down baked beans and letting rip. Watching Mel Brooks’ acclaimed western send-up for probably the first time in a good ten years (prompted by its DVD re-release as a nicely-packaged 30th Anniversary box set), it struck me that it’s an uneven film, strong in places but weak in others – and, a little disappointingly, not quite as funny as I remember it.

It’s the tale of dastardly attorney general Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) and his plans to run a new railroad right through the peaceful(ish) town of Rock Ridge. Of course, the residents won’t be easy to budge, so he sends his chief henchman Taggart (Slim Pickens) and a band of fellow good-for-nothings to run them out of town. The problem is, instead of fleeing, the locals plead for a new sheriff to come and save them. So step forward Bart (Cleavon Little). He’s smart, he’s brave and – much to the displeasure of the tough-to-please townsfolk – he’s black. It’s around about this point that you might start guessing political correctness isn’t the driving force behind this particular movie.

1974 must have been one helluva year for writer-director Brooks. ‘Blazing Saddles’ picked up three Oscar nominations (practically unheard of for a comedy – although it won none of them, which is probably less of a surprise), and in the same year he also released the superior horror spoof Young Frankenstein. Certainly the importance of Brooks in pioneering tasteless laughs shouldn’t be underestimated – in one way or another, he laid the groundwork that Leslie Nielsen, the Farrelly Brothers and many a gross-out teen movie have walked on ever since.

But, while much of ‘Saddles’ is laugh-out-loud funny, it hasn’t stood the test of time as well as Frankenstein (the excessive use of “the N word” certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes nowadays, regardless of the underlying satire), and there are chunks of it that just don’t work. Many will disagree with me on this point, but the ending, in which the characters break free of their movie confines and invade a neighbouring studio, is just plain rubbish. Sure, it’s groundbreaking and inventive, but is it any good? I’d have to respond to that self-posed question with a big fat no.

Thankfully, there’s lots to enjoy about the film. It was penned by a large team of writers (including Richard Pryor, who was originally supposed to take the Bart role), which is largely to blame for its uneven humour, but also to thank for some marvellous comic scenes. Anyone with an interest in comedy and how it got to be where it is today owes it to themselves to see this movie. Ditto anyone who just fancies a bit of a laugh.

It's Got: Camp-fire flatulence.

It Needs: An industrial-strength packet of indigestion tablets.

DVD Extras An audio commentary from Brooksy, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a portrait of Oscar-nominee Madeline Kahn, deleted scenes, a trailer, and the God-awful pilot episode of a failed TV spin-off idea called ‘Black Bart’. This box set version also contains, within its plush exterior, a set of eight limited edition card prints, an exclusive Senitype still with 35mm film frame, a collection of six black-and-white screen-captures, and a 27”x40” theatrical poster. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10


You’ll never be able to look a tin of beans in the eye again.