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Blazing Saddles (R)
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This came out in 1974, the year before I was born. It's kind of a modern comedy classic, so I've wanted to see it for a long time. And I finally did, in 2017. It was directed and co-written by Mel Brooks. And... it's one of the most redonkulous things I've ever seen. In a good way. Well, mostly good. I guess the main point of the movie (aside from getting laughs) is to demonstrate how absurd racism is. Of course, to do that, the film has to play around with some potentially offensive material. And while on the whole, I think it does a fair job of making fun of the absurdity of racism against black people (and maybe Chinese people), there were some scenes where I found its portrayal of Native Americans more offensive than funny (particularly when Brooks himself played an Indian chief). And on a more trivial note, I wasn't wild about a scene with a bunch of cowboys farting while eating beans, just because I'm not generally a fan of fart jokes. But I suppose I did sort of appreciate the novelty of it. I mean, beans are notorious for making people fart, and cowboys are notorious for eating beans, and yet you never hear people in cowboy movies fart. So... on that level, I liked it. But I still can't completely get past my feeling of fart jokes being terribly lowbrow humor. Other than that... it's a mostly funny movie, with a decent message mixed into all the redonkulousness.

Anyway, the movie takes place in 1874. It begins with a group of people building a railroad. The workers include white people as well as black former slaves, and Chinese people. The only worker who's really important to the plot is a black man named Bart (Cleavon Little). Then there's the overseer of the project, Taggart (Slim Pickens), and his main henchman, Lyle. At one point, Taggart sends Bart and another worker to check for quicksand. The two of them get stuck in the stuff, and have to drag themselves out, with absolutely no concern or help from Taggart or Lyle. Subsequently, Bart hits Taggart in the head with a shovel. So he's sent to the state capital as a prisoner. Meanwhile, Taggart reports to the state's attorney general, Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman), about the quicksand in the way of the railroad. Construction will have to be rerouted through the small town of Rock Ridge, but first the townsfolk will have to be driven out. Taggart leads a group of cowboys to terrorize the town, and they kill the sheriff. After that, the townsfolk send a telegraph to the governor, William J. Le Petomane (also Brooks), asking for him to appoint a new sheriff. Hedy... I mean, Hedley... decides to spare Bart from the gallows, and send him out as the new sheriff. He expects the townsfolk to turn against Bart because he's black, and at first they do. However, Bart soon earns their respect, after defeating Taggart's toughest henchman, Mongo.

After that, Hedley sends a German singer named Lili von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn) to seduce Bart and... after that I'm not real clear on what Hedley expected to happen. But in any event, it failed, because Lili ended up liking Bart. Oh... and um... I'm probably going to leave a lot of plot points out, and say things out of order. But I should mention that on Bart's first day on the job, he met a drunkard named Jim (Gene Wilder), who used to be the fastest gun in the West (or maybe the world), known as the Waco Kid. But he has a sort of tragic story about how that ended, and why he's now constantly drunk. But I guess he becomes Bart's deputy, or whatever. Anyway, eventually Hedley gets Taggart to hire a bunch of outlaws to try and overrun Rock Ridge, so Bart and Jim have to devise a plan to foil Hedley's plan. And they get help from the black railroad workers that Bart used to work with.

I guess that's all I want to say about the actual plot. But there are lots of anachronisms, and fourth wall-breaking, and so forth. The kind of stuff I generally really dig, and I really dug it, here. It's all pretty crazy in all the best ways. And after the movie, I watched some bonus features on the DVD, including the pilot episode of a TV show called "Black Bart," based on the movie. I think the pilot is the only episode that ever aired, though more episodes were filmed... but never intended to air. All part of a contractual thing that in a way was almost as funny as the movie itself. As for the pilot episode, I thought it was okay. It had some changes from the movie, and it certainly wasn't nearly as good as the movie, and I can't say I'm disappointed about not being able to see any more episodes. But it was entertaining enough, for what it was. Anyway, I'm just really glad I've finally seen the movie. I'm sorry that I can't quite manage to love it, as some people do, but at least I can see why it's a classic, and why it was kind of revolutionary.

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