Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) went from a musical comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live to a $30 million budget mission from God as they careers of the Not Ready for Prime Players left New York City and set out for Hollywood.
There was a bidding war for this movie. After all, SNL, Animal House and The Blues Brothers album were all huge. Belushi was suddenly the star of the week’s top-grossing film, top-rated television show and singing on the number-one album all at the same time.
Universal won and what they got was a new writer in Aykroyd who wrote a long script that director John Landis was still writing and didn’t have a final budget until well after shooting started, at which point Belushi was already going wild in Chicago, drinking and drugging up a storm while cars were crashed everywhere and money was pretty much set ablaze.
It doesn’t matter. This movie is still remembered long after its star and all that money have gone away.
Raised in an orphanage and taught the blues by Curtis (Cab Calloway), the brothers became blood when they cut their middle fingers with a guitar string from Elmore James, the King of the Slide Guitar.
The past is important in this film, as Aykroyd demanded Calloway, James Brown, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin to be cast and get musical numbers. Universal wanted younger acts and disco stars. They lost.
The story is simple. The brothers want to raise money to save their orphanage. That’s it. That’s the story. The rest is a road movie full of comedic scenes that you can basically come into any time that you want.
They could have filmed what happened during the making of the film and had just as great of a film. For example, there was an entire bar on set, The Bles Bar, staffed with drug dealers. And on one night shoot, Belushi disappeared. Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He walked over and the owner of the house said, “You’re here for John Belushi, aren’t you?” He had walked into their home, asked if milk and a sandwich, and went to sleep. This is why he was nicknamed “America’s Guest.” Belushi was also called “The Black Hole” because he would lose his sunglasses after nearly every scene.
Beyond Paul Reuebens, Steven Spielberg and Carrie Fischer, there’s a secret Colleen Camp cameo. Look for her Colleen Camp’s Playboy poster on Ellwood’s hanging up in a scene.
I remember this movie running so many times on HBO in my youth and watching it nearly every time. I could watch it right now, even after watching it to write this.