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Bandwagon Nerds

Nerds Review: Blazing Saddles (1974)

The Bandwagon Nerds are back with their latest movie review! This time around, the ‘Nerds are Blazing Saddles!

The Bandwagon Nerds are back with their latest movie review! This time around, the ‘Nerds are Blazing Saddles!

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different cult classic from the Nerdosphere.  This week the guys review the Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles.

The Flick:  Blazing Saddles

What’s it About:  Greedy politician Hedley Lemarr seeks to take the land currently occupied by the people of Rock Ridge so he can build a railroad through it.  In an effort to drive the townspeople out, he sends outlaws to terrorize the townsfolk and convinces the Governor to appoint Bart, a black railroad worker, as sheriff.  Unfortunately, for Lemarr he gets more than he bargained for as Bart proves to be a formidable adversary and protector of the town.

Metacritic Score: 73 

 The Nerds’ Take:

Patrick:  Where to begin with this classic?  The cast?  It’s just a whose who of genius.  Look at this lineup: Mel Brooks, Cleavon Little, Madeline Kahn, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, even a young Alex Karras (the dad from the 80s sitcom Webster).  Basically, they’re the 1927 Yankees of comedy in the 70s.  This parody of Westerns from the 1940s – 1960s still holds up pretty darn well for a move approaching its 50th birthday.   Harvey Korman steals this movie for me as Headley Lemarr, a politician desperate to ruin a town so he can build a railroad through it.  Korman’s gift for both physical comedy and line delivery is on full display. He work alongside Mel Brooks’ bumbling Governor is a delight.  The same can be said for the pairing of Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder as Bart and the Wako Kid.  Just a chemistry that allows jokes to land with picture perfect timing.

Everybody has a Blazing Saddles line or scene they remember.  It could be Bart taunting Klansmen, “where the white women at?”  Maybe it’s Ox punching out a horse in the middle of town.  How about the Wako Kid’s shooting hand?  Or, of course, the infamous campfire scene.  It’s all there and damned if those jokes don’t still land.

However, Blazing Saddles is not just a satire of old Westerns, its also a clever commentary about racism hidden within the comedy.  A black sheriff assigned to take over in a small all white town in the Southwest is a genius setting.  Bart plays into the fears and stereotypes of the townsfolk and eventually wins them over.  In doing so, Brooks challenges his audience to examine their own preconceived notions as they root for Bart and the Kid to succeed.

Some of the bits are dated, again nearly 50 years old, but at the end of the day this movie still works.  You can see how Blazing Saddles influenced a whole host of later parodies.  One of the all time great comedies ever made.

Patrick’s Rating:  4.5/5

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Dave Let’s address the elephant in the room right away: Talking about Blazing Saddles given the present national situation, and with concerns over racial injustice higher than they have been in decades, is a slippery slope. It is easy to watch that movie through the lens of recency bias and reach the conclusion that it is highly racist. To reach such a conclusion, however, would rob the viewer of the experience of watching one of the funniest movies ever made.

Let me continue with a bold statement: Blazing Saddles is not a racist movie. It is actually a parody of racism with satirical overtones throughout. Does the movie use racial epithets? Yes, it does in multiple places. But does that one factor alone make the entire movie racist? Or did Mel Brooks brilliantly create a comedic masterpiece that showed just how ignorant racists can be?

In Blazing Saddles, Cleavon Little portrays Bart, an African-American railroad worker who gets himself into trouble because he is pushed too far by his ignorant, white, foreman and hits him over the head with a shovel. Sentenced to death, Bart is instead inserted as the new sheriff of Rock Ridge by Hedy Lamar (portrayed by the brilliant Harvey Korman). Lamar’s plot is to use the townsfolk’s disgust at having a black man as a sheriff to force them to leave. There are many racial tropes at the beginning of this situation that are presented in such a hilarious manner that I defy you not to laugh. After all, Bart is very talented and the people of Rock Ridge are, well, dumb. Along the way, Bart meets the Waco Kid (aka Jim) portrayed by a mainstay of Mel Brooks’s films, Gene Wilder. A fast and strong friendship is forged between Bart and Jim and it does not take long before Bart has won over the townsfolk, who stop seeing him as black and begin to see him as a hero. Desperate to gain control of Rock Ridge, Lamar enlists an army of the worst scumbags society, and the Old West, has ever seen to destroy the town and people of Rock Ridge. Bart and Jim lead a last stand against this army and the climax of the movie is some of the earliest examples of breaking the fourth wall that were seen. There are so many tremendous performances in this movie: Mel Brooks himself portraying Governor LePetomane; the magnificent Madeline Kahan (another Mel Brooks stalwart) as the sultry Lili von Shtupp; former NFL Player Alex Karras as the menacing Mongo, and many others. The cast of Blazing Saddles is, in many ways, like watching the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls: a group of ultra-talented individuals all performing at the height of their powers.

Blazing Saddles is replete with some of the funniest scenes and one-liners in comedy history. It plays upon an enormous amount of racial stereotyping prevalent in 1974 to maximum effectiveness. Despite the use of language which would, and should, be frowned upon by modern standards, the movie still pokes fun at racism and racists. To say that is all the movie is about, however, is so very far off the mark. Rather, Blazing Saddles is a hilarious story of overcoming ignorance, narrow-mindedness, and fear of change. It is ranked as one of the funniest movies of all-time for good reason. If you are easily offended, then you should probably steer clear of this classic. For those of you who want to laugh out loud for 93 minutes, there is no better movie than Blazing Saddles. This classic from Mel Brooks is as funny today as it was in 1974 and I honestly cannot recommend it enough.

Dave’s Rating: 5/5

DPP:  Blazing Saddles is a satire comedy movie telling the story of a black man who is appointed mayor of an all-white town that is to be demolished to make way for a new railroad.  After the attorney general realizes this will make the town worth millions, he derives a plan to force all the people out of the town so he can make claim to the land.  He persuades the Governor to appoint a black railroad worker at the new sheriff, as well as sends a gang of thugs into the town to cause chaos, in hopes that this will enrage the townspeople enough to leave.  There is slapstick and gag comedy, hilarious one liners, anachronisms, fourth wall breaks, and a familiar cast of actors in this Mel Brooks classic.  This movie spends much of its time focused on racism, as is evident with the black railroad workers being treated like cattle, and the town’s racial slurs towards the sheriff.  However, in the end, we see how all races and cultures ban together in order to take down the enemy.

DPP’s Rating: 5/5

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Nerds Rating:  4.8/5


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