Musicals use their plot as a connector between songs. Porn films used plot, back when they had one, to connect the sex scenes. Similarly, Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles uses what plot it has as a framework upon which to hang a non-stop barrage of sight-gags, puns and just plain jokes, most of them very funny.
This is not Brooks’ best film. That honor belongs either to The Producers or Young Frankenstein. Blazing Saddles is, however, his most fearless. This is nothing he won’t do to get a laugh. Bodily functions, sex, race and gay stereotypes are all fair game. Brooks’ secret is that he doesn’t have a truly mean-spirited bone in his body. Only the genuinely stupid can be offended by this kind of film because, in the end, they are only people who are held up for scorn.
The plot, as I suggested, is hardly relevant but it does set the tone for what is to follow. Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) wants the land that the town of Rock Ridge sits on (He also wants people to stop calling him “Heddy”). Attempts to drive the rightful owners away using his private army of thugs, led by Slim Pickens, have failed. His last-ditch attempt is to replace the murdered town sheriff with a black man (Cleavon Little), figuring that would send the lily-white citizens of Rock Ridge running for the hills. Of course, the new sheriff is able to overcome the racism of the town and foil Korman’s plans, with the aid of his deputy, a deadly gunslinger turned town drunk (Gene Wilder).
This is, of course, a movie that could not be made today. Despite the fact that racism is mercilessly skewered throughout the film, the liberal use of the word “nigger”, often as a punch line, would bring the rampaging hordes of Politically Correct barbarians down on Mel Brooks like the wrath of God. Even then, I’m sure it was touchy, but I think the fact that much of the racially edgier humor was probably written by the late Richard Pryor probably helped earn Blazing Saddles a pass.
Suffice it to say, this is not a film for people whose political and cultural sensibilities are as delicate as a Victorian spinster. If, as Abbie Hoffman said, sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger, Blazing Saddles serves us up some Texas-sized barbecue.