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‘Blazing Saddles’ is typical Mel Brooks (1974)

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“Blazing Saddles,” with Cleavon Little, Harvey Korman & Madeline Kahn

A Mel Brooks production, released by Warner Brothers. At the State 2 theater.

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Hollywood rating: R — Restricted; persons under 17 must be accompanied by parent or guardian.

Movie review by Mike Deupree

Any movie that includes a gigantic pie-throwing scene featuring 40 swishing dancers, Tarzan, Cheetah and Adolf Hitler can’t really be called ordinary. Particularly when it’s a western, set in 1874.

“Blazing Saddles” is definitely not ordinary, then, but it is typical — typical Mel Brooks.

Brooks was the architect of some of the funniest skits that graced the old Sid Caesar television show; if you remember these you know what to expect from “Blazing Saddles.”

The skit has been stretched to 93 minutes and laden with R-rated language, but the formula is the same, with plenty of sight gags, one-liners and parodies.

Laughs from language

madeline-kahn-harvey-korman-blazing-saddlesNot all the gags work, and occasionally the film gets its laughs from its language alone, but nobody said the movie is perfect. It’s just very funny.

Cleavon Little is Bart, who’s appointed sheriff of Ridge Rock by the governor, egged on by evil business man Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman).

Hedley believes the presence of a black sheriff will so disgust the town’s residents — all of whom are named Johnson — that they’ll leave and he can make a fortune by selling the land to the railroad.

That’s enough of the plot to give you an idea of what goes on (actually, it’s about all of the plot) as Brooks clobbers every cliche of every western movie.

Technically good

The film is technically good, as is the acting. Best are Korman and Madeline Kahn, who plays a lisping Marlene Dietrich-type named Lili Von Shtupp.

A good word also has to be said for a couple of University of Iowa products that appear in the film, Gene Wilder and Alex Karras.

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Wilder is excellently low-key as the Waco Kid, fastest gun in the world until he hit the booze.

Mel Brooks quote: “You’re always a little disappointing in person…”

Karras, more familiar until recent years as number 71 of the Detroit Lions, is hilarious as Mongo, a dimwitted beast who has a fist fight with a horse.

“Blazing Saddles” is in no danger of being remembered as a classic film, but a couple of sequences do approach that level.

Best sequence

Bart’s entry into Ridge Rock (on a golden Palomino with saddlebags by Gucci) and his subsequent reception by the residents is probably the best sequence in the film.

The last ten minutes or so are the worst, and seem like an afterthought. Maybe that’s true, because the film originally ran 125 minutes before cuts were made.

If you aren’t offended by some rough talk and you don’t regard western movies as sacred, you’ll get plenty of belly laughs from “Blazing Saddles.”

Oh, yes: Count Basie is particularly good in his role as Count Basie, and if that makes any sense to you, you haven’t been paying attention.

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