Blazing Saddles (HD-DVD)
Sound: B- Extras: B Film: B
Though he was a known commodity on TV, hit record albums
and the stage, Mel Brooks was just starting to conquer feature films when an
Andrew Bergman screenplay came along that went bonkers with the Western genre
as it was at the tail end of its peak.
The resulting film was Blazing Saddles, a low budget 1974 spoof
that went on to become a blockbuster.
We have previously looked at the film with other Brooks’
classic of the time in the standard DVD Mel Brooks Collection that you
can access from this link:
The link covers eight of his best-known films, but Blazing
Saddles tends to be the film that is a standout and remembered as well as
any of them. Part of it has to do with
how it introduced the Mel Brooks out to overturn Classical Hollywood genres;
another is that it was just such a phenomenon.
Today, it is easy to see the film as more juvenile when it was so
shocking and groundbreaking in its time.
Without the culture and Westerns on TV and in theaters, the humor can
seem more distant. Cleavon Little’s
Black Bart was not a bad guy by name, but a Black man in a genre built
essentially on white supremacy, like it or not. That is just the beginning of the daring and what we would now
consider political incorrectness of the piece, one of the reasons you do not
need to see old Westerns to appreciate it.
Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, Liam Dunn, Alex
Karras, John Hillerman, Jack Starrett, Madeline Kahn and Dom DeLuise are all
very memorable in a large cast of mostly unknown actors who are all very comic
and the chemistry and timing is remarkable, even to the point of helping out
the jokes once you have heard them a few times. That a film this enduring was made on a budget so low and holds
up today is more impressive than ever and it is an authentic comedy classic. Let’s hope Warner gets to What’s Up Doc?
in HD-DVD next.
The 2.35 X 1 1080p digital High Definition image is a
little better than the DVD we recently looked at, but know where the picture
gains in solidness, it loses in color fidelity. Originally shot in real anamorphic Panavision by Joseph F. Biroc,
A.S.C., and then processed in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor. The print here is sadly not a real, true
Technicolor print, but is the first film in HD-DVD to have been originally
issued that way. With that said, there
are hints and moments of how good the film originally looked and the disc is
the best way outside of a new 35mm print to see it. Despite its age, it can take on the look of most Super 35 films
today, even if the color is not the original, more advanced printing system’s
product. Wonder who has a real
Technicolor print? Maybe Warner ought
to comb their archive for one.
The sound is here in Dolby Digital Plus 1.0 French and
Spanish Mono, yet is also in the new English 5.1 mix from the anniversary
DVD. Unfortunately, despite the upgrade
from the poor Standard Dolby 1.0 Mono from the DVD, it cannot hide the age of
its dialogue and original optical mono theatrical release. Besides al the funny songs and funny use of
old songs, John Morris did the actual score and the film has many audio jokes,
like diegetic (coming from the scene) versus non-diegetic (only heard by the
Extras since the basic DVD are repeated here again in the
trailer and limited Mel Brooks audio commentary, while additional scenes, an
excerpt from a look at the late Madeline Kahn, Back In The Saddle
documentary and failed Black Bart (the working title of the film) TV
spin-off pilot that did not sell.
Despite a run of hit comedies, Brooks kept trying to repeat his success
with Get Smart, but nothing panned out.
The new extras repeat those from the 20th Anniversary
standard DVD edition. That should make
fans happy and makes for a solid early comedy entry in the new format.
- Nicholas Sheffo