THE BLUES BROTHERS
Scen.: Dan Aykroyd, John Landis. F.: Stephen M. Katz. M.: George Folsey Jr.. Scgf.: John J. Lloyd. Int.: John Belushi (‘Joliet’ Jake Blues), Dan Aykroyd (Elwood Blues), James Brown (Reverendo Cleophus James), Cab Calloway (Curtis), Ray Charles (Ray), Aretha Franklin (proprietaria del Soul Food Cafe), Steve Cropper (Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper), Donald Dunn (Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn), Murphy Dunne (Murph), Willie Hall (Willie ‘Too Big’ Hall), Carrie Fisher (donna misteriosa), John Landis (agente LaFong), Steven Spielberg (impiegato della Cook County). Prod.: Robert K. Weiss per Universal. DCP. D.: 148’. Col.
They’re on a mission from God, to bring this year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato to a close with an explosion of comedy, music and destruction in Piazza Maggiore. Four decades on, the first attempt to spin off Saturday Night Live characters for the big screen remains one of the unlikeliest success stories of its era. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi had appeared as The Blues Brothers in a few oddball skits before their debut album Briefcase Full of Blues went double platinum in 1978. Was that enough to build a $17.5 million feature around? Universal head Lew Wasserman believed so, and chaos ensued. Beginning with a 324-page “free verse” script by Aykroyd that director John Landis had to wrestle into a workable screenplay in a few frantic weeks, The Blues Brothers often felt like a production out of control, with the already substantial budget ballooning to $27 million as filming fell behind schedule. Many of the delays were caused by Belushi, whose drug use was spiralling out of control, but Landis understood how to get the best out of his mercurial Animal House star, and when Belushi was on set he was frequently brilliant. The deadpan performances delivered by Aykroyd and Belushi arguably constitute both actors’ finest screen work; the perfect counterpoint to the escalating lunacy around them.
The Blues Brothers is erratic, and the thin narrative yank us from one outlandish setpiece or musical number to the next. But there is a strange alchemy in this film as it veers wildly from iconic performances by James Brown and Aretha Franklin to daft recurring gags like a vengeful Carrie Fisher or the Illinois Nazis. Landis’s devotion to the slapstick chase sequence places his film in the lineage of Buster Keaton and Mack Sennett, and its reckless energy ultimately proves to be irresistible. The Blues Brothers is a one-of-a-kind spectacle, made to be seen on the biggest screen possible, in the dark, possibly while wearing sunglasses.