It seems that with each milestone anniversary, Warner Brothers finds a reason to release another special edition of Mel Brooks’ classic western send-up, Blazing Saddles. To their credit, they continue to provide new featurettes, while still repackaging material that’s appeared on early releases. You know what? I don’t have a problem with this. As long as this revolutionary film continues to find new audiences I’ll be a happy man. This is one film that deserves so much attention.
Many will argue that Young Frankenstein (released the same year as Blazing Saddles, 1974) is the superior movie, but I laugh harder at Blazing Saddles. As far as I’m concerned, Blazing Saddles is Brooks’ crowning achievement. Unlike so many comedies that have tried to mimic what Blazing Saddles did (including many of Brooks’ later films), Blazing Saddles was a parody of the western genre, as opposed to a parody of other films (think Hot Shots and the Scary Movie franchise). Blazing Saddles was too busy breaking boundaries to imitate older films.
To have a black man (Cleavon Little as Bart) play the lead in a genre that rarely acknowledged the presence of African Americans and always portrayed people of color, namely Native Americans, as evil or benevolent, was, as I mentioned earlier, revolutionary. Modern audiences may not appreciate what Brooks achieved with the success of Blazing Saddles; thankfully our society has progressed. However, that doesn’t mean that this film is old fashioned. Quite the contrary. Blazing Saddles still has the ability to shock and make you laugh because if its silliness.
Blazing Saddles shocked audiences with its fart jokes, burps, and sexual innuendo, but the biggest shock was slapping the audience in the face about racism. It’s abundant use of the “N” Word, spoken for comic purposes, might offend more people in the 21st Century than it did back in the 70s. But it was all done with a purpose: to show how deep rooted racism was in our country.
Brooks and his team of screenwriters, which included Andrew Bergman, Norman Steinberg, Al Unger, and the incendiary Richard Pryor (who only wanted to write the Mongo jokes), pushed every button they could get away with, and did this to momentous comic effect. Moreover, it broke the rules of cinema but tearing down the fourth wall that exists between the film and the audience. Besides the many times actors look at the camera, or even speak to us, the final ten minutes occur in the “real” world, as the cast of Brooks’ film get in a fist fight with a troop of gay dancers, and a pie fight with a group of extras in the Warner Brothers commissary,
Brooks and his gifted ensemble of actors treat us to so many laughs that it’s difficult to nail down just one great moment. Is it the opening “Sing Low Sweet Chariot” singing? Harvey Korman’s scenes with Slim Pickens? The interaction between Gene Wilder’s Waco Kid, Little’s Bart and Alex Karras’ Mongo? Or Madeline Kahn’s perfect sendup of Marlene Dietrich? I could type a list of my favorite parts and eventually I will have typed up the entire movie. So I’m not going to say any more.
This is a wonderful Blu-ray. It’s informative and the look and sound are excellent. In addition to the new featurette, “Blaze of Glory: Mel Brooks’ Wild, Wild West,” the 40th Anniversary Edition comes with 10 collectible art cards that contain stills and memorable quotes from the film. If you are looking to add Blazing Saddles to your collection, or you just want to see it for the first time, you can’t go wrong with this 40th Anniversary release.