The Blues Brothers
In 1980, a film came out that celebrated film in all it’s glory. Not so much in a serious way, but in a “your crazy ideas and dreams can come true” kind of way. Director John Landis had made several really great comedies in the 70s including Schlock, The Kentucky Fried Movie and National Lampoon’s Animal House. When Saturday Night Live alum Dan Aykroyd gave him his “script” for a film about two characters he and John Belushi had come up with, Landis was in for something big. The script was the size of a phonebook, and he then had to take Dan’s ideas and edit them down into a standard length screenplay. The end result became an epic masterpiece of cult comedy-musical cinema.
The Blues Brothers opens with shots of a city in darkness. This is Chicago, Illinois. When we first meet Joliet Jake (John Belushi) we dont see his face, this gives an air of mystery to his character. Jake is finally being released from prison and before he leaves he has to get his belongings back (look for a fun cameo by Muppet voice man Frank Oz). When the prison gates open, we see Jake standing in a bright light. Across the way, his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) is waiting for him. As the opening song “She Caught The Katy” fades up, the film kicks into high Blues gear. The brothers embrace and are back together. It’s time for a new adventure.
The Blues Brothers goto visit a nun they call “The Penguin” (Kathleen Freeman) because Elwood promised her he’d bring Jake to see her when he got out of jail. The Blues Brothers were orphans and they were raised by The Penguin. She explains to Jake and Elwood that the orphanage is going to be closed for good if they don’t make their payment to the city. She needs $5000 or she will be sent to the missions in South America. Jake and Elwood decide to help her and get the money. After being literally thrown out of The Penguin’s office for their “bad attitudes and dirty mouths” the boys go down to the boiler room to see their mentor, the groundskeeper Curtis (Cab Calloway). They ask him for advice and he tells them to go to church and see Rev. Cleophus James (James Brown) for inspiration. When the boys get there, a huge baptist church sermon is happening. Jake suddenly sees a bright light and realizes that he has to get the band back together. The ceremony reaches a state of high emotion as the people dance and flip up in the air in celebration. Jake and Elwood dance along, now they have their mission: they have to find the other Blues Brothers band members.
While the brothers are driving back to Elwood’s apartment they get stopped by the police. Instead of being arrested, Elwood guns the car and a chase ensues. They drive into a mall parking lot and there’s no way out, so Elwood crashes right into the mall and begins driving through destroying everything inside. When you see this sequence you’ll know why The Blues Brothers is so special, how many films have a car chase IN a mall?! While the cops are on their trail, a Mystery Woman (Carrie Fisher) is also trying to kill them. She uses everything from flame throwers to rocket launchers to get rid of The Blues Brothers. The boys finally get back to Elwood’s shoebox sized apartment (conveniently located next to an L train) and they relax awhile.
The Blues Brothers’ biggest chore is trying to get the ex-members of their old band back together again. Elwood and Jake begin tracking them down one by one. They find their organist Murph (Murphy Dunn) at a Ramada Inn. He now fronts a cheesy lounge group called “Murph and The Magic Tones”. When Jake and Elwood arrive, they are disgusted. Willie “Too Big” Hall (Himself), their drummer asks Jake if he’s got the money he owes him. Jake and Elwood ask where their guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy (Himself) and their sax player “Blue Lou” Marini (Himself) are. They find out that they now work at a Soul Food restaraunt in the city and the bands head horn man Mr. Fabulous (Alan Rubin) now is a maitre’d at a fancy eatery called the Chez Paul.
Jake and Elwood goto the Chez Paul to get Mr. Fabulous, but when they arrive it seems their old friend doesn’t want to get mixed up with them. So The Blues Bros. have to resort to making Mr. Fabulous join in their own way. They seat themselves in the restaraunt and order a bunch of food and begin to eat shrimp and slurp wine. This is one of the films funniest sequences. Jake and Elwood make such a nuisance of themselves, Mr. Fabulous finally agrees to join the band. Mission accomplished. NOTE: Look for Pee Wee Herman’s alter ego Paul Reubens in a small role as a snotty waiter. On their travels, a group of Neo Nazis are protesting on a bridge that The Blues Brothers need to cross. Elwood aims the car right at the Neo Nazis forcing them to jump into the river. The head Nazi (Henry Gibson) declares war on The Blues Brothers.
The Blues Brothers need to get Matt and Blue Lou next so they take a trip into the city where they are working at Matt’s new wifes Soul Food restaraunt (Matt’s wife is played by the legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin). Outside the restaraunt, we get a short but great performance by Blues legend John Lee Hooker. When Jake and Elwood sit down, Matt’s wife asks them what they want. Jake asks for “four fried chickens and a coke”, Elwood asks for “toast”. When Matt’s wife tells him the strange order, Matt knows it’s The Blues Brothers. He comes out from the back and happily greets them. They ask Matt about joining the band again but when his wife hears this she gets pissed and breaks into the song “Think” (this is just one of the great musical numbers). Aretha Franklin belts out the song and the entire diner begins to join in and dance. When the songs over, Matt makes the decision to go with The Blues Brothers. Matt’s wife tells Blue Lou he might as well go with them.
Now that the bands all together again they need to get some equipment, so they go downtown to Ray’s Music Exchange. The owner Ray is none other than the late great Ray Charles. When Murph tells Ray theres no more juice in the organ he’s selling to them, Ray tries it out and we get the next exciting musical number “Shake A Tail Feather”. Everyone begins to dance and the people out on the street get in on the act too. Pretty soon everyone in earshot is doin’ the Twist, the Swim, The Monkey, The Bird, the Fruit, the Mashed Potato, the Phoney Maloney and other classic dance steps.
The band have to find a place to play, but being out of ideas they go out on the road. The first bar they come to is Bob’s Country Bunker. The sign reads “Tonight Only THE GOOD OL BOYS”. Jake tells the owner Bob that they are The Good Ol Boys. Bob is a dimwitted guy so he accepts this and sets the boys up to play. As the band breaks into the soul classic “Gimme Some Lovin'” the crowd begin to boo and throw beer bottles at them (luckily the stage is behind a chicken wire fence). Elwood gets a great idea: he tells the band to play the theme to the TV series “Rawhide”. As soon as the crowd hear this song, they begin to cheer. They play several country songs for the crowd like Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man”, and the night goes well. When they get ready to leave, Bob tells them they owe HIM money because their pay was $200 and they drank $300 worth of beer. Now they’re in trouble. When the boys go outside, more trouble arrives when The REAL Good Ol Boys show up. Jake and Elwood have to split before getting their heads cracked. Bob and The Good Ol Boys find out they’ve both been had and they jump in a trailer to chase The Blues Brothers down.
The Blues Brothers have to come up with the $5000 dollars to save the Orphanage so they goto their friend Maury Sline (Steve Lawrence) in a last ditch attempt to get the money by the deadline. Maury sets them up with a show at the Grand Hotel Ballroom. They begin promoting the show all over the state by driving around with a large speaker on their car. Everyone is looking for The Blues Brothers now: The Neo Nazis, The Cops, The Good Ol Boys AND the Mystery Woman…”
The boys run out of gas on the way to the ballroom, so while they’re sidetracked, Curtis and the band perform “Minnie The Moocher” for the rabid audience. This performance is part dream/part real. We get an old time number straight from the 30’s by Cab Calloway, it’s really fun because Curtis scats with the audience back and forth. The Blues Bros. finally make it to the ballroom, but they have to sneak in because the place is surrounded by cops. They find a small sewage tunnel under the Ballroom and park there. They get into the building through a back window that happens to be for the ladies bathroom. When they sneak in they see Curtis and he announces they’re arrival. The Blues Brothers take to the stage, but when they come out, noone even claps or cheers. It’s just dead silence. They break into “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” and the crowd finally starts warming up to them and they do some other tunes that really get the place jumping. They need to leave quick before they are caught, so they duck out the back. Before they leave a record producer offers them a $10,000 contract to make a record. In a nice gesture, they tell him to give most of the money to the band and to Ray’s Music Exchange.
On the way out through the tunnel, The Mystery Woman finds Jake and Elwood and begins shooting at them with her machine gun. We find out that this crazy stalker is actually Jake’s ex-fiancee whom he left at the alter. She’s been trying to kill him throughout the film because of this. Jake drops to his knees and pleads with her not to kill him and Elwood. She doesn’t believe him…until he takes off his glasses and using his big puppy dog eyes, he melts her heart once again. Jake kisses her then drops her right smack in the mud. He and Elwood take off.
The Blues Brothers have to get the $5000 to The Cook County Assessors Office in Chicago. They end up leading an epic car chase in which the entire Chicago State Police force race after them. This is easily the best and most destructive car chase on film. The boys fly through downtown Chicago at speeds hitting 100 miles an hour. While the cops chase them, The Neo Nazis find out and join in the pursuit as well. The Blues Brothers car suddenly begins to shoot oil from it’s engine as The Neo Nazis shoot at them, and when they come to a closed bridge, they almost fly right off. Luckily, the Neo Nazis car flies off and up into the air. They are dropped from the sky by a supernatural force (is it God?). Pretty soon, the Army is called in to help the police and they bring in tanks and machine guns. The Blues Brothers manage to get to the Assessors Office and they barracade the doors. They get to the top floor and they see a sign on the office door that reads: “BE BACK IN 5 MINUTES”. The clerk (Director Steven Spielberg in a cameo) asks them what he can do for them. The Blues Brothers hand him the money and he stamps the bill. The orphanage is saved! As soon as that’s done, we hear several guns “clicking”. In the next shot we see The Blues Brothers surrounded by 100 soldiers and policemen with machine guns aimed at them point blank.
The Blues Brothers are thrown back in jail and in the last musical sequence they perform for the other prisoners. The song is “Jailhouse Rock”. The prisoners dance and go nuts as The Blues Brothers play this classic hit by Elvis Presley.
The Blues Brothers is truly an adventure in great filmmaking. Director John Landis along with his cast and crew created a film that will live on forever as a shining example of all the incredible things you can do with film. From insanely wild stunts to colorful characters to comedy to exciting musical numbers, The Blues Brothers has all the things that makes movies so entertaining!