Classic Scene: Quicksand!
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Directed by Mel Brooks
The Scene: In the opening minutes of Mel Brooks’ masterpiece send-up of the Western genre, we are introduced to our hero Bart (Cleavon Little). He is part of a mistreated crew of African-American and Chinese workers doing the back-breaking labor of building a railroad. The racist overseer Taggart (Slim Pickens) learns that up ahead there is the risk of quicksand and needs to check it out. Claiming that he does not want to risk valuable horses, Bart and one of his compatriots are sent on ahead handcar. Mockingly singing a spirited version of “Camptown Races”, the pair soon find themselves firmly stuck and the world seemingly rising as they begin to sink. Help seems to come when Taggart and his men come rushing over, but rather than actually help the men in quicksand, they work to save the handcar. For his part Taggart is relieved because they “doggone nearly lost a $400 handcar”. After struggling Bart and his friend are rewarded for their trouble by being tossed a shovel and told to put it to get use. Bart promptly puts it to the use of knocking Taggart in the head.
The Breakdown: This scene perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Everything about it is pure Brooks ridiculous humor. The jokes roll out and each gag builds perfectly on what came before it. The comedic chops of veteran actor Slim Pickens are perfectly showcased as the doofus blowhard overseer in perfect contradiction to the stone cold cool protagonist Bart. If you are not cracking up during this scene, you may as well stop the Blu-Ray player because the rest of this film is not for you.
Best Bit: As the scene closes Slim Pickens’ character Taggart casually remarking “Alright, break time’s over boys!” to Bart and his friend who are solidly submerged in the quicksand and in desperate need of help.