Mel Brooks is a comic genius and that is an undisputable fact. This fact is made even stronger by Blazing Saddles, the 6th all-time greatest comedy according to the AFI. Granted it just wasn’t Mel Brooks, but his ability to get past the hand of the censors was the key to this films success then and it still is today. This 30th Anniversary DVD preserves this absolute classic in brilliant form and tosses in some unique extras as well.
The small town of Rock Ridge is in trouble. Seems that quicksand has prevented a railroad to be built as planned and the only way the project can continue is straight through the quite western town. The citizens will obviously not be happy with their town being demolished so the “assistant to the governor” Heddy…err…Hedley Lamaar (Harvey Korman), gets an idea to send in a new sheriff that will drive the citizens away. Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) earns the trust of the not-so accepting town and develops a plan to turn the tide on the rather unintelligent town-destroyers.
Blazing Saddles is a film that doesn’t limit itself to the Wild West. No, Saddles takes off into the Warner Brothers lot across various sets, a food court, and finally to a theater which is premiering the film. Simply put, the movie is too much of a classic to contain itself to its source material. It’s a wacky, crazy, incoherent, and downright stupid film for nearly the entire running time. This is exactly why the movie is still a classic to this day.
The entire cast is perfect, including Mel Brooks in various roles himself. Cleavon Little is flawless as the only real intelligent person in town and Gene Wilder is unforgettable as the Waco Kid. Even Alex Karris, a NFL player, is priceless as the hulking Mongol. Of course, not giving credit to Madeline Kahn as Lillie Von Setup in an Academy Award nominated performance would be a crime.
People have blasted the film as racist and disgusting, but calling the film either of these misnomers is completely missing the point. Yes, certain words are spoken that make it seem racially motivated, but if you actually take the time to think about it, the film is actually a parody of racism and its idiocy. Should you not view the film for this reason, you are truly missing one of the greatest American comedies of all time and Mel Brooks’ finest achievement. Now excuse me while I get some schnitzengruben . (***** out *****)
Blazing Saddles has been restored for this anniversary and compared to the previous edition of the film on DVD, this new release is a small miracle. Though a few sequences have some minor film grain and small scratches are still noticeable, this new 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is the best this film could possibly look. The colors have been brought out to almost obscene levels and digging deep for compression problems will prove useless. Even the nighttime sequences hold together with solid black levels and barely any grain. (****)
The new 5.1 surround mix was certainly something fans of the film were looking forward to when this disc was announced. Sadly, the campfire sequence that had so much potential never utilizes the format as it should. Neither does the rest of the film. There is some minor usage of the positional audio in the front speakers, but only the soundtrack makes its way into the rears occasionally. Regardless of the action sequences, the new mix brings with it crystal clear dialogue and your bound to hear something new that you have never heard before no matter how many times you have seen it. (***)
To celebrate the occasion, Warner has supplied us with a fine special edition with some nice extras. Mel Brooks gives us a commentary track, but this is the same one that was included on the original release. He’ll spout off some facts that even die-hard followers may not know, but it only lasts for about a hour. Next are some deleted and alternate scenes which feature some of the edited TV sequences which are used to pad the running time since so much of the film is cut when shown on network TV. In total, the scenes run for about ten minutes.
Next up is a decent documentary entitled “Back in the Saddle,” which interviews some of the surviving cast members. The focus is mostly on Brooks and the writers, but Gene Wilder and Harvey Korman get some time as well. The documentary is padded with nearly all of the deleted scenes mentioned above and some of the comments are redundant after you listen to the commentary, but it’s great to see some of the stars of this classic today. Madeline Kahn gets a short segment from the show “Intimate Portrait” that runs four minutes and it talks a bit about her classic performance.
Warner wasn’t done yet and dug real deep for the TV pilot of “Black Bart,” a proposed spin-off from the film after its success. Starring a young Louis Gosett Jr. as Bart, it featured various little known actors trying to replicate the characters from the film. Without the ability to let it all out due to the standards of cable TV, this is 25 minutes best spent elsewhere. Still, credit must be given for not only including this oddity but finding it in remarkable condition. There are times when this looks better than the film itself. Lastly, you can view the films original trailer. (****)
Should you own the original release of this film on DVD, this is a more than worthy upgrade. The bland, dry print of old is ancient history and the extra features alone are worth the bargain basement price most stores are selling it for. Kudos for Warner for their fine job not only on the restoration of the video, but giving the movie a nice special edition that is worthy enough for any true fans DVD collection.
Originally posted at Breaking Windows.