Blazing Saddles (1974) | CultureHUB Review
Belfast Film Festival: The Black Box, 18 April ’15
I am definitely not the only one who looks unusual tonight. The Black Box resembles an audition room for extras who didn’t quite get the Clint Eastwood blockbuster, but might get called for a special episode of Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman featuring guest director David Lynch.
The film has already started so we awkwardly endure the box office situation at the front of the room and gladly sink into a pair of empty chairs beside two enraptured fans who barely notice as we join their table.
Laughter rumbles around the room like a train passing through an old Southern town. Couples, pals and groups of friends have come out in force to enjoy their favourite lines and scenes in the company of like-minded people. The film is farcical, fast-paced, intelligent and I am instantly engrossed in the hyperbolic characters who can’t come to terms with the newly appointed black sheriff in 1870s America.
Out of the blue, the film pauses and there’s a bit of shuffling at the front of the room. Suddenly, a rustic-looking cowboy jumps onto the stage. His hat is so authentic you can practically taste the dust worn leather from the back of the room, while his fleece-lined denim jacket is perfect for chewing and spitting tobacco by the camp fire at night. He starts to talk and suddenly, the film night has become a film festival.
It turns out the cowboy is local comedian and Pigeon & Plums organizer Paul Currie, who instantly plants a ‘Sold’ sign outside the residence of my funny bone. With confident chaos, he organizes a fart competition as a prelude to the imminent scene. Strangely, not that many audience members volunteer to participate, except for two curiously eager contestants. Watching the bizarre contest unfold, you can’t help thinking that something has been ticked off an unconscious bucket list.
With Currie having released some of the Saturday night energy that had built up in the first 45 minutes of the film, the audience settles their attention once again on the enormous screen which nurtures the nuanced expressions of the talented Gene Wilder. The screen is so large in fact, the elusive ability to submerge reality with fiction occurs when the alluring but sexually bored Madeleine Kahn serenades a tavern full of raucous cowboys. I nearly shot my (toy) gun up at the ceiling afterwards too!
The film is an unpredictable feast of irreverent humour, tantalising one liners and unapologetic misbehaviour. It will require a second viewing to start to glean all the intricacies behind the dialogue and most tend to watch it over and over for this reason.
As the credits roll, our rustic cowboy returns to the stage wearing a giant pink onesie in place of his day gear. Now working with a much more convivial audience, he has no problem filling the stage with volunteers for the best costume competition. Currie’s winning formula of quick observational commentary and laid back delivery is over all too quickly and soon the limelight must be handed to the DJ, who intuitively kicks off with Cash’s ‘Walk the Line’.
Banjo-clad duo ‘The Acoustic Collective’ are next to take the stage, offering upbeat hoe-down riffs. A little research reveals one of the members is local guitarist Gavin Ferris, whose finger picking style has been admired many times before, particularly in more intimate settings.
The night ends with eclectic music from the moonlight DJ / member of local indie band Documenta (who are supporting the Charlatans at their upcoming CQAF gig)…and a few pretend western gunfight duels.
Blazing Saddles quotes
[Burnt out gunslinger Jim wakes up in a police cell and is greeted by the new sheriff, Bart]
Bart: Are we awake?
Jim: We’re not sure. Are we… black?
Bart: Yes, we are.
Jim: Then we’re awake… but we’re very puzzled.
Bart: Well, Jim, since you are my guest and I am your host, what’s your pleasure? What do you like to do?
Jim: Oh, I don’t know. Play chess… screw…
Bart: [quickly] Well, let’s play chess.
Bart: I’m rapidly becoming a big underground success in this town.
Jim: See? In another twenty-five years, you’ll be able to shake their hands in broad daylight.
[The Governor is having trouble putting his pen back into its holder]
Hedley Lamarr: Think of your secretary…
[The pen goes straight in]
Governor William J. Le Petomane: Thank you. That’s a good one.
Taggart: What do you want me to do, sir?
Hedley Lamarr: I want you to round up every vicious criminal and gunslinger in the west. Take this down.
[Taggart looks for a pen and paper while Hedley talks]
Hedley Lamarr: I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.
Taggart: [finding pen and paper] Could you repeat that, sir?
[Lili, the bored lounge singer]
Lili Von Shtupp: A wed wose. How womantic.
[Socialising with the sheriff after hours]
Lili Von Shtupp: Tell me, schatze, is it twue what they say about the way you people are… gifted?
[sound of zipper opening]
Lili Von Shtupp: Oh, it’s twue. It’s twue. It’s twue, it’s twue!
Reverend Johnson: Now I don’t have to tell you good folks what’s been happening in our beloved little town. Sheriff murdered, crops burned, stores looted, people stampeded, and cattle raped. The time has come to act, and act fast. I’m leaving.
Olson Johnson: [in the bar discussing Pasteur’s possible cure] Never mind that shit! Here comes Mongo!