Monthly Archives: July 2017

Movie Review: Blazing Saddles


Mel Brooks is hilarious, right? Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Spaceballs. Young Frankenstein. Brooks produced all of those movies, and they never fail to crack me up. True, some of the humor is juvenile, but they’re movies I quote and I know if I need a laugh, they’ll do the job. Many reviewers hold Blazing Saddles in high esteem, but I thought a lot of the humor fell flat.

The movie is a spoof on stereotypical westerns and was revolutionary for its time. A black man becomes the sheriff, and must win over the town he resides in before they lynch him. He and this town are all that stand in the way of the railroad expansion, but it feels like Brooks is trying too hard to be funny. He mocks cowboys and their gassy diet; he makes fun of the burlesque lifestyle; he ridicules the rich owner of the railroad, but I didn’t laugh once and only smiled once or twice.

One thing that bothered me was the constant use of the n-word, though the script used it more to point out inherent racism than as an actual insult. Even Cleavon Little, the actor who played the black sheriff, had no problem with using it and reassured one of his fellow white actors it was all right to use that term. Brooks himself has acknowledged he remade the film today, he couldn’t use that word.

Not that the entire movie is terrible, but I think part of the movie’s charm is gone because all the jokes in this movie are ones everyone knows, though some of them were new at the time. Until Blazing Saddles, there had never been a farting cowboy in a movie, so when the ring of cowboys pass gas and belch, audiences must have found it hilarious. 40 years later, it’s not new or hilarious. The cowboy who’s an ace shot even when he’s drunk isn’t original, and Brooks’s breaking of the fourth wall, while amusing, isn’t bust-a-gut hilarious.

The acting pulls this movie down. Gene Wilder lacks his normal charisma, giving a pale performance of the drunk cowboy who never misses his target. Mel Brooks often plays a small part in his movies and Blazing Saddles is no different. Here, he lacks his usual humor. Instead, he’s raunchy and almost a caricature of himself. Even Dom DeLuise has a lackluster performance. If the actors had given a little more life to their roles, this movie may have stood the test of time better, or at least stood on the merits of its actors. Instead, the one shining star is Madeline Kahn. She delivers as the seductress who falls in love with the man she was hired to con and later pulls no punches with her scandalous song in front of a crowd of men.

If you have an hour and a half to kill, I don’t recommend Blazing Saddles. Try one of Mel Brooks’s other movies, or if you’re in the mood for a funny western, give City Slickers a try.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Starkley lives in New England with her husband, three daughters, and numerous pets. She likes to read, write, bake, and dabble with the clarinet. She also infrequently blogs.

Half Pint: The Adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder


Since America’s beginning (before, really), strong, brave, and intelligent men and women forged their way westward to make new lives for themselves and their families. In the Little House series, Laura Ingalls Wilder chronicled her family’s journey from their home in Wisconsin through various states and territories to the Dakota Territory where they settled permanently. While some scholars now debate the authorship and consider some of the material to be fictional, the basic story is the same. The Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Ingalls family, and many of those she crossed paths with, were pioneers. Continue reading

Destiny at High Noon


More than any other genre of film, the aspect that defines the Western the most is setting. It’s right there in the name—western. The open, often arid vistas of the western United States in the mid- and late-1800s provided the backdrop for a distinctly American type of story, where men instilled justice and order in a lawless land. Many films have filled in this genre and made a lasting impression. One is High Noon. Every element reflects the story’s themes of time, loyalty, and cowardice. Continue reading

Calamity Jane


American culture immortalized Calamity Jane. Portrayed by Doris Day in the 1953 musical film as a pretty, petite blonde, she starts out as a frontier hero wearing men’s clothing. By the end she has become feminized and is in a relationship with Wild Bill Hickok. In the HBO Deadwood series (2004 – 2006) she is more accurately depicted by Robin Weigert. Dark-haired, drunk, and dirty, this is far more like how this frontier female would have been. Continue reading

From One to Many: What Westerns Tell Us About The Past


When you think of classic western movies, what do you think of? A lone hero walking out into the street to take on the bad guys? Or a group of heroes working together to take on the bad guys? They’re both famous and popular patterns for westerns, and both appear in movies made from 1930 to 1970, but they weren’t both popular at the same time. In his book Sixguns and Society: A Structural Study of the Western, author Will Wright posits that changes in the story construction of movies reflected the changes going on within American society during the period. Continue reading

The Old West (July / August 2017)

Nothing captures the popular imagination more than the Old West. Full of Native Americans, gunslingers, trappers, bank robbers, cattle rustlers, and US Marshals, it promises adventure and romance. From western dime novels to spaghetti westerns, endless stories centered on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of settling the American west. Legendary characters like Wild Bill Hitchcock and Annie Oakley live on in our imaginations. Old Hollywood put out hundreds of westerns, including a few classics that stand the test of time. Their heroes fought rustlers, sought revenge for murderous wrongs, and sometimes rode off into the sunset with a woman. Or their trusty horse. Continue reading