Classically Shitty: Blazing Saddles


I’ve been a fan of Mel Brooks for as long as I can remember. The first movie of his that I saw was Spaceballs. The humor is sophomoric and obvious and low-brow and terrible and hilarious. I loved it. Over the years, I have watched all the other movies he made, and have mostly enjoyed them all. Whether it was the genius of The Producers or the sheer insanity of History of the World: Part One, Brooks always had me laughing. His best movie is without a doubt Young Frankenstein, which is also one of the greatest comedy films of all time. The one movie of his that I never seemed to get around to until recently was Blazing Saddles.

This 1974 movie was not the first that Mel Brooks directed, but it was probably the one that really put him on the map for the public at large. Supposedly, it is a hilarious, classic film that should be watched by all movie fans. At least that’s what the film-fags say. Of course, having enjoyed all of Brooks’ other works, I expected them to be right. It turns out the film-fags were wrong again.

Blazing Saddles is, for lack of a better word, shitty. I wish there was another word I could use to articulate what a bloated, excessive, nonsensical, boring piece of crap this movie is. But no other word better encompasses all of those things than: shitty.

The movie starts out promising. As an apparent parody of a Western film, it begins with one of the genre’s biggest plot cliches: an evil railroad company wants to build their newest line right through a small town, and is trying to buy out its residents. The residents who won’t sell are intimidated by a band of thugs. The residents, sick of being treated badly, hire a new, honest sheriff to save the day. The catch is that the sheriff is black.


Brooks seems to think that just because the sheriff is black, and the townspeople are racist, the movie is automatically funny. I’ll give him kudos on the premise, because it is ripe for mining comedy gold. However, that’s where he stops. The racist angle is hardly expanded upon. He seems to think the premise alone is enough to carry the film, but it’s not. Here’s a look inside my own head as I was watching Blazing Saddles:

Me: Oh, that’s a great premise. This should be a funny movie.

Me: You know, this is kind of boring. There aren’t any jokes.

Me: Jokes? What are those?

Me: Those things that have a set-up and a punch-line, and make you laugh at the end. The kind of thing you see in comedy movies.

Me: Oh, those?

Me: Yeah, those.

Me: This movie doesn’t have any jokes.

Me: Do you think Mel Brooks forget to include them?

Me: Probably.

While Brooks did give this movie a perfect set-up, he forgot to include any of the punch-lines. We get the fact that the situation has the potential for humor. We want to laugh at it. But without any follow-through, we can’t laugh. We just sit there in anticipation, hoping for something hilarious to happen, and it never does. The story just sort of meanders around with not much really going on, and the longer it goes without a joke, the more annoying the movie becomes.

I suppose the racist angle is continued to some degree as lots of people say racist shit. The word “nigger” gets said about eleven-thousand times. But just saying racist shit doesn’t make the movie funny. Without it being amidst a joke (or at least humorous situation), then it isn’t funny, it’s just a word.

So, the movie drifts along without any clear direction. A huge chunk of the running time isn’t even focused on the black sheriff, but rather boring side characters that weigh the pacing of the film down amidst their tedium. Among these character are Governor Le Petomane (played by Mel Brooks) and Lili von Shtupp (played by Madeline Kahn). Their scenes drag on incessantly with nothing of note happening. Brooks and Kahn look like they are having a good time, like they are taking part in a hilarious movie, but the hilarious movie certainly wasn’t this one. I’m not sure why they are having such a good time, other than the fact that they are just fucking around on-camera and getting paid big bucks for it.

I’d be happy if I got paid to look at those.

Kahn’s scene in particular, a big musical-dance number, seems to last around 4 hours. The pacing could have been better. A skilled editor could have chopped out the huge swaths of scenes where nothing much is happening in order to pick up the pace. And considering this movie is only 93 minutes long, well, that’s saying something. Of course if they properly edited it, the movie would probably only be about 20 minutes long.

Some of the jokes that do exist are so narrow in scope they can be easily missed. For example, The Waco Kid (played by Gene Wilder) says, “I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille.” Um. LOL? Upon further research, I learned that DeMille was a famous director who did not take the safety of his cast and crew under much consideration. You know, any time you have to look up a joke to see why it’s funny, it’s failed. I’m not advocating all comedies have extremely broad jokes. Movies and TV shows should have humor that require some wit and ingenuity, and not be just a bunch of fart jokes. Lord knows we already have enough Adam Sandler movies. But when the jokes require the audience to have intimate knowledge of 1930s-50s Hollywood, you are skewing way too narrow.

First they are going to hug and that always leads to bad decisions.

Topical humor, while funny in the moment, never ages well. Blazing Saddles has stuff that was probably a laugh riot in the 1970s, but 40 years later falls completely flat. (Such as the running gag about Hedy Lamarr – whoever the hell that is.) Part of that is the racist shit. Race relations and calling people “nigger” a lot were probably hilarious to movie-goers of the 1970s. But today, it doesn’t come across as either offensive or funny. It’s just more WTF than anything else. The rest of the humor is a time-capsule of the era the movie came from. It would be a good example for an anthropologist to see what passed for comedy in the 1970s. But it would not be a good example of an “all time classic” comedy film, simply because the humor doesn’t work for anyone who didn’t live in that era. Truly classic comedies (or films in general) should have a timeless quality to them and can be seen and appreciated by people of any age. They should not require you to look up their jokes to understand them. A better example of a film from the same era would be National Lampoon’s Animal House, a movie whose humor develops from the characters and situations, rather than an underdeveloped concept and obscure references.

The final problem is that Brooks clearly has no idea what he wants his movie to be. At times it tries to be a parody of a Western, other times a zany over-the-top film, and later it tries to be a wild, fourth-wall breaking extravaganza. The film shifts settings and tones so frequently there is very little continuity. What starts out as a parody of the Western genre ends in a bizarre scene in which the movie spills out into the movie studio lot, and the characters chase each other through other film sets, the studio cafeteria, and end at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for the premiere of Blazing Saddles. To be honest, this was the only part of the movie I actually found to be enjoyable. It did mark an unexpected shift, and I was certainly caught off guard by it. While there were still no jokes, the absurdity of the situation was mildly humorous.

Overall, Blazing Saddles is a very weak film. The humor (if you can even call it that) is extremely bland and practically non-existent. The jokes, when they do come, are both too narrow in scope, and too dated to be funny or even relevant to anyone who hasn’t been alive at least 50 years. The pacing of the film drags, and overall it’s just a huge bore. The only joke that actually really works doesn’t even come from this film, but rather as a reference to it from Mel Brooks’ later movie, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. At the end of that movie, Ahchoo gets hired as sheriff, people scoff at the concept of a black sheriff, and he replies, “And why not? It worked in Blazing Saddles.” It’s sad that the best part of Blazing Saddles is a joke from another movie.

A black president?!

Surprisingly, I don’t hate Blazing Saddles. It’s not the worst movie out there. It doesn’t really do anything for me one way or the other. I certainly don’t hate it with the fury of a thousand suns like I do The Hustler. But it isn’t a good movie. It isn’t even an average movie. It is an out-and-out shitfest. I suppose Brooks was trying to be experimental, but he ended up just taking a giant dump on celluloid. Don’t waste your time watching this piece of crap. Brooks has a lot of movies that are far better.

Verdict: Shitty

Check out these other entries in the Classically Shitty series:

Citizen Kane

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The Hustler

2001: A Space Odyssey

32 Responses to “Classically Shitty: Blazing Saddles”

  1. June 30, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Another great shitty classic. Brooks is really hit or miss for me.

    • June 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

      He really can be hit or miss. Especially miss if you don’t appreciate his brand of humor. Fortunately, for me anyway, I have enjoyed just about everything else he has done. Which ones of his have you liked?

  2. July 1, 2012 at 11:53 am

    I wouldn’t call Blazing Saddles shitty, but it’s definitely not the classic it’s made out to be. Great write-up though. BTW Brik, did you ever get the email I sent you?

    • July 2, 2012 at 8:26 am

      If I feature this movie on “Classically Shitty” I sort of have to give it a rating of shitty, right? Like I said in the review, I don’t hate it like some of the others I’ve reviewed, but it still is really really bad.

      I don’t think I got the email you sent me. It must be lost in the bowels of the internet. Maybe you should try again.

  3. July 8, 2012 at 2:38 am

    Not the sort of classically shitty I was expecting! I do like this movie, but not all that much, so I don’t feel all that bad about agreeing with you about the pacing and some of the attempts at “jokes”. Good article!

    • July 8, 2012 at 7:33 am

      My impetus for writing this post was just to let the world know it isn’t the laugh-riot film-fags make it out to be. But I don’t have burning rage toward it like some of the others.

  4. August 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I watched this the other day, expecting a laugh riot, and the experience ended up so dissapointing that I was left with a sensation of spiritual hallowness that I could only fill by stuffing myself with leftover movie popcorn. I’m not the biggest Mel Brooks fan; The Producers is amazing, but the only other thing I’ve seen by him is Spaceballs, which… Had its moments, but I halfway through I fell asleep. Blazing Saddles is amazing in a way, as it manages to repeatedly set up these fascinating comic situations and then brilliantly subverts them by doing nothing. Everything with Mel Brook’s incompetent governor character SHOULD have been a riot, but… wasn’t. What was the point of that long introductory scene with the Waco Kid? I get the feeling his backstory was building up to a comic reveal, but… nothing. The set up with the German dancer seducing the sheriff could have potentially been great, but it terminates in this lame and tired gag about black men having big dicks. (Granted, the following exchange on the same subject was one of the handful of times I laughed: “They said you was hung!” “They was right!”) Smashing the fourth wall at the end should have been a damn energizing finale, but I was too drained to care by that point, though it was manic. I totally agree with you on the film’s bizzarre misindentification of the word “nigger” as a punchline; it just made me think I was thirteen again and back in middle school. (That was the biggest let-down of all: I was REALLY looking forward to a clever send-up of Hollywood’s overt and subtle racism.) I still kind of suspect that I must have saw some botched, surgically altered version of the film with all the jokes trimmed, because the whole affair came across as so anemic and lifeless that it makes the film’s status as a classic utterly baffling.

  5. 9 Reichu
    September 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Surprised to see this one get blasted. I think it took a few years for me to warm up to Blazing Saddles (which abbreviates to “BS” — happy, Brik?), but now I think I re-watch it more often than Spaceballs and Men in Tights. I guess it helps that I was never aware this was a “film-fag” title, and that it’s liked by my whole nuclear family.

    • September 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      Really, I wanted to show how it isn’t God’s gift to comedy like so many people make it out to be. But on the grand spectrum of shitty movies, you could do a lot worse. I still maintain that Young Frankenstein is Brooks’ best film.

  6. May 11, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Once again, you’re wrong but occasionally funny. 😦

  7. 15 xz03
    September 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    I thought it was great though I always did put it under The Producers and Young Frankenstein. I agree about the name references though that DeMille joke is funny now.
    Again old post. What are the rules to leaving comments?

  8. 17 John
    September 12, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Your like a heckler at a comedy show. Taking a joke the way it WASN’T meant to be taken. I never comment on shit I read online, but calling this classic shitty is just disgusting. The movie is a comedy. If anyone is a film fag it’s you. I’ve read your other posts and if your intention is to draw attention by insulting great films I’m surprised I’m just one of the few who disagree with you. Now to get back to the light side. Film fags can now get married. Go bitch to someone.

  9. 18 Gilbert Herrera
    November 9, 2015 at 11:10 am

    “Blazing Saddles” is a great film. Brikhaus go fuck yourself, you fucking loser!

  10. 19 VartAndelay
    July 4, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Blazing Saddles is arguably the funniest movie of all time.
    I feel sadness for anyone who doesn’t laugh when they watch it.
    Nonetheless, this is a great site and I’m enjoying your reviews a great deal.

  11. 20 Anon
    September 7, 2016 at 9:01 am

    I watched it for the first time last weekend, and I shit you not, I didn’t laugh once. Not once. Literally the least you could laugh while watching a comedy. It wasn’t funny at all, and I was baffled.

  12. 22 Keith
    November 27, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    I completely agree with your review. For a comedy that gets as many accolades as it does, it should have some actual jokes. I watched it for the first time last week. I didn’t laugh once. I think I chuckled a couple times.

    To any commenter claiming Blazing Saddles is the funniest movie ever made, please list your three favorite jokes/lines/gags etc. Help my understand why I should find it funny, let alone think it’s the comedy GOAT.

  13. 23 Andy Gonzales
    March 20, 2017 at 12:48 am

    Thank you sooo much for writing this. I could not agree any more. I am 40 years old and have tried watching this movie 3 times now. Once as a kid in the 80s, in my 20s and just today. You nailed it, it is interesting for about 15 minutes. There are no jokes and how are that fart scene and musical number considered funny? (Thats as far as I got this time) I love comedy, anything from Jackie Gleason to Joe Dirt but this movie is shit. Thanks again for letting me know that I am not alone in this opinion.

    • 24 syboite
      March 7, 2019 at 1:39 pm

      I saw this movie the week it came out and, besides being really upset by the horse punching, I didn’t get most of the jokes and had no idea who Heady Lamar was. I even got up and left at the fake ending and felt stupid. Its one of the movies that made me not want to go see movies, along with most of the Star Wars franchise. So no, it was not more fun if you were there then.

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June 2012


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