Wilder Goes Wacko as The Waco Kid
If "Blazing Saddles" was made today I can only imagine the lambasting it would get for being politically incorrect, with its numerous racial jokes including the famous "the sheriff is a n...". But that is not to say that it is unbalanced with its approach because although the racial humour does stereotype African Americans, it also portrays the white population as bunch of bigoted racists. On top of this "Blazing Saddles" also stereotypes homosexuals and references so much toilet humour such as the farting scene that the main fans of the movie would more than likely be teenagers. But the fact remains that "Blazing Saddles" is still a favourite amongst legions of viewers who remember it from its release back in the 70s and the incessant gags always manage to keep you in fits of laughter.
With the townsfolk of Rock Ridge threatened by the impending plan to demolish their town and build a rail road through it, they write Governor William J. Lepetomane (Mel Brooks - Robots) asking for his help. Unknowingly to them, the assistant to the Governor, Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman), is in fact the force behind the proposed rail road and devises a devious plan to send them a black sheriff, in the hope that the racist town folk will revolt against him. Needless to say, the new Sheriff, Bart (Cleavon Little), receives a rather nasty welcome as he attempts to settle into the town, his only friend being an alcoholic gun slinger called the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder - Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) whose home is in the towns Jail.
To be totally frank, the storyline is purely a vehicle for a continuous stream of gags which never stop for the duration of "Blazing Saddles", and in all honesty is pretty flimsy. The crux of the story revolves around the attempts of the Assistant to the Governor to ruin the town of Rock Ridge so that he can prosper from building a rail track through it. To achieve his goal he attempts to upset the townsfolk and make them desert their town by not only employing a team of ruthless cowboys to wreak havoc, but by also sending them a black sheriff to unsettle them. That is it, there is no real sub stories which make up the movie and in a way there doesn't need to be, because as already mentioned the storyline is purely there as a vehicle for the numerous gags. As well as supplying us with numerous gags, it also attempts to spoof the western genre and does so in magnificent style.
Where do you start to describe the humour which flows through "Blazing Saddles" other than saying it is diverse and hilarious. Well the initial humour relies on stereotyping race, and although some people may cringe at the stereotyping of African Americans and the high usage of the N word not just in the famous "the sheriff is a n..." scene but throughout, they should also notice that it is totally balanced out by portraying the white folk of Rock Ridge as not only being racist, but also in being stupid in their blinkered viewpoint.
Then there is the spoofing of westerns as well as any genre of movie it feels like, such as cartoons and the big Hollywood musicals even though the latter two have no real reason to be included in a western other than the fact the scenes are hilarious. Finally there is the use of toilet humour and innuendo, which although some people would say may be a bit close to the mark, it is nothing compared to the toilet humour or should I say gross out humour which litters modern movies such as "American Pie". One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is the farting scene as Cowboys sitting around eating hot beans and letting out more hot air than a bunch of teenage boys. This is just one scene amongst hundreds which fill "Blazing Saddles" and I have never managed to watch the movie without bursting out in tears of laughter at one point or another.
Although there is no one character which really is the main focus of "Blazing Saddles", the most prominent is Bart, the black sheriff, played by Cleavon Little. Little although not laugh out loud funny, is the perfect stool for numerous gags, such as when he pretends to take himself hostage at gun point so to escape from the dim witted people of Rock Ridge. Alongside Little is Gene Wilder As The Waco Kid, and again, although not laugh out loud funny, has so many great comical moments, such as when he retells the story as to why he became an alcoholic, that you can't but help enjoy it. These are just 2 performances which combined with other good performances from all the other actors and actresses, such as Mel Brooks, Harvey Korman and Slim Pickens, make up such a funny film.
As well as appearing in the movie, Mel Brooks also directed "Blazing Saddles" and has his trademarks stamped all over it, from the excess amount of gags through to the subtle personal innuendo, such as naming the villain Hedley Lamarr which was a dig at Heddy Lamarr who sued him. What Brooks does to magnificent proportions is to keep "Blazing Saddles" moving at such a pace that you don't have time to dry the tears from your eyes before he hits you with another gag, and unlike some movies where the gags can become predictable, in "Blazing Saddles" the gags are different and funny in each scene. Even the fact that the film ends in quite a silly and unsuspected way does not deter from the quality of the film but in a way just emphasises what "Blazing Saddles" was all about, spoofing other film genres.
What this all boils down to is that for a movie which is now into its 30s and has so many scenes which today would be classed as politically incorrect, I absolutely adore "Blazing Saddles". For me it is a prime example of what Mel Brooks does best, and that is to make you laugh, laugh some more and then laugh till it hurts. Although some people may be offended by the use of the N word and the stereotyping of African Americans, if you look deeper you will notice that Brooks balances this out with the stereotyping of the white towns folk.