The blues brothers – collector’s edition

They’re not the police. They’re musicians. They’re on a mission from God, and will do whatever it takes to fulfill that mission. In “The Blues Brothers,” that includes trashing half of Chicago, including a shopping mall, the Daley Center and about one-hundred police cars. “The Blues Brothers” is marvelous mayhem, one outrageous stunt or gag after the other.

At the center of all the chaos is a hilarious, good old- fashioned musical with a 1980’s edge. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi are Elwood and Jake Blues, who reunite when Jake is released from a stint at Joliet. When the brothers learn that the orphanage where they grew up is in financial straits, they decide to get their old band back together to raise the necessary funds. They’re on a mission from God, but they’re having a devil of a time pulling off the good deed. Before long, they have state and federal cops, red necks, Nazi’s, bar owners and assassins hot on their tail. Through sheer luck and a little assistance from their friends, Elwood and Jake manage to stage the benefit concert.

Now they have to get the money back to Chicago and into the state assessor’s hands before noon. This leads to one of the screen’s most outrageous chase scenes (actually the film is one long chase scene with time outs for musical numbers) ever caught on film. When Aykroyd and Belushi debuted “The Blues Brothers” on “Saturday Night Live” and then as the opening act for comedian Steve Martin’s Los Angeles gig, they reintroduced America to the blues. “The Blues Brothers” were ripe for parody, but were instead played with soul and conviction by Aykroyd and Belushi. The script, written by Aykroyd and director John Landis, finds humor in the characters and the situations they get into. No sitcom material here. Aykroyd and Belushi are so engaging as Elwood and Jake that we’re willing to buy into everything they say and do. Their down-to-Earth performances help ground the film’s more outrageous moments. More than anything else, “The Blues Brothers” is a celebration of rhythm and blues music, and in that respect, the film is one big valentine. Where else can you find electrifying performances by Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, and James Brown all in one place? Where else can you hear a blues band play the theme to “Rawhide” and “Stand by Your Man” in one set, and “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Everybody Need Somebody to Love” in another? Where else but in “The Blues Brothers” will you find Nazi’s and red necks in the same car chase? Or Jake Blues propositioning a man in a fancy restaurant for his daughters? It’s all grand fun. I love “The Blues Brothers” movie for a number of reasons. Aykroyd and Belushi were at the top of their game in the film, and their energy ignites the screen.

The musical numbers are lively and necessary. Unlike the sequel, they don’t stop the film dead in it’s tracks. Best of all is the film’s dry sense of humor. It must have been difficult to keep a straight face on the set. Director Landis claims that “The Blues Brothers” was the first film to destroy a mall, and that scene alone is worth the price of admission. Watching Elwood and Jake discuss the finer points of the mall as they barrel their “blues mobile” through store after store is fall down funny. Oh look, they have a Pier 1 Import! “The Blues Brothers” may be eighteen years old, but it shows no sign of aging. It’s just as funny and relevant now as it was then. Maybe more so.
The blues brothers - collector?s edition

There’s no reason to sing the blues here. The 1.85:1 widescreen digital transfer (enhanced for widescreen televisions) is just as crisp and colorful as it was eighteen years ago on the big screen. Stephen Katz’s inspired cinematography gets the ultimate respect here. The dual-layer disc is an excellent example of the visual quality that can be achieved on DVD. Exciting colors, crisp blacks and no compression flaws whatsoever. The flesh tones look healthy and natural. Katz uses a wide color pallette, and not one of them registers false.

“The Blues Brothers” is what Dolby Digital processors were made for. Finally, a film that takes full command of the 5.1 surround. “The Blues Brothers” is filled with great songs that come alive through the surround speakers. Outstanding sound mix tests the full register of the speakers. From bass lines that rumble through you to crystal clear trebles that can cut air, the sound is awesome. The songs and dialogue sound terrific, and the stereo split is pinpoint accurate. There’s a lot of action in “The Blues Brothers,” and the ambient noise lands exactly where it’s supposed to.

Captioned in English for the hard of hearing, with subtitles in Spanish and French.

When Universal Studios was shooting “Blues Brothers 2000” last year, they took the opportunity to interview director Landis, star Dan Aykroyd, and several members of the cast and crew to make “The Stories behind Making of The Blues Brothers,” an original documentary that is part of this “Collector’s Edition.” The in-depth documentary (a generous 14 chapter stops) explores the myth behind “The Blues Brothers” and how a couple of guys in black suits and sunglasses could become such pop icons. Fans of the film will especially enjoy the behind-the-scenes stories that led up to the film. I was moved by the segment on John Belushi, and how the remaining cast members fondly remember him. “The Blues Brothers” was a logistical nightmare to shoot, and all of director Landis’ headaches are chronicled here. The film itself features over 12 minutes of footage not seen since a preview in 1980. The additions are noted on the enclosed booklet, which also features photos and additional information on the making of the film. It’s been a while since I’ve seen “The Blues Brothers” all the way through, and I immediately appreciated the additional footage that helps flesh out some scenes and lends a whole new flavor to others. The DVD also comes with the customary cast and crew bios, production info, and a still archive from the film. There’s also a classic theatrical trailer that ends with one of those “Visit Universal Studios” tag lines. Then it states “Ask for Babs.”That’s an inside joke from “Animal House,” Belushi’s first film, which was also directed by John Landis. Quite honestly, I was just pleased to own a copy of “The Blues Brothers” that looked and sounded terrific. The extras are icing on the cake, but they sure make it one tasty cake.

“Collector’s Edition” means just that. You must add “The Blues Brothers” to your DVD collection. Tell the sales clerk that your on a mission from God. He’ll understand. There’s no reason to get the blues when you can get “The Blues Brothers: Collector’s Edition” on DVD.


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