Musicians In Blues Brothers – John Landis struck gold with his insane comedy from the 1980s, a masterpiece of choreographed destruction with a haunting soundtrack
One of the permanent hallmarks of John Landis’s productions are cameos from other film directors, which explain the hilarious incongruity of Jonathan Demme and David Cronenberg passing Into the Night or the cognitive dissonance of Atom Egoyan, Gillo Pontecorvo and Costa. -Gavras stars in The Stupids. But when Steven Spielberg shows up as a Cook County tax representative near the end of Landi’s blowout The Blues Brothers , it feels less like a hat tip than a statement.
Musicians In Blues Brothers
Given the keys to the studio empire, Landis seized the opportunity to make the biggest, highest-grossing commercial juggernaut Hollywood had seen since It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, following the success of his frathouse romp Animal House in 1978. .It was the only serious thing. After all, its star, John Belushi, had already attempted a big, loud commercial juggernaut the year before in Spielberg’s 1941 and it was widely considered a disappointment. Spielberg’s cameo in The Blues Brothers may have been a friendly transition, but Landis also tried to raise the bar. By the time Spielberg’s heroes arrive at the Daley Center in Chicago, over 100 cars have assembled, and the entire Chicago police force, the Illinois National Guard, a phalanx in Nazi uniforms, and country and western outfits are in pursuit. Landis decided not to be spoiled.
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As Landis and company camped out against Chicago and its suburbs and continued to burn Universal Pictures money – among other things, Cocaine practically had its own trailer – the Blues Brothers looked like Heaven’s Gate for the new blockbuster era, which led to the unique revival. of the 70s that suffocates in large plumes of car exhaust. Landis was more of a showman than an artist, but it’s hard to argue with the film’s maximalist dedication 40 years later, even if the consuming grandeur is now the norm in studio summer competitions. The Blues Brothers is a Saturday Night Live sketch, a Looney Tunes cartoon, a demolition derby, and an R&B music revue rolled into one, and it works over your head with violence.
Americans already knew from SNL and their first double platinum album Briefcase Full of Blues, which consisted entirely of the blues and soul covers, “Joliet” Jake (Belusi) and his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) who does not look like with the familiar sketch characters that would trash so many poorly designed film comics years later. They had a background and a set – black suit jackets and pants, thin black ties over white shirts, black fedoras and sunglasses – but aside from some goofy dance choreography and attitude, they weren’t joking or working. be funny all the time. In The Blues Brothers, they are more like the eye of the hurricane, the center of the unholy barrage of activity that surrounds them. There’s never a point where they panic at the overwhelming forces aligned against them: Elwood says they’re on a “mission from God,” but in this world they’re Bugs Bunny or Roadrunner, almost casually.
Working from Aykroyd’s script which he took from an original 300-page novelistic draft, Landis follows the Blue brothers on a simple mission to save the Catholic orphanage where they grew up. All they have to do is raise the $5,000 owed in property taxes, but the nun prevents Jake from risking another armed robbery, so their only other option is the members of his T&B outfit to be reunited and play a major role. show. From the skeletal bones of that plot, the Blues Brothers can assemble musical numbers and over-the-top action sequences like pit stops in a road movie. Between the orphanage at one end of the film and the Palace Hotel show at the other, he can take the film any other way he wants.
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As a band, the Blues Brothers were a mediocre act of cultural appropriation, but as a film, The Blues Brothers has the courage to reference one of black music’s superstars: James Brown as the Baptist preacher who inspires Jake’s religious episode. . ; Ray Charles stars as Shake a Tail Feather music store owner; Cab Calloway, as an old friend and father to the Blues, entertains the crowd with Minnie the Moocher, and Aretha Franklin lights up a soul food dinner with a performance of Think. There’s a reason Landis was chosen to direct Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. He showed great facility in choreographing song and dance on a big stage while handling other aspects of the genre.
Beyond the show sequences, The Blues Brothers is choreographed destruction, a ballet of plunging police cars and massive explosions and a rampage of Chicago landmarks that the city would not see again until Transformers: Dark of the Moon. In the blink of an eye, Carrie Fisher does her best Wile E Coyote, attacking the boys with a rocket launcher, a remote-controlled bomb, a flamethrower, and finally a machine gun – an entire arsenal of Acme products. (It’s coming Jake, honestly.) When it comes time for the first Nazi (Henry Gibson) to meet his maker, his car not only goes over the end of the half-built overpass, but is shot out of the sky . (A Ford Pinto helicopter was apparently dropped from 1,200 feet just to achieve the intended effect.) This is a film that sets up a chase sequence in an actual mall in the first act with the intention of outdoing itself with a more consequential breakdown. yet.
There is nothing subtle about any of this. The Blues Brothers isn’t a film of hidden layers or grace notes, but a nitrous-charged streamer blasting La Cucaracha’s car horn as it tunnels down the road. As it turns out, the bigger-than-better model rarely works for comedies – it didn’t work for 1941 and it didn’t even work for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, even though those two films suitable. encouraged. But Landis, Belushi, Aykroyd and their amazing musicians, stuntmen and supporting players have made a movie about putting on a big show by putting on one themselves. Resistance is futile. Did comedians John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd praise R&B and blues talents during an opening act for Steve Martin at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheater? Or simply to tilt it?
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The first clue came with the tough support group they had assembled for the occasion: Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn of Booker T. and the M.G.’s; Matt “Guitar” Murphy, former Howlin’ Wolf sideman; Hall of the Bay-Keys Willie “Too Big”; and Steve Jordan, who would later work with Keith Richards, among others.
“The Blues Brothers came out as the real deal because we had Cropper and Dunn and Matt Murphy – these three great Memphis guitarists,” Aykroyd later said.
. “Murphy played with James Cotton, and Duck and Steve played on all those Stax/Volt records. That combination was an inimitable powerhouse, a Chicago/Memphis fusion band. That was the Blues Brothers and that’s what really did it. It works. They gave our company legitimacy.”
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, which was released a few months later on November 28, 1978, was not driven solely by his participation. Belushi and Aykroyd took the story seriously, despite how entertaining it was.
“In the early days, a lot of the media reported that John and Dan were joking about the music,” Cropper said in 2014. “Duck and I read it and I went, ‘What? We couldn’t have fun with our music.’ We had to do some interviews and let them know how serious they were. Dan studied hard to learn how to play the harmonica. John was a rock and roll drummer long before he became famous as a comedian. In the end it was one of the best collections of blues musicians I’ve ever seen.”
The result was a celebration without irony, one that translated into millions of album sales. (Belushi and Aykroyd eventually chipped in an additional $50,000 of their own money when the label’s advance couldn’t cover recording costs.) In any case, Cropper says, the Blues Brothers’ energetic reworkings of these classic songs helped them stick around. relevant through its period when the Bee Gees and punk were at their peak.
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“We had to keep this music alive, educate a younger generation about this music,” Cropper insisted. “Soul and blues and jazz, those are the greatest staples that the American people have created. But there’s more to it than that. Eddie Floyd [who toured as a member of the Blues Brothers Band for years] and [ the late Stax drummer ] Al Jackson, they told me a long time ago: It’s about entertaining people too. You’re not going to be interesting to people standing up there They can hear it on the radio They have to you being interesting make them swing and swing with you.”
That brought Cropper to the fore