Cleavon Little plays an escaped black convict who ends up being given the poison chalice job of the new Rockridge Sheriff by scheming railroad developer and politician Hedley LaMarr (Harvey Korman). Notionally sent in to protect the ungrateful Rockridge community from marauding gangs, his only ally turns out to be alcoholic former gunslinger The Waco Kid (Gene Wilder). Though initially expressing racial prejudice the townsfolk eventually adopt the Sheriff to help them outwit Hedley LaMarr, deciding to construct an exact replica of their town to fool the invading posse. The film descends into postmodern chaos as the action spills out of the film set into wider Hollywood.
Mel Brooks scored his first commercial hit with this raucous Western spoof starring the late Cleavon Little as the newly hired (and conspicuously black) sheriff of Rock Ridge. Sheriff Bart teams up with deputy Jim (Gene Wilder) to foil the railroad-building scheme of the nefarious Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman). The simple plot is just an excuse for a steady stream of gags, many of them unabashedly tasteless, that Brooks and his wacky cast pull off with side-splitting success. The humour is so juvenile and crude that you just have to surrender to it; highlights abound, from Alex Karras as the ox-riding Mongo to Madeline Kahn's uproarious send-up of Marlene Dietrich as saloon songstress Lili Von Shtupp. Adding to the comedic excess is the infamous campfire scene involving a bunch of hungry cowboys, heaping servings of baked beans and, well, you get the idea. --Jeff Shannon
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