“Never give a saga an even break!”
Directed by Mel Brooks
Written by Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Alan Uger
Cast: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, David Huddleston, Liam Dunn, Alex Karras, Alex Karras, John Hillerman, George Furth
A wise man once told me “Laughter is good for the soul”, it’s a good bit of advice. I’m more than sure that it was stolen from someone else, these things usually are. Nothing tickles me more than the “Spoof” films from the 70s and 80s, and seeing as how I’m doing Credit Crunch Film Reviews, I thought I’d share one of the best with you. One thing I can promise you though, more comedy reviews will be on the way soon. We all need a giggle these days.
The early years of film saw very little in the way of genre progression. It was typically a Swashbuckling Adventure full of shiny trinkets and sword duels to the death, a tale from the dark ages full of shiny trinkets and sabre duels to the death or a Wild Western with shiny trinkets and quick draw duels to the death. To be honest, that’s my kind of thing. Yes, today’s so called epics really put on a show, with it’s special effects and skilfully written screenplays, but what’s wrong with a bit of love, a bit of shooting and a dance number. Westerns dominated out of the three during Flapper times, all the way through to the hippie years. Some alternative westerns still crop up today, there’s even an Eastern Western in the form of The Good, the Bad & the Weird (2008). But not even the classic western is safe from the clutches of Spoof Comedy.
Blazing Saddles is the story of Rock Ridge, a sleepy town where the west isn’t it’s wildest and everyone’s called Johnson. Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman), the advisor to the boss-eyed Governor (Mel Brooks), has halted work of the railway because Rock Ridge is in the way. In an attempt to grab the land from the inhabitants, Hedley sends in his goons to make the place unliveable. After the current sheriff is killed by the onslaught, townspeople demand a new one. The Dick Dastardly-esc Hedley convinces the Governor to send Bart (Cleavon Little), a former worker on the Railway and now the first ever black sheriff in the west. Having the honour of being the first quickly turns sour when he rides into the town and finds out how they feel about a black sheriff. With the help of the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder), can Bart win over the locals while trying to save the town they love?
Mel Brooks has always been one for classics. His writing flows with perfect comedic timing, the silliness may seem over the top but it wouldn’t be the same without it. Of course, Brooks pops up from time to time during the film as the Governor, he always seems to cameo in his movies, and the oddly Jewish Native American. Gene Wilder, best known to the modern day filmgoers as Willy Wonka, has a good crack as the Waco Kid. Based on legendary western characters, the Waco Kid hints at the earlier westerns starring the likes of John Wayne. The character has many classic lines and Gene is to thank for that. Playing a down and out hero with a drink problem isn’t easy, playing it with comedy mixed in, even harder.
Every comedy film has its prime moments, the times that convince you to watch it again or suggest it to a friend. Blazing Saddles has them in abundance. Who could forget the classic scene involving Hedley’s goons around a campfire, funnily enough now that scene is being used on television to promote awareness of Unlicensed Gas Fitters. If that doesn’t give away what the scene’s about, the film is worth watching for that alone. The quick draw of the Waco Kid is also recognised as one of the greatest moments of comedy in the 20th century.
I’ve always loved silly films, I was introduced to them at a very young age. I remember watching Laurel & Hardy’s The Music Box (1932) when I was about 6 years old. Spoof media will be around for years to come, whether it will be a movie of music, The Spoof is more than often a sure fire hit, as long as we discount films made by Wayans brothers and other American double teams, they truly are a load of tat. Mel Brooks was the first master of this, turning what was popular into something very popular. Don’t just take my word for it, get the pizzas in, have a few mates round and let the laughter fly. Add Spaceballs (1987) for that extra Brooks homage.