“I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.” Hedley Lamar (Harvey Korman)
Today is the 39th anniversary of the release of the Mel Brook Western parody classic Blazing Saddles. I wasn’t quite 14 years old when it came out but somehow managed to get a ticket to the R rated movie. I didn’t have a fake I.D. like President Obama said was how he might have gotten into the theater to see it when he was 13, but I remember getting in to a lot of R rated movies back in those days without any parental supervision.
To me the film is a cultural icon and classic. I watch it several times a year and if there is nothing else on and I want a good laugh there is a good chance that I will put it in my DVD player.
The movie couldn’t be made today. It insulted everyone and was one of the most politically incorrect movies ever made. However, 1974 was a different time. It was a time of social and political turmoil as the Vietnam War wound down, the economy tanked and the Nixon Presidency teetered with each new revelation about the Watergate break in and cover-up.
Mel Brooks used comedy to confront many of the evils still rampant in our society, racism, sexism, political corruption as well is simple ignorance were all targets of Brooks’ wit.
Starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, and Madeline Kahn it became one of the surprise hits of its era, surprising even Brooks in its acceptance and box office success. Unlike many movies it has endured and now at 39 years is considered one of the classics of American film.
Brooks’ rich parody of the Western genre. Even John Wayne, though asked by Brooks to be in the film after looking at the script “Naw, I can’t do a movie like that, but I’ll be first in line to see it!”
Now when I see some of the same prejudice, racism, ignorance and corruption today I am reminded of Jim the Waco Kid’s (Gene Wilder) comments to Sheriff Bart when he experienced the racial prejudice of a little old lady:
“What did you expect? “Welcome, sonny”? “Make yourself at home”? “Marry my daughter”? You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”
Now since it is getting late and I have things to do in the morning even though “My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives” I must prepare for bed.