Blazing Saddles [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (15th November 2008).
The Film

It's hard to believe that it has been over 30 years since the release of this classic comedy, if it's one thing that "Blazing Saddles" has achieved over the years it's got to be staying power. This film is not only still funny today but is much better than some of the drivel studios are pushing as 'comedies' so it will come as no surprise that the AFI has listed this gem the number 6 funniest comedy in their top 100.

Set during the old west and around the time the trans continental railroad was being laid across America, corrupt politician Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) seeks to drive the citizens of Rock Ridge out of town and capitalize on the rail road running through it. In order to achieve this he sends in the toughest gang he's got to stir trouble and to make things worse he names a new sheriff, a black sheriff named Bart (Cleavon Little) who he's sure will only last 24 hours before he's driven out of town. The sheriff joins forces with a local drunk, who turns out to be the legendary Waco Kid or as his friends call him, Jim (Gene Wilder) in order to gain the confidence of the town. When the Sheriff and his new deputy outwit Hedley's henchmen, and the towsfolk start to take a liking to the new sheriff, his plans to take over the town are thwarted, that leads Hedley to take drastic measures!

Widely regarded as Mel Brooks finest film, "Blazing Saddles" doesn't fail to deliver on the gags, jokes, quips, puns, howlers, growlers and outrageous assaults upon good taste or any taste for that matter. This is possibly the finest example of spoof comedy ever committed to film, while not the most impressive script ever written the film is made much better with the over-the-top characterisations and general fun attitude held by the cast. The performances are genuinely hilarious made all the more impressive by the chemistry both Wilder and Little have on screen and from the supporting cast that include Brooks himself as the easily persuaded Governor William J. LePetomaine, Slim Pickens as the henchman Taggart and the talented comedienne Madeline Kahn as the Madame Lili Von Shtupp, a performance so well executed she received an Academy Award nomination.

Additionally the film is full of unforgettable moments, such as the introduction of Bart as sheriff, complete with Gucci saddle bags, his first stroll into the town to the shock of the townsfolk, the camp fire fart scene, the henchmen recruitment line and much more, it's these moments that has made this film a standout for over 30 years, and will probably be so for at least another 30 or more.

If you're a lover or witty over-the-top comedy and you have yet to see this gem, what are you waiting for get on your horse to your local movie outlet and give this a spin. And for the already existing fans of the film, you might wanna check this bad boy out on Blu-ray.

Video

Presented in the film's original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio, this transfer is delivered onto Blu-ray in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been mastered using VC-1 compression. The mastered used to create the previous 30th Anniversary DVD is the same used to mint this HD transfer. And for a film of its age the image looks excellent and far exceeds any previous release whether on DVD, laserdisc or VHS (obviously). I am happy to report that the image is sharp, colours are well rendered and skin tones are spot on. Additionally blacks are solid and shadow detail is excellent especially during the scenes that take place at night, most notably the famous campfire scene. The image does however appear to have several flaws that are inherent of its age; instances of scratches and film grain present but this is common and is never distracting, some shots appear a tad softer than others but overall this is a great presentation for this classic comedy.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included on this disc, in English Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks in both French and Spanish. The 5.1 track is identical to the one created for the 30th Anniversary DVD release: for the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack. Although the film's original audio was released in mono (and available on the previous release of this film on DVD) it would have been a nice bonus to include that original soundtrack here as well as the new 5.1 soundtrack. The new 5.1 track on this disc was created with the use of the original elements, which after watching you'll probably wonder how a film that's over 30 years old can sound this good. The dialogue is clear and distortion free and is also free of hiss and pops, which usually plagues a film of this age. Now despite these attributes the 5.1 surround aspect is not quite as dynamic as one would hope for, background noise and atmospheric sounds, although present throughout the film are a little limited. Aside from this the new 5.1 track certainly does the trick.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

For this Blu-ray edition Warner Brothers have ported over the extras from the 30th Anniversary DVD including the audio commentary from the previous disc and the trailer as well as a retrospective documentary, a featurette, a TV pilot based on the film and finally some additional scenes. Below is a closer look at each of these extras.

The first extra you'll find on the disc is the audio commentary by co-writer/director/actor Mel Brooks , although billed as a commentary this 55-minute track is actually an interview segment. During his time Brooks talks in detail the A to Z about how this film was conceived to the subsequent financing and production. Once the interview segment is up the track reverts to the film's soundtrack. Although not exactly screen-specific you do get to learn quite a lot about the history of this film in the short time given to us.

Following that we have a retrospective documentary entitled "Back in the Saddle" this 28 minute 22 second piece interviews just about every major player (aside from Kahn who has passed away since) that was involved with this film. The documentary features candid interviews with Mel Brooks, Harvey Korman, Gene Wilder, Burton Gilliam, co-writer Andrew Bergman, producer Michael Hertzberg. The documentary is more or less an extension to the commentary we do get the same information repeated here, but there's also a fair bit of new ground being covered that at least makes this clip worth while, one main area of discussion is the racial humour littered throughout the film and the controversy of doing the same thing today.

Next we have a short featurette entitled "Intimate Portrait: Madeline Kahn" is a 3 minute 41 second piece that features interviews with Brooks as well as Dom DeLuise and Lily Tomlin as they discuss fondly how Kahn was one of the funniest comedic performers of her time.

Next we have the "Black Bart" TV pilot, which at the time was a spin-off of the film, the 24 minute 28 second pilot features Lou Gossett Jr. in the role of Bart. Basically this pilot takes place after the film, now Bart is the established sheriff, the show features watered down comedy and an annoying laugh track. Aside from the fact that this show is terrible and never made it passed the pilot stage the inclusion of it on this disc is priceless, and serves as an interesting curiosity piece.

Following the pilot we have a series of additional scenes, cut together as a reel that runs 9 minutes 40 seconds. There are 7 scenes in total, some are seen in the documentary but here we have them in their entirety. Unfortunately the scenes are presented without a commentary, which would have been nice. The scenes include:

- An alternate version of the campfire scene, without the sound effects.
- A scene where Mongo is tricked into duelling with a mechanical sheriff.
- A scene where Mongo is convinced by Bart (in disguise) to dive down the town's well to search for hidden treasure.
- An alternate performance of the "I'm Tired" song by Lili Von Shtupp.
- An extended version of the recruitment line scene where Bart and Jim are dressed as KKK members, and out run the henchmen.
- A scene where father Johnson gives a prayer before the townsfolk start building the mock town.
- An extension to the tollbooth scene, where we see the Governor riding into the mock town.

Finally we have the film's original theatrical trailer to top off the extras which runs for 2 minutes 17 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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