Release Date: 1974
Director: Mel Brooks
Why I picked this: It’s one of Mel Brooks’ classics
The best parody movies imitate elements from the genre it seeks to mock, and creates something new and funny from it, rather than directly referencing the movies themselves. Luckily, this movie adheres to this. It features all of the classic elements of a Mel Brooks comedy: fourth wall breaking humor, anachronisms, references to other Mel Brooks movies, Mel Brooks himself, Jewish jokes, and offensive humor. The humor, while offensive indeed, isn’t exactly vulgar, and mostly works well. There are tons of visual gags sprinkled throughout the movie, and overall, the movie contains a very hit-or-miss style of humor. The movie is hilarious when it hits, but comes across as confusing when it misses. Starring Cleavon Little as Bart, a black man who is appointed sheriff in a town in the old West, most of the performances in this movie aren’t very memorable. Gene Wilder is funny as Jim, a drunk who was formerly a famous gunslinger known as “The Waco Kid,” but his character is actually pretty useless. Harvey Korman as Hedley (or Heddy) Lamarr, the Attorney General who plots to buy the town to build a railroad, is a good comedic villain, but he is mostly forgettable. Not to disparage the performances of these actors, as they all are actually funny, but nothing stuck out to me. It’s a comedy film, but visually and musically, it successfully matches the feel of a classic Western movie. The presence of a black protagonist in a Western was pretty much unheard of in Western movies, which is reflected by the hostility of the townspeople, but the townspeople eventually warm up to him, which I hope also signified a change of making Westerns with more diverse casts. As I mentioned, anachronisms and fourth wall breaking is abundant in this movie, but near the end, the breaking of the fourth wall is brought to a new absurd height; I think it was too much. It’s something you don’t see a lot in modern comedies, and it didn’t seems very clever to me. Some of the topical references also flew over my head, this being a 39-year old movie.
It hasn’t aged perfectly, but it as very reminiscent of a classic Western movie while making fun of its tropes, and there are hilarious gags throughout the movie.