Stone Classics: THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980).

Posted: July 26, 2011 in Cars, Classics, Comedy, John Belushi, John Landis, Movies (B), Musicals

The Blues Brothers is actually a very hard one to write about, for me anyway.  Writing about this movie is exactly like writing about music: It can be interesting to do, to a point, but eventually you really just need to listen to the song.  As much as I enjoy reading about and writing about movies, ultimately movies are made to be watched, and The Blues Brothers, maybe more than most, is easier watched than pontificated over.

Maybe it’s because, of all the comedies of the era, The Blues Brothers (arguably) comes the closest to pure cinema.  It’s about the music, the motion, the stunts, the spectacle, and the dancing, with frequent pitstops for jokes, both of the visual and the uttered variety.  There’s not a lot of wasted energy.  It’s an exuberant entertainment machine.

Also, while it may not necessarily be my favorite comedy of its era (though it’s up there), The Blues Brothers is one of the most unassailable.  It’s hard to think of a moment that doesn’t belong.  It’s hard to think of a single frame that could be changed.  You can’t fairly say that about some of the other classics.    Ghostbusters has that weird moment where Dan Aykroyd gets head from a ghost.  Animal House has the borderline-racist scene in the black night club (“Do you mind if we dance with your dates?”)  Caddyshack has that girl’s Irish accent (“No ya doon’t…!”)  The Blues Brothers has nothing like any of those.  It’s pretty damn determined, pretty damn thorough, pretty damn unstoppable.

Plenty has already been written about the music of The Blues Brothers.  It’s hard to say much new about it, but it’s also hard to understate its importance.  The Blues Brothers is a landmark film in the realm of American R&B and soul music.  It brought a renewed spotlight to crucial performers, some of whom were beginning to be forgotten at the time.  It rejuvenated the careers of James Brown, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin.  It features a show-stopping climactic performance by Cab Calloway, who also plays a major role.  It pauses briefly for an extended cameo by John Lee Hooker.  The Blues Brothers Band, which Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi fronted on-screen and off, was stocked with serious musicians, including Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn, of Booker T. & The MG’s and literally hundreds of classic records on the Stax label.  This movie was an atomic bomb of taste-making.  I can hardly be the only scrawny runt from the suburbs whose record collection owes plenty to the fact that The Blues Brothers exists.  Music is one of the most immediate factors which can date a movie.  That’s not a problem The Blues Brothers has to worry about, probably ever.  This movie’s sound is evergreen.

Do I exaggerate?

That’s Chaka Khan in the front row of JB’s choir, by the way.  Not the first or the last notable face to flash by in a movie which also includes Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, Paul Reubens, John Candy, Henry Gibson, Kathleen Freeman (you’d know her when you saw her), Charles Napier (him too), Joe Walsh, Steven Spielberg, and Mr. T (he’s uncredited).  This movie’s IMDB page has you covered for your Trivia Night.

It’s a classic.  Let’s stop talking about it and go watch it again.

Anthology Film Archives will be screening The Blue Brothers in August, as part of its stellar Hollywood Musicals Of The 1980s film series.  (Read what I wrote about Streets Of Fire, Purple Rain, and The Muppet Movie!)  Also, a new Blu-Ray edition is landing in stores on Tuesday July 26th, in case you can’t make it to the theater.

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