Film 2020: Blazing Saddles


I first saw Blazing Saddles in the Burnage Odeon, forty-six years ago, in the year of its release, and I found it hilarious. The only film I found funnier in the whole of the Seventies came the following year, with Mel Brooks’ sequel, Young Frankenstein, which I had the advantage of seeing just after Granada TV had rebroadcast the first two Frankenstein films, giving me the advantage of a very fresh recollection of everything it parodied.

I also remember seeing it in North London, in 1977 after finishing my Solicitors’ Professional Exams. I originally went in to watch one of the myriad post-Sylvia Kristel Emmanuelle films that I found so dull and unarousing that I left to go to the gents and returned to a different multiplex cinema screen, showing this film.

This must be the dozenth time, minimum, that I’ve seen the film, and I think the magic is starting to finally wear off.

It’s still a hopelessly sprawling satire that lands all its jokes either on or close to the target, though the transgressive nature of its prolific use of the N-word has ceased to be particularly funny and is now growing irritating. It still spreads its wings comedically wide – the hanging scenes, with the Charles Laughton-esque Boris, and that killer line, ‘Thith one’th a doozie’, still explodes on sight – but the beans scene has finally passed the point of amusement.

The film satirises every cliche of western films it can, sometimes with a serious point, as in the inherent racism of the white West but more often for nothing but knockabout purposes, and it’s still a masterpiece in the unexpected with its multi-layered ending not so much breaking the fourth wall but ensuring there isn’t a big enough piece of it left for a mouse to stand on, but I find myself with curiously little to say about it and nothing in the least bit originally.

Perhaps it was a poor choice for today, a deep past trip too close to the one I fell down last night, or maybe at last you can have too much of a good thing. Blazing Saddles was fun again, but I am too tired to respond as I have always done before. To all those who are no longer here to watch how you entertained us, may the sunset you ride off into be chauffeur-driven, like Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder.

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