On its 40th anniversary, there really isn’t all that much more praise one can give to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. Unleashed upon the public in 1974 by Warner Bros., Blazing Saddles paved the way not just for Brooks’ own brand of delirious hilarity, but possibly for all comedies. It was one of the first of the glutton of parodies to come out of the ’70s and ’80s. Brooks’ own Young Frankenstein even came out the same year. Hailed as one of the funniest movies ever made, there are plenty of jokes that you may not have caught — or in my case, as I grow older, become keener to the satire and mounting double entendre. Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the funniest movie ever made! Get the Blazing Saddles: 40th Anniversary Blu-ray, available May 6.
In the wild, wild west of 1874, Lyle (Burton Gilliam) is overseeing the construction of a new railroad and sends out Bart (Cleavon Little) to check for quicksand. The railroad now must be diverted through the town of Rock Ridge, where after assaulting Taggart (Slim Pickens), Bart is sent by State Attorney General Hedley Lamaar (Harvey Korman) as their new sheriff to try to drive the townsfolk out. Turns out the Johnsons of Rock Ridge have defeated tyranny before — after the Dicks tried to run them out — so now Bart and the townsfolk must team up with “The Waco Kid” Jim (Gene Wilder) and Lili von Schtupp, after Hedley and Governor William J. Le Petomane (Brooks) send in their best henchman Mongo (Alex Karras), along with a tirade of Klansmen, Nazis, and a host of various outlaws.
When Blazing Saddles was originally released on Blu-ray, back in 2006, the video quality was no slouch. Placed on a smaller 25GB disc, Warner Bros. has upgraded to a more spacious 50GB, along with replacing the original lossy Dolby Digital track with a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. While some of the original source issues still stand, there are a few wide shots with an overwhelming amount of grain and the opening credits still shot will always have the vertical tear, but once the film is in motion, the uptick in resolution is fantastic.
I hung onto the original disc for comparison and let’s just say that this is what one would expect a 2.40:1 Panavision-filmed western to look like on Blu-ray. Colors are bolder and everything from swirling dust to facial features, to clothing textures and beads of sweat come through with spectacular detail. The audio upgrade also makes for a more spacious soundstage with cleaner dialogue and a wider range of directionality. As a comedy, the sound is more front-heavy, but surrounds kick in nicely such as cracking whips in the theme song, random explosions, and of course, Schtupp’s musical number or during the finale. Additional audio tracks include: 1.0 Dolby Digital Français and Español (Castilian and Latin), with subtitles in English, Français and Español.
Almost every special feature, from the original release are intact, save for the Madeline Kahn featurette, but in its place we get a brand new feature: “Behind the Scenes: Blaze of Glory: Mel Brooks’ Wild, Wild West” which runs 29 minutes. Brooks is interviewed about the lasting legacy of his film, and oddly enough, a lot of what he says sounds like it was used for the “Scene Specific Commentary with Mel Brooks.” One of the more interesting tidbits is Brooks mentioning that he couldn’t get another picture made called Marriage Is a Dirty Rotten Fraud, and considering he wrote it during his heyday, I’d love to see it get made today as it has to be sharper than his last stint behind the camera: Dracula: Dead and Loving It. He also talks about the genesis of the screenplay with fellow writers Andrew Bergman (the original story credit), Norman Steinberg, Al Uger, and Richard Pryor — who also gave full approval of all use of the derogatory N-word so prevalent throughout the film.
The rest of the features include “Behind the Scenes: Back in the Saddle” (28:24), Deleted Scenes (9:53) including “Give Mongo a Cigar,” “Quick Draw Mongo,” “Lili Slips Into Something More Comfortable,” “Baptism To-Day,” “Just Whistling Dixie,” “Campaigning for Dummies,” and “Bushwacker Malfunction.” A play all feature is included so you can watch all of them together. The most interesting feature is the return of the failed pilot called Black Bart (24:31) which shows that TV was no place for something as edgy as Blazing Saddles. Lastly, 10 quotable art cards with funny quotes and images from the film and the theatrical trailer (2:18) rounds things out.
For anyone who hasn’t already added Blazing Saddles to their Blu-ray collection now is the time to snatch up the 40th anniversary edition. With a new, stunning transfer, along with an upgraded audio track, the extras may be the same, but the presentation is certainly worth the purchase. Now, you can see Blazing Saddles break the fourth wall, and wind, with a stunning new HD transfer, looking as good as new, and as hilarious as always.