Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: The Blues Brothers

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 26, 1999

You boys could use a little churching up.

Special features

Cast Information5
Production Notes4
Production Photographs5

The Blues Brothers is a brilliant comedy slash musical with great blues music. Director John Landis set out to include musical numbers--all with blues--covering all the possible musical number ‘types’ that had been used in movies up to that time. The DVD includes longer footage from some of the performances, as well as previously deleted scenes. This is a “collector’s edition”, not a “director’s cut”, and at least one of the scenes that is restored is also ridiculed by the director in the very interesting and detailed “making of” feature. This DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with English, Spanish, and French dialog and subtitles. For some reason, the DVD has disabled the ability to mark your place and come back to it later.

RecommendationPurchase Now!
DirectorJohn Landis
Movie Rating9
Transfer Quality8
Overall Rating8
  • Enhanced Widescreen

Besides being a catalog of Chicago blues, “The Blues Brothers” is also a loving portrait of Chicago, the Chicago of Nelson Algren and Mike Royko. From the Joliet Correctional Facility to the gears beneath the roads, the camerawork paints brushstroke after brushstroke. The initial scenes remind me of the way Japanese manga will focus in on a scene by showing the same time from different perspectives, in multiple panels. While overall the prolonged opening scene, coming in from pre-dawn Chicago smokestacks to the dawn over prison, was beautiful, I think that the added scene inside prison as the guards pick Jake up to let him out was a bit confusing and too long. The original was very tight in that respect and worked better.

Other added scenes, however, are much more welcome. John Lee Hooker gets significantly more screen time—resulting in more of the song “Boom Boom” and more shots of the area of Chicago around Aretha Franklin’s fried chicken restaurant.

The main thrust of the movie, of course, was blues. Director Landis and writer Aykroyd wanted to pay tribute to the best in then-not-so-popular blues. Most of the musicians were unfortunately easy to get: they were looking for work. Later, of course, they would be much busier, and some of them credited this movie with at least partially restarting their careers. There are great performances by Cab Calloway, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, and more. Even more music is heard during the background during scenes, or even in the foreground during transition scenes.

There was also at least one future star in the cast: look for Chaka Khan in the choir with James Brown at Triple Rock.

This is also a comedy, and is one of the funniest and most quoted movies I’ve seen. Among my friends, “The Blues Brothers” is a requirement: if you haven’t seen it, you’re not going to understand our conversations. “It’s midnight, we’ve got a full tank of gas, we’re 108 miles from Chicago, and we’re wearing sunglasses.” “Hit it.” “Unnecessary violence against the Blues Brothers… has been approved.”

As far as extras go, the included full-length documentary is great: it is rivaled only by another Landis DVD, “Animal House” (which also includes John Belushi, and is also a Universal picture). If you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll find the documentary fascinating. Some of it is just amazing, like their actually shooting the “destroy the Daley Center” scene on location. They actually destroyed the Daley Center—or the parts of it that showed. They received unprecedented cooperation from the city of Chicago during the shooting. And did you know that this was the first movie script that Aykroyd did? He basically handed a telephone book over to Landis and asked him to cut out whatever was too much.

The cast information is interesting, especially for the non-actors in the movie, but they don’t have information for everyone I’d like to see. Where is John Lee Hooker, for example?

This “collector’s edition” of “The Blues Brothers” is not a director’s cut. It is an “expanded” cut, including footage that they were able to find and reasonably splice back in. For the most part it works great: we get more music. I would have loved to have seen the “Good Ole’ Blues Brothers Boys” sing “Sink the Bismarck”. I’m a big fan of Johnny Horton. And I’d be willing to bet there were some good visuals going along with that song, like the whip-cracking during “Rawhide”. But the director apparently did not choose which items got added back in based on the movie he’d of liked to do: at one point during the making of, Landis makes fun of a scene Aykroyd wrote involving the “source of the bluesmobile’s powers”. It was something that only the writer would get and even if anyone did get it, it wouldn’t add to the movie. I think Landis was right—but this scene was added back in.

Great movie, lots of fun, great music. I strongly recommend purchasing this DVD if you like the blues folks on it, or if you’re an Aykroyd/Belushi fan. At least rent it, I don’t think you’ll be sorry. You better think about what you’re doing. You better think about the consequences of your actions.

Recommendation: Purchase Now!

DirectorJohn Landis
ActorsJohn Belushi, Dan Aykroyd
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
Special FeaturesCast Information, Documentary, Production Notes, Production Photographs, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed The Blues Brothers…

For more about Dan Aykroyd, you might also be interested in 1941 and Ghostbusters.

For more about John Belushi, you might also be interested in 1941 and Animal House.

For more about John Landis, you might also be interested in Animal House and Kentucky Fried Movie.

For more about musical, you might also be interested in A Star is Born, Almost Elvis, Amadeus, Cabaret, Going My Way/Holiday Inn, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Music Man, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Sound of Music, and The Wizard of Oz.