The Blues Brothers

Posted on October 10, 2007 by Flibster.
Categories: DVD Reviews.

The Blues Brothers Poster

This is a review of the extended edition of the film. It’s about 14 minutes longer than the original theatrical version. No particular reason, it’s just I think it’s minorly the better version of the film. But to be fair, the original edition isn’t too that much different.

The plot… what there is of it. 🙂

Joilet Jake and Elwood Blues, are The Blues Brothers. Jake is freshly released from Prison and his brother picks him up in an old Police car and they go to visit the orphanage where they were brought up. There they learn that there needs to be $5000 in taxes paid by the end of the week, and the church isn’t interested in keeping the orphanage.

So they take it upon themselves to pay the taxes by reforming the band and playing a gig to get the money for the taxes. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

Hilarity ensues…. For once, this is true.

This film is loaded with Cameos from the directors friends and blues and soul artists.

James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Big Walter Horton, Pinetop Perkins, Carrie Fisher, Kathleen Freeman, Henry Gibson, John Candy, Steve Lawrence, Frank Oz, Twiggy, Steven Spielberg, Paul Reubens and Director John Landis, appears as a state trooper in the mall chase.

That’s not even mentioning the Blues Brothers Band, Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper, Donald ‘ Duck’ Dunn, ‘Blue’ Lou Marini, Tom ‘Bones’ Malone, Willie ‘Too Big’ Hall, Alan ‘Mr Fabulous’ Rubin, Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy and finally Murphy Dunne. All exceptionally well regarded musicians who have worked with people like Booker T and the MG’s, Isaac Hayes, Blood Sweat and Tears amongst others.

So, what do you get, Rhythm and Blues music, soul music, car chases, Nazi’s, more music, more car chases, violence, destruction and lots of silliness.

The strange thing is, in most normal films, the above wouldn’t work – however in this film – it does. It’s just silly from start to finish, and you need silliness and fun. There’s far too much comedy and far too little fun in the world now.

Anyway, with all the people involved in this, the music is the real star of the film. The Blues Brothers caused the re-discovery of the blues in the early 80’s. The Album went Double Platinum and caused resurgence for acts all around the world. The music is this films real legacy. In one of his autobiographies James Brown cited the Blues Brothers as a turning point in his career – allowing him to continue performing around the world for years.

The acting varies. Some of the people are obviously not actors, so it’s a little wooden, but for the most part it’s respectable. The late John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd put in perhaps the best performances of their careers as Joilet Jake and Elwood Blues. What was very surprising is that John Belushi is a very good singer and Dan Aykroyd is a respectable harmonica player and singer. I suppose if they were not good, they wouldn’t have done the singing/harmonica playing and would have mimed – thank god they really did it.

There is several very silly areas of the film. From the chase through the shopping mall *superb set piece – essentially rebuilt a abandoned mall and then trashed it :D* to the chase scenes where they have half of Chicago’s law enforcement community after them, through to the scenes with the Chicago PD, firemen and national guard storming a building, through to the Illinois Nazi’s… So silly. 😀

As this is the extended version, there have been several scenes reinserted that, for a long time were originally thought to be lost. Several were cut just because they didn’t expand the story any or would have required some explanation. Some of the scenes though, do add small amounts to the characters of the film, especially Jake and Elwood. Some of the scenes added are: *according to wikipedia – the font of all incorrect knowledge*

  • A longer opening scene, showing the prison guards having to use their nightsticks to wake Jake up.
  • A scene with Sister Mary Stigmata (“The Penguin”) where as she lists what missions she might be sent to if the orphanage is closed.
  • A scene in which Jake and Elwood discuss whether or not to enter the Triple Rock Church.
  • Elwood is shown parking the Bluesmobile inside an electrical substation that powers the Chicago Transit Authority’s “L” trains. In the documentary, “Stories Behind the Making of The Blues Brothers”, Dan Aykroyd explained that the Bluesmobile would get charged from the substation, enabling it to do impressive stunts. But, in the same documentary, director Landis said he originally cut the scene because he considered it unnecessary: the Bluesmobile is simply a “magic car.”
  • A scene showing Elwood (without his trademark sunglasses) on his last day at his job in an aerosol-spray can manufacturing company. He is shown removing some cans from the assembly line and putting them in his briefcase. He then goes to his boss and explains that he has to quit because he’s joining the priesthood. This scene explains where Elwood obtained the spray epoxy (“This is glue … strong stuff.”) that he used to sabotage the Good Ol’ Boys’ Winnebago and to improvise a blowtorch in the elevator of the Cook County building.
  • An extension to the scene in which Elwood discusses why Jake committed the gas station robbery.
  • Longer versions of some of the musical numbers, most notably the Maxwell Street blues band scene with John Lee Hooker, showing Hooker and Pinetop Perkins getting into an argument over who wrote “Boom Boom.”
  • Bob gives the list of songs to the band prior to their performance at Bob’s Country Bunker.
  • Curtis tells the band that Jake and Elwood will use the gate receipts from the Palace Hotel gig to pay the taxes on the orphanage.
  • Jake accidentally blows up the gas station by tossing a cigarette into a puddle of spilled gasoline.
  • Another aerosol can is used to spray a substance into the tires of police cars outside the Palace Hotel Ballroom, which makes the tires explode and causes a jam-up of the police, thus enabling the Blues Brothers to get a head start on their pursuers.
    Additional footage of Jake and Elwood waiting for the Cook County Assessor’s Office clerk to return from his break.
  • An extended ending just before the closing credit scroll: as the Blues Brothers continue to perform “Jailhouse Rock,” it appears that the prison guards are about to use force to control the audience.

And so, on to the ratings.

Visuals: 9/10
Still one of the best shot musical films ever made. Slightly grainy at times, but for an early 80’s film it still looks very good.

Audio: 10/10
Superb. No other way to put it. Highlight for me is the live performance of Somebody to Love. The 5.1 mix of the DVD is beautifully done as well.

Theme: 7/10
The plotline may be more pony than 2 tons of dog food – but as a musical, there are very few finer.

Overall: 9/10
One of the very few films I can watch over and over again without it losing any of it’s appeal.


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