So much has been written about this film elsewhere that it feels a little pointless going into much depth here. Suffice it to say, it’s still a genuine comedy classic.
However, it has become fashionable of late to dismiss Mel Brooks’ contribution to comedy. This is partly his own fault for churning out some genuine stinkers, including but by no means limited to, Silent Movie, Dracula: Dead and Loving It and Life Stinks. Some might even put Spaceballs in that list, but if like me you were young in the Eighties you probably wouldn’t. Anyway, despite all the dross he’s still managed to put out some real gold. Blazing Saddles probably best encapsulates his career as a whole, in that it’s uneven, with some painfully embarrassing and unfunny moments scattered between the brilliant bits. And whilst often praised for its open condemnation of racism it still manages to pander to 1970s racial stereotypes for cheap laughs; the Sheriff smokes pot, calls everyone brother, and the German cabaret singer discovers for herself that it really is true what they say about black men.
On the DVD is the pilot episode of a proposed spin-off TV show called Black Bart. What were they thinking? Whereas Mel Brooks was able to deftly handle the racism in a comedic and non-offensive way (mostly), this is just terrible. It’s like a bad dream. Did they really think they had a chance of getting this on weekly TV? I’m assuming it was never aired. Worth seeing though. There are also some scenes which were shot specifically for the TV version of the movie. I think for that one they also dubbed out the soundtrack on the infamous farting scene. Kills the comedy stone dead, as you can imagine.
If Mel Brooks had only made The Producers he would still be hailed as a genius. The fact that that movie was his debut, rather than the culmination of years of hard work in the genre is really remarkable. So I feel he can be forgiven for his occasional lapse in comic judgement, and his recent barrel-scraping as he determines to one by one set all of his great works to music. The world is a better place because of Mel Brooks. He gave us the first person to break wind on the silver screen, and for that we should all be thankful.
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