What passes for narrative in "Blazing Saddles" is driven by the premise that an African American named Bart (Cleavon Little) becomes the sheriff in a racially prejudiced town in the Old West. This serves as a situation in which Brooks strings together a series of comedy sketches parodying Western movies. But I suppose I should warn the unwary that the film reflects 1970s sensibilities and there are a number of jokes involving the use of the N-word.
Among the most memorable of the comedy sketches are cowboys eating beans and breaking wind, a brutish guy named Mongo using his fist to knock down a horse, and a Marlene Dietrich-like singer trying to do something sexual in the dark with the sheriff. The biggest laughs for me come when that singer, Lili Von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn), billed as the Teutonic Titwillow, performs her world-famous "I'm Tired," which she introduces as "the song that closed Poland."
My favorite character name is that of the governor, William J. Le Petomane (Mel Brooks). On the day we first meet the governor he is signing a bill that will convert the State Hospital for the Insane into the William J. Le Petomane Memorial Gambling Casino for the Insane. Not mentioned on the DVD is the fact that in real life Le Petomane was the stage name of Joseph Pujol, a popular performer at the Moulin Rouge in fin-de-siècle Paris whose comedy act centered around his amazing ability to produce various effects using controlled flatulence.
The "Blazing Saddles" DVD provides audio commentary by Mel Brooks, and you listen to it while the movie plays. However, it ends about 55 minutes into the movie, and although the DVD box claims it is scene-specific, it didn't sound like it to me. Still, I enjoyed listening to Brooks as he talks about writing the screenplay, casting, working with the actors, and post-production. He says the original story outline was titled "Tex X," an allusion to Malcolm X. Brooks also mentions that the Waco Kid wasnt being played by Gene Wilder when shooting beganthe role had gone to Gig Young, but he was taken away in an ambulance on the first day when he collapsed on the set.
There's also a fairly good 28-minute making-of documentary titled "Back in the Saddle," where we hear from Brooks, another writer, a producer, and actors Harvey Korman, Gene Wilder, and Burton Gilliam. Brooks begins by noting that "Blazing Saddles" broke ground, and it also broke wind. Later, he says that his first choice for the lead was Richard Pryor, but the studio execs said no. Brooks also says that in the scene where the sheriff and Lily Von Shtupp are alone in the dark, Warner Brothers made him cut Cleavon Little's line, "I hate to disappoint you, ma'am, but you're sucking on my arm."
The DVD offers a few other bonus materials. There are a few additional scenes, most of which I believe were in the bowdlerized network TV version of "Blazing Saddles." Also, there's a brief excerpt from a Lifetime Television show about Madeline Kahn. And finally, theres the pilot for the 1975 television show "Black Bart" starring Louis Gossett Jr., and I can certainly see why the series wasn't picked up.
If you like Mel Brooks' brand of humor, I think the "Blazing Saddles" 30th Anniversary Special Edition DVD is well worth buying. Below I've listed all the DVD's special features.
- Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1), Color
- Feature Run Time: 1 Hour 33 Minutes
- MPAA Rating: R
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
- French Dolby Digital 2.0
- English Subtitles
- Spanish Subtitles
- French Subtitles
- Audio Commentary by Director Mel Brooks (55 min.)
- Documentary: Back in the Saddle (28 min.)
- Documentary: Intimate Portrait: Madeline Kahn (3 min. 40 sec.)
- TV Pilot: Black Bart (24 min.)
- Additional Scenes (9 min. 40 sec.)
- Theatrical Trailer