In a feature shamelessly “inspired” by The Times‘s Culture Vulture, British Expat brings you the above titled (subtitled “Things you should own, if they’re the sort of thing you might like…”)
This week we’re on to “B”. Quite a lot of competition for this one, at least in my head – I don’t know what you lot think. (To tell the truth I don’t really care, this is my parade and ain’t nobody gonna rain on it. Sorry about that.)
Bad by Michael Jackson when black was black and white was white. Brief Encounter. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Paul Simon (don’t try telling me Art Garfunkel had anything to do with that one). Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. Just a few of the pretty decent options I was faced with from my personal collection of vaguely cultural pap. My choice, however, for “Something you should own beginning with ‘B’ which you might quite like but only if it’s your cup of tea (and you’re not easily offended)” is Mel Brooks’s finest – Blazing Saddles.
Recently voted sixth-funniest film ever by American journalists (and they should know, they’re renowned for their sense of humour, the Americans (do you think they’ll get that one? It was me being ironic. Yes, that’s I-R-O-N-I-C. Or was it sarcasm?)), beating Airplane! but losing to Dr Strangelove (coming in two weeks’ time, unless I have a flash of genius between now and then…), Blazing Saddles is racist, sexist, ageist, human-ist and outrageously funny. So many scenes stick in the mind that it’s hard to pick any single moments out. The church gathering, where every parishioner descends from the same family (Wales, anybody?) and the hymn ends with “There’s no avoiding this conclusion, our town is turning into s**t” just before the church itself is razed to the ground, is particularly funny.
You might not like this film. It has an amazing potential propensity to offend. Grown men sitting around a campfire farting, mocking of Mid-West hillbilly communities, racism, sexism, violence, and so on. I personally hate that sort of thing usually. Usually. Mel Brooks avoids really offending anybody, perversely, by offending everybody; by leaving no stone unturned and making no minority a permanent target for derision. Ridiculing Germans, a theme with most of his films, crops up here as well.
Gene Wilder is particularly good as The Fastest Gun in the West™. He’s turned to the bottle, something rarely portrayed at the time, and certainly not something you’d expect from such a respected citizen as a humble hired gun. “I can’t even shoot any more, I can barely hold a gun” (holds out right hand). “But that’s as steady as a rock…” “Yeah… but I shoot with this hand” (holds out left hand, shaking uncontrollably). BOOM BOOM. Just because you can see the jokes coming a mile off doesn’t necessarily make them any less funny. Think Naked Gun and Airplane! rolled into one, but funnier, and you’re getting there. Buy it. Worship it.