The Blues Brothers Celebrates 40 Years with 4K

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

An iconic musical comedy classic, The Blues Brothers, celebrates its 40th anniversary with a recently released upgrade to 4K Ultra HD.

When it comes to 1980, it was a seminal year for comedies on the big screen.  In just a few months, the year saw the likes of The Blues Brothers, Airplane, Caddyshack, and 9 to 5National Lampoon’s Animal House had been a big hit in 1978.  It’s no surprise that everyone wanted to work with director John Landis, co-writer Harold Ramis, and actor John Belushi.  Ramis moved onto Caddyshack while Landis and Belushi worked on The Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd.  The rest is comedy history.

It’s one of the best comedies (and musicals) of all time–what it its piles and piles of police cars crashing and an introduction to the music known as the Blues.  You can definitely make an argument about cultural appropriation.  But at the same time, the argument about who is singing the music dates back to Elvis Presley in the 1950s.  After all, the very notion of rock and roll is heavily influenced by the musical genre!  But for me, the film honestly served as my introduction to the Blues and I would later seek out the albums.

When it comes to watching the film, there are so many memorable lines and scenes.  Watching the chase through the mall will probably never get old.  No matter how many times I watch this film, you can’t help but point out all the stores.  The Oldsmobiles are in early this year!  We’re on a mission from G-d. 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses–hit it!  I mean, there’s a list of lines that can go on and on.

Musically speaking, the film gives new life to the careers of James Brown and Ray Charles.  John Lee Hooker is here and so is Can Calloway–the latter playing mentor Curtis.  Aretha Franklin is and always will be the Queen of Soul.  Blues Brothers 2000, a lesser film, offers even more in terms of cameos.

If you’ve seen the film, you know what it’s about.  Joliet Jake (John Belushi) gets out of the joint and reunites with brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd).  They reunite their band–not as easy as it sounds–in hopes of bringing in $5000 for their beloved orphanage’s property tax bill.  There’s a mystery woman (Carrie Fisher) hellbent on killing Jake, the Good Ol’ Boys, and a subplot involving Illinois Nazis.  This is really all you need to know because you’re in for a wild ride.

Can we talk about the concluding scenes?  This is something that we look at very differently in 2020.  Watching the film with everything going on right now and it plays way different than before.  There is really no reason for this much amount of force.  All for driving with a suspended license!  And then to top it off at the Daley Center, we have the Chicago Police, Illinois State Police, SWAT teams, firefighters, the Illinois National Guard, and Military Police.  It’s a bit much!  I mean, I get what Aykroyd and Landis are going for here.  Obviously, we get some fun set pieces as a result, too.

I do want to say this about Aykroyd and Belushi.  The two comedians did very few films together following their time at Second City and Saturday Night Live.  However, they certainly had the potential to go down in history among the great screen duos.  Belushi’s death, of course, meant he wouldn’t be in Ghostbusters come 1984.  We’ll never truly know what could have been and it’s sad just to think about it.  But for 2 hours, 13 minutes or 2 hours 28 minutes depending on which edition you watch, it’s like opening a time capsule.

The film as a whole is like a time capsule.  There are honestly too many sites in the film that no longer exist.  Maxwell Street as it exists in the film is no longer there.  John Hughes captured Chicago in his own way with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off–a love letter in his own right–but The Blues Brothers captures Chicago as the late 1970s gave way to the 1980s.

The Blues Brothers truly captures a moment in time and celebrates one of the greatest musical genres in history.

DIRECTOR:  John Landis
SCREENWRITERS:  Dan Aykroyd and John Landis
CAST:  John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Carrie Fisher, Aretha Franklin, Henry Gibson, The Blues Brothers Band

Universal Pictures opened The Blues Brothers on June 20, 1980. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.