The Blues Brothers

  • Title: The Blues Brothers
  • Director: John Landis
  • Date: 1980
  • Studio: Universal
  • Genre: Comedy, Musical
  • Cast: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Carrie Fisher, John Candy, Henry Gibson, Steve Lawrence, Twiggy, Steven Spielberg, Frank Oz, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC (Expanded Ed.)

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.” — Elwood
“Hit it!” — Joliet Jake

“They’re not going to catch us, we’re on a mission from God.” — Elwood

“Well, this is definitely Lower Wacker Drive…” — Elwood

The Blues Brothers is a classic comedy, but it is also filled with great music and excellent musical numbers with some impressive choreography. The film is a farce or screwball comedy in the best sense — from small, tiny events, things just snowball, and thus it gets funnier, and funnier, and funnier, as the plot gets more and more outrageous. Simply, Jake is picked up by his brother, Elwood, from the Joliet State Prison in Illinois, after serving three years for, we later find out, an armed robbery. The first thing they do is visit The Penguin, a nun. From her, they find out that the orphanage where they grew up needs $5000.00 to pay back taxes. Jake and Elwood need to raise the money honestly, so they decide to get their blues band back together and do a few gigs to get the money. From such tiny events… First, the boys must find their bandmates, who are now mostly in “straight” jobs, or married, or whatever. Accomplishing that they must find a few gigs. But, in the mean time, they manage to cross an awful lot of people who end-up wanting them dead, including the police, Jake’s ex-girlfriend (Carrie Fisher), the Neo-Nazi party of Illinois (led by Henry Gibson), and a Country-Western singing group called the Good Ole’ Boys, who’s gig they stole. This results not only in a triumphant musical number, but quite possibly the best, and the funniest car chase ever filmed. The film crew bought an entire year’s run of retiring police cars to trash in the film. They also made a deal to film in and destroy a condemned shopping mall that was scheduled for demolition before it was destroyed.

The vast majority of the film was filmed in and around Chicago, including Waukegan (North of Chicago), and Joliet State Prison (South of Chicago), and a small portion was filmed in Milwaukee. The final car chase down Lower Wacker Drive, LaSalle Street, and Daley plaza is not only fantastically filmed, shot, and executed — but actually shows off that part of the city well. (And some of the same locations were also used in Batman Begins / The Dark Knight and are recognizable, esp. if you know downtown Chicago). The bridge scene, where Joliet Jake manages to avoid driving off a very high expressway bridge, back up and flips their car, to avoid the Nazis — and the Nazi’s fall right off the bridge, was filmed in Milwaukee. That’s the Horn Bridge (at the time under construction, when I lived in Milwaukee from 1995 to 2002 it had been completed), the tall white building behind the falling car is the First Star Building. There’s a noticeable jump in the film where it moves from Milwaukee to Chicago (you can tell it’s Chicago when you spot the Hancock building — that’s a black building with slanting/angled sides). By the bye, the Sears Tower is the square, black, stacked building — you can spot it several times in the film. But what is also special is the shots of the people, especially in the scenes in Maxwell Street. And then there’s the music.

Credited Music
Shake Your Tail Feather (Created as “Shake your Money Maker”)
Soothe Me
Hold One I’m Comin’
Boogie Chillun
Let the Good Times Roll
Your Cheatin’ Heart
Anema & Core
I’m Walkin’
Ride of the Valkyries
Minnie the Moocher — Performed by Cab Calloway

Uncredited Music
Peter Gunn Theme (Instrumental)
The Old Landmark — Performed by James Brown
Boom Boom
Think — Performed by Aretha Franklin
Shake a Tail Feather — Performed by Ray Charles
Theme from Rawhide — Performed by The Blues Brothers
Stand by your Man — Performed by The Blues Brothers
Everybody Needs Somebody to Love — Performed by The Blues Brothers
Sweet Home Chicago — Performed by The Blues Brothers
Jailhouse Rock — Performed by The Blues Brothers

That’s more music than the average traditional musical, also the film is almost completely scored, so the film is filled with music. Great music! And of course, it’s quite enjoyable, funny, fun, and a wild ride from start to finish.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Breakfast at Tiffany’s