The Blues Brothers (DVD)

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The Blues Brothers (DVD)

In roles made famous by their famed SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi star as Ellwood and Jake Blues in this extremely entertaini...

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Review of "The Blues Brothers (DVD)"

published 19/05/2017 | kojak123
Member since : 12/02/2014
Reviews : 85
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About me :
Looks like the server migration went well, so I'm back (again!). :) Bear with me while I catch up, almost Orange level now.
Pro Funny, well written, exceptional musical numbers!
Cons The none-actors acting is a bit wooden (no surprise there really).
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"The Blues Brothers: A Briefcase full of Blues!"

The Blues Brothers (DVD)

The Blues Brothers (DVD)

The Blues Brothers

DVD Review

The Blues Brothers is a 1980 comedy/musical movie starring Dan Ackroyd and the late John Belushi as brothers Elwood and Jake Blues.

Starting out as a comedy sketch in 1976 on the American powerhouse which is Saturday Night Live, the Blues Brothers were an all-star show-band made up of some of the greats in the Blues and R&B field of music. As a connoisseur of their music, Dan Ackroyd put them together as an ensemble and took the role of front-man along with fellow comedian John Belushi, creating some very entertaining sketches which were an even mix of musical prowess and slapstick comedy - prancing around the stage dressed in bee outfits singing I'm a King Bee - Buzz buzz sticks in my mind especially!

Audience reactions were great, no-one could get enough of the Blues Brothers and so after the immense success of a debut album in 1978, they decided it was time to paint Hollywood black. They took an old script Ackroyd had written (never expecting it to see the light of day!) and along with directing legend John Landis, developed their act into a full movie.

It was one of the most expensive comedy movies ever made, with costs spiraling way out of the planned budget (originally - and quite optimistically - set at $12 million), and for a moment it looked like it may be a break-even prospect, with a very average opening weekend. However, it exploded and went on to almost quadruple its $30,000,000 costs, dominating the box office for several weeks before drifting into oblivion for a while - and then doing exactly the same with VHS sales, becoming quite the cult classic and gaining popularity with fans from a new decade.


Dan Ackroyd - Elwood J Blues
John Belushi - "Joliet" Jake Blues

The Band;
Steve "The Colonel" Cropper
Murphy "Murph" Dunne
Willie "Too Big" Hall
Donald "Duck" Dunn
"Blue" Lou Marini
Matt "Guitar" Murphy
Alan "Mr Fabulous" Rubin
Tom "Bones" Malone

Absolutely amazing line up! Some of the band were lifted straight from the Saturday Night Live musicians, where they had filled in bit-parts in the Blues band assembled by Ackroyd. However, a good number of them have played in well known groups and to the Blues fans amongst us there should be a couple of familiar names. All of them are real musicians, all of them play in the movie.

Of course Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi are perfect for their roles. The parts were, quite literally, written for them. No-one else was ever considered for the parts and in my mind, no-one could ever hold a candle to these two guys as the two leads. Ackroyd sometimes looks a little out of his depth trying to keep up with the wild eyed, manic Belushi, but they play the straight man and the slightly less straight man like they studied it in a text book. Flawless.

Cameos are an enormous part of this film. Look closely and you'll spot Frank Oz, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Carrie Fisher, John Candy, Steven Spielberg, Twiggy and plenty more.

Directed by John Landis. He never quite got the extended cut he wanted of the movie (his "trimmed down" version still ran to 3 hours!) but I think he was a perfect choice after working so closely with Dan Ackroyd to develop the script.

Joliet Jake Blues has just finished a prison sentence. Not his first, and no doubt not his last given that the Blues Brothers are recidivists - habitual criminal offenders. Devoted brother Elwood collects Jake from prison... in an ex police car, a Dodge Monaco bought for a song in a police auction.

First thing on their agenda is to visit "The Penguin", the nun who raised the two boys in her orphanage, who informs them that the refuge will soon be closing as they are $5,000 in debt to the state. Jake offers to steal the money to settle the debt, mortally offending their former carer, but then the brothers come up with the idea of reforming their old band, The Blues Brothers, and selling out a venue - thus paying off the account legitimately.

Now comes the iconic sequence, getting the band back together! The duo travel the state, pulling ex band members out of regular honest vocations to join them on the road with the mysterious we're on a mission from God speech. Some come willingly, some have to be coerced and some need to be actively blackmailed, but by fair means or foul The Blues Brothers are reformed.

Once reassembled the band play a couple of warm-up gigs in hilariously ill-suited locations before attempting one last huge score, squeezing 5000 paying customers into The Hotel Palace Ballroom which they have managed to acquire after blackmailing an ex booking agent. Packing that venue will not only prove to everyone that The Blues Brothers are still a force to be reckoned with, it will also settle all old debts to the band and leave enough left over to keep their beloved orphanage open.

Whether they make it to the gig is probably easy to guess, but getting away from it with the cash to pay off The Penguins debt may not be so easy: by the time the movie reaches the climax we've upset a Winnebago full of red-neck hillbillies (complete with obligatory shotguns), almost all of the Illinois state police, Jakes murderous jilted Fiancee and the whole of the Illinois Nazi movement.
Needless to say, a car chase is due. Indeed essential, and this is the pinnacle of the movie. I can't say any more about the ending other than;
It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a packet of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.
Hit it.


I can't rave enough about this movie, it's an all time favourite.
The music is what sells it, and every number is choreographed to perfection - I mean it must have taken months to shoot and cut together each number, but it feels 100% organic and natural. I could watch those performances any time, from the first number to the very last they blend into the movie seamlessly which is of course an absolutely essential aspect for a music based film.

Acting is acceptable. That's not the negative it may sound; the leads are exceptionally good at playing their parts, Ackroyd and Belushi seem to just live their roles, they feel born to play these characters. The rest of the cast though are predominantly musicians, and while they are obviously natural showmen, they are not natural actors. That said, they still do a good job of shining in front of the camera (some more than others), but their slight unease just gives the movie that extra realism in my eyes.

The story is original and allows a lot of depth from the cast, we see a little bit of character development from these two set-in-their-ways petty criminals and a whole range of performances from the supporting cast from nostalgic emotional turns to flat out just for laughs comedy. Make no mistake, this is The Blues Brothers movie, but the two leads have no trouble handing centre stage to the actors and musicians alongside them.

The action is amazing. Mainly the action scenes consist of car chases, but there are some decent set-pieces which really put the special effects team (and stuntman team!) through their paces. Two of Carrie Fishers scenes in-particular fit that bill, I won't post spoilers but anyone who has seen the movie will remember the phone booth scene ("Hey Jake, there's gotta be at least a dollars worth of change here...")
Of course the car chases deserve special mention. The film held the record for 18 years for most vehicles destroyed in a movie with some phenomenally well choreographed stunts and crashes. On my DVD there is a quiz in the "extras" about how many police cars they got through while filming... and surprisingly enough it's only 60. They apparently had a 24 hour body-shop running throughout filming, so they would wreck a handful of cars, repair them (I imagine a heck of a lot of panel beating!) then send them back out again for the next scene.

All filming was done in and around Chicago, so all "on location" if you will. The shopping centre scene was a real shopping centre (with fake safety glass installed), the drawbridge jump at the beginning was a real drawbridge - this stuff amazes me, I love that in such recent times these stunts were being performed for real rather than computer simulated or carried out in a studio and the footage transposed.


Again, I can't speak highly enough. This is the music which plated the seed for the film, it is the centre of everything and so as you would expect, it's just about flawless.
All eleven tracks are performed by The Blues Brothers band, with vocals shared between a select few mega-stars (James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles) and of course Jake and Elwood taking the lions share.
The soundtrack is a review in its own right. "Shake a Tail Feather" and "Everybody (Needs Somebody)" are utter classics which even haters of the movie will know, but "She Caught the Katy", the opening track of the film, is my personal favourite.


I do have the extended version which was released for the 25th anniversary in 2005, but I have reviewed the original version here. The DVD contains the original 1980 edit of the movie, the original theatrical trailer, a documentary of "the Making of", plus biographies of the cast and crew.
There are 14 different languages for the sub-titles and 5 different audio options on top, but it's not too packed. Hardly surprising since this came out in 2002 and the 25th anniversary version was due only 3 years later, coming with 15 minutes of extra footage (mainly extended musical numbers) and three new featurettes.


Release - 1980
Rated -15
Runtime - 132 minutes in theatres, trimmed from 180+
Budget - $28,000,000 (waaaay over the anticipated $12 million).
Box Office - $116,000,000. A smash hit by any standards!

My thoughts

This is just to sum up the above rather than rabbit on, because I quite easily could!
I remember the first time I saw this movie, I was about 11 or 12 and my Dad put it on. He warned me that it had some "colourful" language, but he knew I'd get a kick out of it and he was right. 20-something years later it's still a massive favourite and every time I watch it I remember that night at my Dad's watching a grainy VHS version and thinking it was the best thing in the world.
It is not without faults, as I say the acting can be a little bit naff and some of the jokes are very much of their time, but generally specking I can't pick out anything that niggles me, no scenes I feel like skipping etc.

The movie sits right in my top ten list. I have a couple of different versions of it but I still think my favourite is the 1980 edit.
Over the years I've picked up some Blues Brothers memorabilia too, including a couple of very old posters from Universal Studios in Florida and a replica of the car which sits in my office at work.

Love it or hate it there is no denying that The Blues Brothers is an enduring classic. If you haven't seen it then I suggest you do, the odds are strong that you'll be hooked on the hooks too!

Thanks. Kev.

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Comments on this review

  • Raelonus published 15/06/2017
    A strong review and I appreciated your remarks on mine. Alas we both have different styles.
  • Pointress published 09/06/2017
    Ashamed to say I've never seen this. Must remedy some time soon.
  • rolandrat123 published 28/05/2017
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In roles made famous by their famed SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi star as Ellwood and Jake Blues in this extremely entertaining and successful comedy. Upon Jake's release from prison, the brothers are reunited and visit the orphanage they grew up in--only to discover that it is in danger of being shut down by the county for failure to pay taxes. With a little help from James Brown as a revival preacher, the Blues Brothers are divinely inspired to raise the $5,000 that the orphanage needs to stay open. On their mission from God, they must reunite their old band and raise the money by playing various gigs around town. The wild adventures of the band include dodging evil neo-Nazis, playing in a rowdy redneck bar, and narrowly escaping the crazed Carrie Fisher as Jake's ex-fiancee, who is out to see him dead. Finally, the boys have to get to a gig at the Palace Hotel Ballroom and deliver the $5,000 to the county assessor's office--leading to one of the most wild and hysterical car-chase smashups in film history. John Landis has spiced this wonderful romp with fabulous rhythm-and-blues numbers from such greats as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway, and Ray Charles.


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