The Blues Brothers
Director: John Landis.
Screenplay: Dan Aykroyd, John Landis.
Starring: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Carrie Fisher, Henry Gibson, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, Murphy Dunne, Steve Cropper, Donald Dunn, Willie Hall, Tom Malone, Lou Marini, Alan Rubin, Matt Murphy, Kathleen Freeman, Steve Lawrence, Charles Napier, Jeff Morris, Twiggy, Frank Oz, Steven Williams, Armand Cerami, Chaka Khan, Ben Piazza, Paul Reubens, Steven Spielberg.
“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses…”
It’s always a tricky one when you revisit a film that was a big part of your adolescence and in some ways responsible for laying the groundwork on your love of movies. There’s likely to be a tinge of nostalgia or reminiscence, making it difficult to judge it objectively. That said, sometimes the film is just so much fun and so enjoyable that you know why you hold it in such high regard in the first place. Without a shadow of a doubt, The Blues Brothers is (still) that kind of film.
When “Joliet” Jake Blues (John Belushi) is released from prison, he and his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) pay a visit to the old Catholic home where they grew up. They soon find out that the orphanage is to be shut down due to lack of funds. As a result, Jake and Elwood go on a mission to re-form their old blues band and raise the money required.Say what you will about the comedy stylings of Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler or Mike Myers but they share something in common in terms of making their name on comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live. These names are just three of the shows recent successful comedians but having, personally, been born in the late 70’s and grew up throughout the 80’s, most of the comedies I was exposed to were filled with the familiar faces that actually had a hand in the origins of this show – Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy and, of course, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. In fact, The Blues Brothers is an adaptation of a short sketch that first aired on Saturday Night Live and is one of only two successful film adaptations from the show – the other being Wayne’s World.However, despite this films success, it was actually fraught with production problems and a budget that got way out control. Firstly, Dan Aykroyd’s script was a massive 324 pages (three times longer than a normal screenplay) which he jokingly bound in the cover of the Yellow Pages before delivering it to John Landis to edit it down. Also, Landis’ outlandish car chases and vehicular pile-up’s throughout the end of the film sent the budget $10million over it’s initial $17.5million. This wasn’t helped by John Belushi’s spiralling drug habit which would cause him to disappear for lengthy periods off set.Despite these issues, though, The Blues Brothers seemed to strike a chord with audiences and critics alike – even the Vatican gave it the thumbs-up for being a good Catholic movie – and it has since went on to become a cult classic. Over 30 years later, it’s easy to see why…The story doesn’t really amount to very much but the titular characters are hard to resist as they ooze a laid-back cool, dressed in their iconic black suits and dark Ray-Bans – a good ten years before Tarantino’s similarly attired Reservoir Dogs. Jake and Elwood manage to get themselves in all sorts of scrapes and upset a whole horde of different people; a machine gun, bazooka wielding disgruntled ex-girlfriend (Carrie Fisher), the Illinois Nazi Party, country band The Good Ol’ Boys and, not to mention, the sheer tally of cops, all in hot pursuit. It’s riotously over the top and when the film reaches it’s denouement it has already crossed the ridiculous border but Landis and Aykroyd know this. They simply don’t care. And that’s what makes the film so enjoyable. There’s an unashamedly free-spirited nature to the proceedings which is highly infectious but nothing entertains more than the magnificent musical numbers from a choice selection of Soul and R&B talents. Among the many toe-tapping highlights are Aretha Franklin’s “Think“, Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher“, John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” and the great Ray Charles with “Shake a Tail Feather“.The Blues Brothers has stood the test of time and truly is one of a kind. It’s provides action, laughs and song and dance numbers that haven’t aged a bit. It’s admittedly raucous, loud and chaotic but as far as I’m concerned, anything goes when you’re “on a mission from God“. Mark Walker
Trivia: During filming one of the night scenes, John Belushi disappeared and could not be located. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie and that they were looking for John Belushi. But before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, “You’re here for John Belushi, aren’t you?” The homeowner then told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich and then crashed on their couch. Situations like this prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi “America’s Guest.”