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Blazing Saddles: 30th Anniversary Special Edition

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: B+/B+/A

Directed by: Mel Brooks
Written by: Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor and Alan Uger
Produced by: Michael Hertzberg
Starring: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harry Korman, Slim Pickens, Madeline Kahn, Alex Karras, Mel Brooks
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!

Who would have guessed that a western with cowboys experiencing flatulence problems would become such an immortal classic? I sure wouldn't, but that's probably the result when you bring together Mel Brooks the king of bad taster and Richard Pryor, one of the stand-up greats (He will be missed). Blazing Saddles took quite a bit of time to get to the big screen. The title was changed constantly and John Wayne was originally cast in the Gene Wilder role. In the end, the film became an almighty comedy classic.

The evil Hedy Lamarr (Harvey Korman) wants to build a railroad through the small western town of Rock Ridge. There's only one thing that's in the way of his plans: The rightful owners. When the town is in need of a new sheriff, Lamarr sees his chance. He makes a black railroad worker named Bart (Cleavon Little) sheriff so that the town becomes so offended, they will run out of town. However, when the town starts to warm up to Bart, Hedy brings in a big brute (Alex Karras) and a German salon singer (Madeline Kahn who received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance) to do the job. They're no match for Bart and his sidekick, The Wako Kid (Gene Wilder in a role completely different from his own in the first Mel Brooks film, The Producers), though.

This is without a doubt the funniest film of all-time. It's a wacky multiple-opportunity offender that just brings millions of laughs in every single scene. Cleavon Little is an absolute delight as Bart and it's too bad, he didn't become a huge star after starring in Blazing Saddles. Harvey Korman is also great as the villain and Mel Brooks gives his best performance as the governor who doesn't even know what's going on. The screenplay by Brooks, Pryor and three people I've never heard of before is sharp-witted and possibly one of the best ever written. The film gets the highest honour it could get, "A+." The video isn't bad, but it could have been better in this day and age. I would have loved it if Warner Brother had digitally restored Blazing Saddles like they did brilliantly with sixty year-old Citizen Kane. It gets a "B+" nonetheless, despite the spots that appear in bits and parts. The audio is slightly better. There are some cracks that are heard, but we hear the dialogue and flatulence without a problem. The audio gets a "B+" as well.

Moving on to special features, we begin with an audio commentary with Mel Brooks. The box advertises it as screen-specific, which is a downright lie. In fact, it stops about 50 minutes into the film. However, Brooks provides a great commentary that discusses points like what he did between The Producers and Blazing Saddles, how he got involved in the project, the participation of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder and other things. Despite its shortness, it's still a great chat.

Two documentaries follow. The first is called "Back in the Saddle" which runs half an hour. It features interviews with Brooks, Wilder, Harvey Korman and others. They discuss writing the film, making the film, casting and the problems they had when they sold the rights to television, especially when it came to the infamous campfire scene (more on that below). "Intimate Portrait: Madeline Kahn" takes a look at the casting of the late comic actress as bar singer, Lili von Schtuff. It's a nice little piece and it's good that they have it here.

Included as well is the pilot for a failed Blazing Saddles television series entitled "Black Bart" (the film's original title). Louis Gossett plays Bart and while he's not bad, the material is terrible. It's obvious that Mel Brooks had no involvement in it (and that's not just because his name isn't in the credits). It's good to have it here as a curiousity piece, though. This is followed by additional scenes from Blazing Saddles including the television version of the campfire scene where the souds of wind breaking are replaced by farm animal noises. It's very funny and gives you an idea of what television censorship was like in the 1970's. The DVD ends off with the theatrical trailer. The extras here are brilliant and deserve a very generous "A."

This is a must own for any fan of Mel Brooks and wacky-style comedy. Dumb and Dumber, this is not. Blazing Saddles is an intelligent and witty comedy with a powerful message. Rush on down to HMV and buy it (if you can find it with Caddyshack in a two-pack, it's actually cheaper than buying it by itself).

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