The Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book ‘s next recommendation for Monsieur Hulot, is Mel Brook’s comedic take on the western genre, that works on sight gags, physical comedy, and lots of great lines.
However, there is also a slew of stereotypes and some less than acceptable language, although it’s very evident that the racist remarks are all coming from stupid white characters, showing that they really are moronic. So while I don’t like some of the language used, I get why it’s there.
Scheming Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) and his right hand man, Taggart (Slim Pickens) are making a power grab and plan to ruin a small western town so that their railroad can have the land. There just happens to be one man in his way, the town of Rock Ridge’s new sheriff, put there by Governor Lepotomane (Brooks) in a political move… he’s given the town, the west, and probably the United States, its first black sheriff in Bart (Cleavon Little).
Little is awesome as Bart, with a hilarious 70s swagger in style juxtaposed upon the western genre, from his clothes, to his slang, it all works brilliantly, and his character is imminently likable, and so much smarter than those around him.
With an alcoholic sidekick, Jim (Gene Wilder), who has the fastest hands in the west if not the world, he sets out to save the town that hates him.
Lamarr first sends brute force, Mongo (Alex Karras) against Bart, and then tries to seduce him with the German songstress (with a funny musical number to prove it, not to mention a hilarious accent) Lili Von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn), both of them join forces with the sheriff and they join in the forces to save the town, as Taggart and his band race across the land (and through toll booths) to reach and destroy their small town.
The laughs are plentiful, my favorite is when Bart takes himself hostage to get away from the less than welcoming townsfolk, almost all of them with the surname Johnson, including an industrious fellow named Howard (Magnum’s John Hillerman). It also gets completely absurd as the film breaks out of its western constraints to sprawl across modern-day (well for the time) studios and into the street… causing Bart and Jim to pop into a theater showing Blazing Saddles to see how it ends.
Brooks keeps the jokes coming fairly rapidly, and uses the frame of countless westerns and all the tropes one would expect, but tends to put them on their ear, and milk them for all the jokes he can.
While some of the film is very dated now, a lot of it still works really well, and the comedic moments had me laughing aloud.
If asked, however, my favorite Brooks film, much like everyone’s I think will always be the brilliant Young Frankenstein.
What Mel Brooks film is your favorite and what do you think of Blazing Saddles?