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From a skit on the popular US entertainment show Saturday Night Live to a silver screen epic featuring one of the greatest car chases of all time, Jake and Elwood Blues, The Blues Brothers, rock and roll, shake and shimmy and do the monkey in a truly iconic movie.
Jake Blues (John Belushi) is released early from prison for good behaviour and picked up in a cop car by his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd). After visiting a nun at the orphanage where they grew up, the brothers learn the building is to be closed unless they come up with $5000 in taxes. At a church Jake sees the light and plans to get the band back together for a fund raising event. The Blues Brothers are now, on a mission from God.
As they convince the band to come back for a gig, Jake and Elwood find themselves on the wrong side of the law, a Nazi party, a former lover and a country western band, all out for their blood. Culminating in one of the most iconic, greatest and standard setting car chases ever seen on screen.
On re-watching the film I found it much longer than I remembered, at an impressive 2 hours 20 minutes, a hefty run time for the era it’s from. The good thing is the film doesn’t at all drag, going from set piece to song in glorious fashion. It’s hard to believe that from a skit on a comedy show and a passion for blues this film arrived and caused the impact it has. The Blues Brothers are internationally recognised characters and the film’s soundtrack is amazing, partly in thanks to the huge names they were able to get in for cameos (Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles just to name two).
It was Aykroyd who introduced the Blues to Belushi who devoured it. He himself had said he was getting sick of rock and roll and the Blues “felt good”. He and Aykroyd would join in and sing with blues bands that performed around Chicago and in Aykroyd’s “Blues Bar” and it was SNL composer Howard Shore who named them “The Blues Brothers”. The love for the subject matter shines through in the performances on screen. They not only know their stuff, but they have a passion for the music too that flows through them.
Although not a blockbuster at the box office this film has stood the test of time and is a feel good, laugh out loud musical comedy from start to finish. If I have one negative comment to make its that the DVD version doesn’t do the soundtrack justice. For all the car chases and musical numbers the surround sound is extremely limited. There is the occasional gunshot, the dripping of water, but considering it’s soundtrack and car chase sequences it’s lackluster at best.
Hopefully something like this will be rectified when the movie steps into a next generation format, so it shouldn’t be held against an other wise fine movie. The real negative is the untimely death of Belushi, without whom the Blues Brother brand has continued, but will never really be the same.