The Ultimate Western Spoof. A town where everyone seems to be named Johnson is in the way of the railroad. In order to grab their land, Hedley Lemar, a politically connected nasty person, sends in his henchmen to make the town unlivable. After the sheriff is killed, the town demands a new sheriff from the Governor. Hedley convinces him to send the town the first Black sheriff in the west. Bart is a sophisticated urbanite who will have some difficulty winning over the townspeople. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Madeline Kahn started working on the movie the day after being fired from the role of Agnes Gooch in Mame (1974). Lucille Ball believed that Kahn got herself fired (by deliberately acting poorly) so that she could take the role of Lili Von Shtupp in this film, but still get paid for the Gooch role in "Mame", which by her contract wouldn't have happened if she'd merely quit. See more »
After Bart and Charlie have "sunken" into the quicksand and off the bottom of the screen, the light on the backdrop can be seen to fluctuate, indicating a large reflector that was not properly secured. See more »
Come on, boys! The way you're lollygaggin' around here with them picks and them shovels, you'd think it was a hundert an' twenty degree. Can't be more than a hundert an' fourteen.
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Karl Lukas is credited (as Karl Lucas) in opening credits only. See more »
1974 was a very good year for the team of Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder; their "Young Frankenstein" (which came out in 1974) is one of the funniest movies ever made, and "Blazing Saddles" (same year) is almost just behind it. It's a bit overrated (but just a bit); I know a lot of people look on this as the funniest movie of all time, but I can't go THAT far. But it is ONE of the funniest movies of all time, and for two such movies by the same director, with the same star, to come out the same year, to be on that list is quite an achievement.
The residents of Rock Ridge (all named Johnson) need a new sheriff. They get one... Bart, played by Cleavon Little, who happens to be black. It's all planned out by Hedley Lamarr (don't call him Heddy!), an employee of the governor (Mel Brooks), in a plot to run the residents out of town so he can have a railroad run through it. At first, the townsfolk aren't happy about this development, but when Bart endeavors to save them from the evil Lamarr, who's played to slimy perfection by Harvey Korman, they warm up to him. Also thrown into the mix is Wilder as "The Waco Kid", a gunslinger who's lost his knack for shooting, Alex Karras as a huge idiot named Mongo , and Madeline Khan as Lily von Schtupp, a parody of Marlene Dietrich, complete with ridiculous German accent. She stands out heads and shoulders above everybody else in this movie, I think, and her song "I'm Tired" ("I'm not a wabbit! I need some west!") is possibly the funniest song ever to appear in a film. This is no doubt the funniest part Madeline Khan has ever had (and she ALSO appeared in "Young Frankenstein"!). It's also a kick to see a pre-"Magnum PI" John Hillerman as Howard Johnson, with an ice cream shop with a sign that screams "1 Flavor"; and Slim Pickens (Taggart, another bad guy) is always a hoot.
The plot is just an excuse to make fun of westerns, racism, and movie-making in general, as demonstrated in the extremely wacky, fourth-wall breaking finale (Watch for Dom DeLuise in these scenes). None of this is really supposed to make sense or be realistic, it's just supposed to be funny, and for the most part it is. It's one of the crassest and crudest mainstream movies in history, and that's it's strength; it often plays just like a Mad movie parody. One example of this that really sticks out is the famous farting scene, which somehow manages to be one of the funniest scenes in the movie, and probably the funniest fart scene ever. But the focus is on the way blacks were treated in the post-Civil War old west, and the movie is merciless in the way it has its ignorant white characters treat the black characters, throwing the n-word around without abandon and giving them the dirty work (at one point, a character says "We can't afford to lose any horses! Send a couple of n****rs!"). The movie finds its heart in the way the initially racist townspeople of Rock Ridge become fond of their black sheriff.
Its spirit, however, is in the hilarious and crude jokes that are thrown all through. This is one funny movie, and with Mel Brooks, that's what's really important.
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