Blazing Saddles – Film 85 – tape 50

First on the tape, Blazing Saddles, close contender (with The Producers) to the title of Mel Brooks’ best film.

If you’ve never seen it, you probably should. It’s a very funny film, but one that’s also about something – a biting parody on the racism of the old west. Although if your tolerance for the N-word is low, you might find it hard going, as they use it a lot.

Cleavon Little plays a black sheriff, assigned to the town of rock-ridge by a Harvey Korman as Hedley Lamarr (“It’s HEDLEY”) a corrupt politician who is trying to drive the citizens of the town away so he can buy the land and drive a railroad through it. The townsfolk are not happy at having a black man for mayor.

Cleavon Little

Gene Wilder is the drunk former gunslinger The Waco Kid.

Gene Wilder

The awful racism of the townspeople might be difficult to stomach, except that Little is smart and sophisticated, and Wilder also is basically an intellectual in cowboy boots, so they can bear it with a shrug. When an old woman, who had previously insulted him on the street, gives him an apple pie to thank him for getting rid of one of Korman’s goons, she says “Of course you will have the good taste not to tell anyone I spoke to you?”

Then, we’re introduced to Lilli Von Shtupp, “The Teutonic Titwillow” – when her scene starts, there’s a cheeky snatch of ‘Springtime for Hitler’ on the soundtrack. She’s played by Madeleine Khan in a performance clearly channelling Marlene Dietrich.

Madeleine Khan

The ending of the film is a bizarre piece of meta-filmmaking, as the camera pans from a huge brawl in the streets of Rock Ridge, across a studio backlot, to some studio buildings, and we’re suddenly watching the rehearsal of an old-style hollywood musical, as Dom DeLuise directs top-hatted dancers in a song called ‘The French Mistake’.

Dom DeLuise 2

There’s an awful lot of gay steroetypes in this scene. The shooting is interrupted by the western brawl bursting through the set wall, and proceeds to go all over the studio, including a food fight in the commissary.

Then, Hedley Lamarr leaves the studio and takes a cab to the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, where they’re showing Blazing Saddles.

Chinese Theatre

And when he starts watching, he sees Cleavon Little arrive at the theatre on his horse. And after Little has dealt with him, he and Wilder go back into the cinema to watch the end of the film. So they even get to ride off into the sunset – well, ride off to their limo, which then drives off into the sunset.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 6th April 1985 – 21:00

After this, recording changes, and we have more Film 85 featuring reviews of

There’s also a look forward to films opening during the summer.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 18th June 1985 – 22:45

The tape ends just after this, just as an episode of Taxi is starting.

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