Directed by John Landis
Written by Dan Aykroyd and John Landis
The Blues Brothers is quite possibly the best action musical comedy ever made. Never in the history of cinema has there been so many laughs, so many great musical performances and so many car crashes combined all in one movie.
The film is the story of two men, Jake and Elwood Blues, who met and bonded as young boys at the St. Helen Of The Blessed Shroud Orphanage in Chicago, IL, as they attempt to raise the money needed to pay the orphanage’s property taxes so the county won’t repossess the building. Jake is inspired at a church service and realizes that he needs to get The Blues Brothers band back together, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. While Jake was in prison, they all went off and got other jobs. However, Jake doesn’t take no for an answer. He has seen the light and nothing can stop his determination to complete his mission from God, not the police, not a parole officer, not the Illinois Nazi Party, not the Illinois National Guard, not an assassin, nor even angry country musicians. Luckily, Jake has Elwood behind the wheel, whose driving skills rank him alongside the likes of Frank Bullitt and Popeye Doyle.
Along the way, there are fabulous musical numbers of gospel, soul, blues, big band and R&B featuring James Brown, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, and of course, The Blues Brothers perform with their band, including some rock and roll and country and western songs. The soundtrack also features Sam & Dave, Elmore James, Louis Jordan and Fats Domino
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd first appeared as The Blues Brothers on Saturday Night Live. They started out warming up the audiences before the show and then performed on it. In 1978, comedian Steve Martin asked them to open up for him in Los Angeles. The event was captured and released on Briefcase Full of Blues, which went platinum and featured two top 40 hits. The success of the album and their own comedic careers gave them the clout to bring The Blues Brothers to the big screen. They enlisted the help of director John Landis, who Belushi had previously worked with on the hilarious National Lampoon’s Animal House. Landis took Aykroyd’s 324-page first draft and streamlined it into a workable script.
The 25th anniversary edition comes with both the original theatrical version, making its first appearance on DVD and the extended edition, which has appeared before. The sound has been remastered and the music sounds great.
In the extended version, the extended and deleted scenes don’t offer much expect for the complete version of John Lee Hooker’s performance of “Boom, Boom.” Both films should be watched to learn a great lesson in editing because Landis made all the right choices, resulting in the theatrical version being much tighter and flowing better. The best example is the removal of a scene where Elwood quits work to head off on the mission. He isn’t wearing his sunglasses when he speaks with his boss. The loss of this scene keeps the brothers more mysterious and when we finally see Jake’s eyes at the climax of one storyline, it makes that scene more powerful.
There are some very cool bonus materials for both casual and hardcore fans. “Stories Behind the Making of The Blues Brothers” is a one-hour documentary. It explains the origins of The Blues Brothers and their talented band, a combination of New York horns and Memphis guitars. New interviews with cast and crewmembers and old behind-the-scenes footage provide interesting details, such as when the movie was shooting, Paul Schaeffer couldn’t reprise his role as keyboard player due to some contractual issues with SNL, so Murphy Dunne was brought in.
You can select the music numbers, which is a good feature, except there’s not a play-all option, which would make it ideal. “Remembering John” was only ten minutes and should have been longer. There’s an intro by Aykroyd that doesn’t add anything. “Transposing the Music” looks at the cult that has grown out of the film. “Going Rounds: A Day In The Life of The Blues Brothers” sounds awesome until you realize that it’s the 2005 version of the band with John’s brother, Jim, filling in and there’s a entirely different band. I had hoped it would have been something from when the band opened for Steve Martin.
The catch phrase from the movie is “We’re on a mission from God,” but the film is obviously a mission of love, a love of Black music. I had no older brothers to show me the ways of music as I grew up, but I was lucky enough to discover The Blues Brothers. They opened up worlds of music to me years before I would have discovered them on my own. Don’t be surprised if the watching this DVD causes you to buy CDs.