Earlier, when I reviewed Airplane!, I said that it was a movie that they could not remake in the modern era. They couldn’t remake Airplane! because the sight and callback gags are now almost cliché. ZAZ films had a great run and extended several actors careers beyond what they did originally.
Blazing Saddles can’t be remade because of the current political climate. Mel Brooks turning in this script would be blacklisted in the age we live now. While, yes, his comedy is broad, and doesn’t rely on shock value as like, say, Howard Stern – Blazing Saddles glories in making up laugh and cringe at the same time while sending up the entire western genre. A Founding Father of modern comedy, this movie is the bedrock upon which modern classics like Dodgeball and Me, Myself and Irene.
Like a lot of the comedies from this era, it has kept its shine bright, even despite repeated viewings over. This, and a ration of Monty Python made up my Saturday evenings. However, I am finding more hidden gems of hilarity this go-around. This movie was post-modern and fourth wall breaking before such things were made popular (and driven into the ground, if you ask me). In the scene where the town brawl spills into the dance scene, look at the hole where the fight comes in – there is a painted mockup of the mockup of the town. This might not be intentional, but it’s funny in the context of the whole movie. Yes, there are the sight gags that top themselves. Hanging a murderous doctor in his own wheelchair? OK – here’s one better: let’s hang a man and his horse. Let’s go for broke – let’s have the erstwhile hero of the movie moved up to be hung, and have the people awaiting their turn look pissed. Why not make our executioner a medieval hunchback complaining about scheduling? In the Wild West! Why not?
This movie was third film directed by Mel Brooks, proving that he could bring in the cash that the studio demanded. This film also brought in Richard Pryor as a writer and was the first movie to feature former NFL player turned actor and future father to Emmanuel Lewis’s Webster Alex Karras. Madeline Khan, Harvey Korman round out the cast with hilarious turns as the seductive German songstress (another send up of the Western genre is the entertaining lady belting out an innuendo laden song break to a rowdy crowd. Madeline’s song is called ‘I’m Tired’ and is a blunt complaint about constant sex), and the villain who corrects his own name (“Look, it’s Heddy Lamar!” “It’s Headly!”) more often than he hatches plans and wants his rubber frog.
This comedy should be in a place of high honor in your collection – next to Airplane! and Monty Python’s Life of Brian as the Holy Trinity of comedy of Monty Python, Mel Brooks and ZAZ. A perfect piece to drag out on your mental health days and just let yourself laugh out loud.