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Unfinished Business: Blazing Saddles

November 8, 2011

(Note: I was working on this review right about the time my grandmother was ill. Unfortunately, we all remember how that turned out. I’ll be back with new reviews later this week.)

Finally, Mel Brooks’ gentle parody of westerns, Blazing Saddles! Yes, another Mel Brooks film, and only the second with Gene Wilder. This time, we head back to the old west in 1874, where construction on a new railroad runs into trouble in the form of quicksand. Those running the construction decide to re-route it through Rock Ridge, a peaceful frontier town inhabited by Johnsons. After a gang of thugs by Attorney General Hedley Lamaar prompts the townspeople to petition the governor for a new sheriff.

After the new sheriff beats Lamaar’s elite mook Mongo with the help of professional gunslinger-turned-drunkard Jim (aka The Waco Kid), Lamaar is forced to take drastic measures, recruiting an army of thugs, qualifications including “rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, half-wits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists”. After the townspeople get wind of this, they give sheriff Bart twenty-four hours to come up with a plan to save the town.

Bart’s plan, in short, is to create a fake town out of wood just outside the real town, which they do in one night with the help of the railroad workers. However, they’ve overlooked one important factor – people. Bart and Jim set up a fake toll booth to buy some time for the town for make copies of themselves, forcing the thug army to go back to town for “a shit-load of dimes”. Jim sets off dynamite in the fake town, sending the thugs into confusion and launching a fist fight that breaks what little there was left of the town and the fourth wall, spilling out into the Warner Bros. backlot and interrupting an all-gay musical, starting a food fight in the commissary, and eventually leading to Bart shooting Lamaar outside the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where he and Jim watch themselves on the screen ride off into the sunset where they dismount their horses, get into a limo, and drive off.

Come on. It’s Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder poking gentle fun at a film genre. To me, that’s a recipe for funny. Not the only one, mind, but one of them. Where was I going with this? Oh, right, the summation. As usual, I recommend it if you’re a fan of Mel Brooks. But I also recommend it if you’re a fan of westerns. Even with the comedy and the in-jokes, it makes for a serviceable western movie. At the very least rent it, if not buy outright. It shouldn’t be all that hard to find.

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