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The Scarlet & Black

Film Perception: Some much needed comedic blues

Photo by Mai Vu Phuong

If you’re from Chicago, there is roughly a 100 percent chance you have seen one of the greatest classic comedy movies of all time. When you’ve got a full tank of gas, sunglasses, four fried chickens and a Coke, you can do just about anything. That’s right, “The Blues Brothers” has made the list. And honestly, how could it not? As someone from the south suburbs of Chicago, this movie holds a very special place in my heart. For years I’ve loved Jake and Elwood, their jazzy music and their wild adventure through Illinois and Chicago. If you haven’t seen this glorious achievement in comedic cinematic genius, your life is severely lacking.

“The Blues Brothers” begins when Elwood Blues picks up his brother, Jake Blues, from Joliet Prison (a place I have actually driven by). Elwood is driving an old police car appropriately dubbed the Bluesmobile, which has become infamous among movie buffs and Chicagoans alike. Together they set out on a “mission from God” to save the orphanage in which they were raised, which requires $5,000. To accomplish this enormous task, they get their old band back together to tour around the Chicagoland area. Unfortunately, Elwood is immediately tracked down by state troopers due to 116 unpaid parking tickets and 56 moving violations. The subsequent destructive, high-speed chase through a busy shopping mall makes for a great movie opening and bodes well for the rest of their adventure, filled with music and hilarity. Along the way, the duo visits old friends, featuring such stars as Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin and their fabulous music.

Some of the hilarious highlights of the film include a scene wherein the American Nazi Party blocks the brothers’ path, leading to the unforgettable line, “I hate Illinois Nazis.” In another scene, Jake’s crazy ex-fiancée, played by Carrie Fisher, chases the duo and destroys everything  in her path in order to seek revenge. Later on, the brothers impersonate a country western band and take over their gig. Throughout the film the pair escapes numerous death-defying situations and remain some of the luckiest people in cinematic history.

Instead of recounting the entirety of the plot for you, I’ll provide you with some interesting behind-the-scenes facts. The shopping mall they drive through and effectively annihilate was a real mall, called the Dixie Square Mall, in Harvey, Illinois. This mall was scheduled to be demolished anyway, so it perfectly served the car chase scenes in the film. Interestingly, Dan Akroyd wrote the first incarnation of the screenplay. Unfortunately, this was his first attempt at writing a screenplay, which resulted in a script three times the length of the average screenplay. John Landis then stepped in to write a version that could realistically be filmed and watched. An astonishing 103 cars, most of them cop cars, were destroyed during the filming of the movie, setting a world record at the time. Some people in the proximity of these real-life car stunts called 911, unaware of the scenes that were continuously being filmed. Another reason to love this film: all real stunts and no CGI or other editing.

“The Blues Brothers” not only incorporates incredible comedy with a fantastic plot, but boasts an incredible cast full of famous actors. John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Carrie Fisher, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Frank Oz work together extremely well for the final product, despite coming from very different musical and acting backgrounds. The slapstick comedy and extreme quotability will keep “The Blues Brothers” on a comedic pedestal for years to come, right up there with “Airplane!” “This Is Spinal Tap” and “Blazing Saddles.” So whether you’re the world’s biggest cinephile or you’re just looking for a wholesome film that’ll make you laugh every time, “The Blues Brothers” is the movie for you.

— Allison Isztok ’21

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    Rick DrewSep 29, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Dixie Square had been abandoned for many years. They remodeled the mall, stocked the shelves, built store fronts – just for the car chase.