Tag Archives: John Landis

Cha-mone! Michael Jackson In Movies And Games

Today would’ve been The King of Pop’s 60th birthday. So to celebrate and remember the man, I’m going to take a look at MJ in movies and video games. From main, starring roles to smaller cameo appearances.

Regardless of what anyone thinks about his more than bizarre personal life, one can not deny that Michael Jackson was one of the finest singer/song writers ever. He amazed millions of fans around the globe with his performances from huge and epic world tours to single show stopping smaller appearances. I mean just look at the 1983, Motown 25th anniversary where he did Billie Jean live, still one of the single greatest live performances ever.

But I’m not here to reminisce over his musical prowess (well maybe a little), its time to take a look at MJ in movies and games.

The Movies

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The Wiz was Jackson’s first ever film appearance back in 1978. A reimagining of the classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz novel by L. Frank Baum and based on the Broadway musical of the same name. The Wiz was an all singing and dancing extravaganza and featured some serious and legendary talent including Diana Ross, Richard Pryor, Quincy Jones and even an uncredited Luther Vandross.

Jackson played the Scarecrow who of course is in search of a brain. MJ belts out quite possibly the most famous song from the entire film, Ease on Down the Road along with Diana Ross. The Wiz was panned when originally released with many critics saying the only saving grace was Michael Jackson. The film has gone on to become a cult classic that really is not worth watching these days, just do a YouTube search for Ease on Down the Road and you’ve seen the best part of the film.

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Next film role for MJ was the music video and short movie hybrid of 1983’s Michael Jackson’s Thriller. After watching the John Landis classic werewolf flick, An American Werewolf in London, MJ contacted Landis and asked him if he’s like to direct a music video – an idea Landis had no interest in. But Landis didn’t want to pass up the chance of working with Jackson who was (at the time) on top of the world as a superstar. So he suggested they get together to make a short movie instead, an idea Jackson loved and so the greatest music video of all time, Thriller was born.

Landis had his friend, long term collaborator and legendary make-up artist Rick Baker on hand to provide the special effects and make-up – which still look stunning today. While Landis and Jackson wrote the screenplay for this short movie. This teaming up created a phenomenon. In 2009, the Thriller video was inducted into the National Film Registry and to this day is the first and only music video to ever receive such an honor.

Off the Wall

At this juncture I just was to ask a question. Why do people consider Thriller to be his best work? It’s often cited as one of the greatest albums ever and don’t get me wrong, it’s a damn good album. But I personally would praise Off the Wall as an overall better piece of work than Thriller. In fact I’d even argue that Bad is a better album than Thriller. Anyway, back to the topic…

Captain Eo

In 1986, MJ once more teamed up with film-making legends for his next project, Captain EO. Jackson worked with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola for this seventeen minute 3D mess of a film. Shown exclusively at Disney theme parks around the world. Originally, it was only shown from 1986 to 1996, but it was given a re-release following Jackson’s death in 2009. I got to see this film on a trip to Epcot in Disney World Florida a few years back.

MJ plays the titular Captain EO a captain of the spaceship with a crew of aliens. After crossing paths with The Supreme Leader (Anjelica Huston) who demands Captain EO and his crew are to be subjected to torture. MJ busts out some dance moves and sings a couple of songs turning the evil Supreme Leader and her grimy land into a paradise.

Visually, Captain EO is stunning. Just a shame its got a mess of a story, bad acting and a sickly sweet “we can change the world” mantra that Jackson seemed to enjoy shoving down people’s throats back then. This mini movie/music video is no Thriller and a waste of great talent.

Moonwalker

1988 saw the release of perhaps MJ’s most egotistical project…and that’s saying something. The epic opus that was Moonwalker. I’m not entirely sure how one would describe this film as its not really a film so to speak. Its more a collection of music videos, clips and performances, an anthology of everything MJ inspired by his Bad album. The film is split into various sections including; Man in the MirrorRetrospectiveBadder,  Speed DemonLeave Me AloneSmooth Criminal and Come Together.

Each section has its own flavour and style and they all work as mini movies/music videos within one huge movie. There’s no real story or narrative to follow except for maybe the whole Smooth Criminal section where MJ helps some homeless children fight off the evil Frankie “Mr. Big” LiDeo (Joe Pesci). Moonwalker is a huge mess…but one I can’t help but enjoy. There are some amazing highlights including the Badder segment where MJ’s Bad music video is recreated with kids. Speed Demon which picks up directly after Badder and has MJ dancing with a rabbit costume (its better than it sounds). The extended version of Smooth Criminal is also great fun even if the main story of that segment is crap. As I said, Moonwalker is a mess but not without its charm.

Ghosts

Michael Jackson’s Ghosts from 1996 sees MJ team up with some major talent once more for another short movie. With a story from famed horror writer Stephen King and directed by special effects maestro Stan Winston. MJ plays multiple parts in this one, the main one being the owner of a creepy house who entertains children with his magic tricks. The mayor of the town (also played by MJ) takes a disliking to the mysterious owner of the house and so attempts to run him out of town.

I have always felt that this was an attempt to make a new Thriller mini movie…and it kind of succeeds too. Michael Jackson’s Ghosts is a good watch with some amazing effects work and lots of fun to be found that features various songs from his HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix albums. Its just that…this is no Thriller, but its close.

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Then in 2002, MJ made a quick cameo is the sequel Men in Black II. The film starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the extraterrestrial police (kind of) who have to protect Earth from alien invasions and keep the secret of alien life from the humans.

Jackson played Agent M in a quick appearance on a video call to Men in Black boss Zed as well as also making a voice cameo on a phone later.

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Which all leads to Michael Jackson’s final on screen scripted performance in the comedy film, Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls. A parody film in the same vein as films like The Naked Gun, Airplane!, etc. Again, MJ jut has a small cameo in this playing Agent M.J. who appears as a holographic image.

I’ve never seen it to be honest, not sure if I really want to either. But its there for those that want to see Jackson’s final scripted movie role.

The Games

Michael Jackson’s first appearance in a game was the tie in to his movie Moonwalker. Now things will get a little confusing here as there was more than one version of the game and I don’t mean different ports, I mean completely different games released for different systems and all released at different times through 1990 but all called Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.

Moonwalker Arcade

I guess I should start with the more famous arcade version first. Published and developed by Sega, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker is an isometric scrolling shoot/beat em’ up style game where you can two friends can team up and all play as MJ (yes three MJs) based on the Smooth Criminal section of the Moonwalker movie. Make your way though levels, take out bad guys, rescue kids and defeat the evil Mr. Big.

It was pretty simple gameplay, typical arcade fare designed to eat your coins faster than  fat person at an all you can eat buffet can eat chicken wings. As simple as the game was, it was also massively playable and great fun. Featuring some of Jackson’s most famous songs and locales from the movie. Perhaps the best part of the game was the Dance Magic move where MJ would dance along to one of his tunes while all the enemies on screen joined in until they could dance no more and are defeated.

Moonwalker Megadrive

Sega and Jackson built up a relationship which led to the arcade game and then versions of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker for Sega’s home consoles with both the Master System and the Mega Drive/Genesis getting their own games. While these games were ports of each other, they were different to the arcade version. Yet they all shared the same basic gameplay with you playing as MJ saving kids, taking on the bad guys and eventually defeating Mr. Big. And yes, the awesome Dance Magic returns too. Where the arcade game was an isometric viewpoint, the home console versions were side scrolling games. These home versions lacked something, the fast paced fun factor just wasn’t there and the game(s) got very repetitive very fast compared to the arcade game.

Moonwalker Amiga

As for the home computer versions, well that was a completely different game altogether. This time developed by Emerald Software and published by U.S. gold. The other games took inspiration form the Smooth Criminal section of the film only, but the home computer game used more elements of the film. This one was split into four different levels. The first being a top down maze-like game with you playing as MJ trying to escape crazed fans while collecting the bunny costume from the Speed Demon portion of the film. The second level was also a maze-like one but now with you on the motorbike from the film and having to collect tokens which will morph you into a car so you can jump a barrier. Level three is inspired by Smooth Criminal and is a side scroller where MJ shoots bad guys with a machine gun. Then finally there is the big showdown between MJ and Mr. Big with Jackson now transformed into a robot (yes this happens in the film) and shoots the henchmen that appear from various openings in the level.

Out of the three versions of the game, the arcade one is still the best to play with the home computer one being not very good at all.

Sonic 3

Next up is a game in which Jackson didn’t appear in person, but did provide music for…possibly. MJ was a huge fan of Sega’s mascot Sonic the Hedgehog and it has been said that he asked Sega if he could provide music for a Sonic game. In 1994 Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 3 which may or may not include some of MJs music. There are conflicting stories, one says they MJ did provide music for the game but after allegations of child abuse began to rear-up, Sega removed all music MJ had composed for the game. Others claim that MJ was never asked nor did he ask Sega to provide music for the game. Another story says that MJ did compose a few tracks for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 but he ultimately was not happy with the end result and the lack of sound capabilities with Sega’s console so asked for them to not be used. Then another story says that MJ’s music is in the game, but he was uncredited for “legal reasons”.

There is this article by The Huffington Post from 2016 that claims they can prove MJ’s music is in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Is Michael Jackson’s music in Sonic 3…can’t say I care all that much anymore. Its a story that has just dragged on for years and while I may have found it interesting years ago, now I couldn’t care less.

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Sticking with Sega and MJ popped up in another one of their games…well two actually. He appeared in a cameo for Space Channel 5 in 1999 and again in its sequel, Space Channel 5: Part 2 but in a larger role from 2002. These were dance/rhythm games where you had to follow the on screen prompts in a series of QTEs to pull off dance moves. So MJ fitted perfectly here. Jackson voiced and performed his character himself so he was pretty authentic.

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But between the two Space Channel 5 games, MJ also appeared in the boxing game Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 from 2000. Yes, Jackson was a boxer punching people in the face and everything. Though it has to be said that Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 is a game with its tongue firmly in cheek, it uses comedy a lot – so the MJ in this is very much a parody. Again Jackson provided the voice and even did motion capture for the game. So if you ever feel like playing as a bad-ass boxing Michael Jackson, then you know where to look.

In 2010 after his death, MJ was resurrected in video game form in Michael Jackson: The Experience. This was another one of those dance/rhythm games with you copying the prompts on screen to mimic some of Jackson’s iconic dance moves. Songs such as Bad, Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal, Speed Demon, Black or WhiteDon’t Stop ‘Til You Get EnoughWanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and many more were included.

Planet Michael

There was one more game to feature Michael Jackson, but it was never released. Called, Planet Michael the game was a massive online multiplayer game. However, exactly what the game was going to be is anyone guess. Info is very thin on the ground and seems to have been abandoned. The Facebook page still exists and you can find some early concept art easily online. But as the game was originally given a 2011 release date and its now 2018 with no game in sight, I guess we can say its been cancelled.


Well there you go, Michael Jackson’s life in movies and games. A bit of a mixed bag with some worthy entries and some real stinkers too. But I wasn’t here to review any of these titles, just to bring them up and highlight them and to remember Michael on what would’ve been his 60th birthday today.

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Happy Birthday Michael.

Just because it’s in print doesn’t mean it’s the gospel.

Michael Jackson

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Behind the Blues

The Blues Brothers is one of my all time favourite films. You can read my quick overview of the film here.
But there is much more to the film than I covered there with many interesting behind the scenes stories and information on the whole production. I have wanted to do this for a quite a while now, but I just kept putting it off or was too busy to get it done.

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So here, I’d like to take a look at how the film got made to begin with. Rather like my behind the scenes look at JAWS I did a while back.

Yet before I can get into all the behind the scenes stuff with the film, first I need to go back to the very beginning and cover who The Blues Brothers are and how the whole phenomenon began…

Back in the early/mid 70s, Dan Aykroyd was running a backstreet bar called Club 505 in Toronto, Canada. It was sometime in 1974 when John Belushi was on a trip to Toronto and he went into Club 505 and first met Aykroyd. As Dan tells the story, he was playing a lot of old blues music; Downchild Blues Band, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, etc. Despite being from Chicago (the home of blues music), John Belushi really knew very little about the genre but loved what he heard in the club. This is when Dan and John first struck up a conversation when Belushi asked Aykroyd about this amazing music he was playing in his club and they became close friends as Dan educated John on blues music.

In 1975, John became a regular cast member on the then new TV show; Saturday Night Live (SNL). Dan was also hired to work on the show as an writer (some say at John Belushi’s request), but he soon became part of the main cast. It was around 1976 when John and Dan started to do musical warm ups for the audience of SNL. John and Dan used to dress up as bees and sing various comedic songs, which apparently John hated doing. It was one night when Belushi was getting into the bee costume once more he decided to wear a pair of sunglasses and sing a blues song called; King Bee…

Yes, that is Dan in the background playing the harmonica...

Yes, that is Dan in the background playing the harmonica…

From this performance, John and Dan came up with the idea of forming a musical group based on their shared love for blues music. They worked out the now iconic costumes, they developed the characters and put together a real band they could perform live with and decided to use these characters as a warm up for the SNL audience members instead of the bee thing. They had everything set… except for a name.

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It was just before their first warm up as they had to be introduced to the audience when the SNL announcer just made up on the spot: “Here they are, those brothers, those brothers in blues… The Blues Brothers.”
Their first official performance as The Blues Brothers was said to be electric, the crowd went wild, there were standing ovations and cheers for more…and this was just a warm up remember. The new band idea was a roaring success and The Blues Brothers act gained popularity as John and Dan continued to perform, yet they only appeared on SNL as The Blues Brothers a total of three times (after the initial warm up). They appeared on 17th January, 1976, 22nd April, 1978 and their third and final appearance on 18th November, 1978.

Their passion and respect for classic R n’ B music was obvious as each performance was better than the last as they belted out great music and songs. Eventually, the characters started to grow as John and Dan continued to develop them over time, giving them a history, back story and even names. “Joliet” Jake Blues (named after Joliet Prison) and Elwood Blues (named after the Elwood Ordnance Plant, which made explosives during World War II). After the success of the SNL performances, the idea came about to put together an album and; Briefcase Full of Blues was relased in 1978.

BFOB

Briefcase Full of Blues was recorded live when the band opened for comedian Steve Martin at the Universal Amphitheater on September 9, 1978. The album reached number one on the Billboard 200 and went double platinum, it is one of the best selling blues albums of all time and sold over 3.5 million copies. The Blues Brothers were now considered a genuine musical act.

Also around 1978, it was clear this simple musical group was starting to get too big for their SNL origins so Dan started to get ideas to turn this small act into a fully blown and developed story. He sat down and started to flesh out the concept even further, the idea became so big, it was too big for a TV show now and it slowly evolved into a film script… and a huge film script at that.
Originally titled; The Return Of The Blues Brothers, the script got out of hand and Dan had trouble selling the idea to anyone in Hollywood, until Universal Pictures finally decided to pick the project up and got the ball rolling on the film.

Your average movie script would come in around 120 pages. Dan’s script for this movie was over 340 pages long, it was full of in-depth back stories for each and every member of the band, long Aykroyd-esque monologues, and extremely detailed scenes that would be impossible to film in the late 1970s. This is when John Landis entered the picture as director and told Aykroyd the script was out of hand and needed trimming down… a lot. “The phone book” is what Landis would refer to the original script as. With the filming start date only a few months away, this script needed to be cut to a more manageable concept. So John Landis locked himself away and worked on the script for around three weeks trimming and cutting all the fat and eventually got it down to a more respectable and film-able idea. Still, there were a few heated discussions between Landis and Aykroyd. Landis needed a workable shooting script as the start day for filming got closer and closer, Aykroyd would fight pretty much every cut suggested. After a while, they reached a compromise and agreed to make more than one film from Dan’s original script, the idea was to make at least three films in total. With the promise of more Blues Brothers films, Dan finally agreed to several cuts knowing his ideas would be used in future films.

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The film began shooting in John Belushi’s home city of Chicago, but it was never an easy or smooth production. The original budget was $12 million, which was an unheard amount to spend on a comedy film in 1979. Yet this film was to contain huge R n’ B stars like; Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Cab Calloway, plus the OTT car chases and crashes also pumped up the budget a fair bit too. Another costly factor and cause of some major problems included John Belushi’s now legendary drug use.

Dan Aykroyd:We had a budget in the movie for cocaine for night shoots. Everyone did it, including me. Never to excess, and not ever to where I wanted to buy it or have it. John, he just loved what it did. It sort of brought him alive at night, that superpower feeling where you start to talk and converse and figure you can solve all the world’s problems.”

With the filming occurring in Chicago… and Belushi being from Chicago himself, he was treated like royalty. Drugs were literally being thrown at him, fans would readily hand over drugs to their favourite star without question, they would hand him vials and discrete packets as and when they could. This was something that started during the SNL skits they did, in fact if you get to watch any of the early Belushi performances… keep an eye out for “items” being thrown on stage. The drugs grew to such a problem that producers of the film hired Smokey Wendell as an “anti drug bodyguard” for Belushi to keep fans from supplying the drugs.

Smokey Wendell:Every one of those guys wants to tell his friends, ‘I did blow with Belushi’.

It wasn’t just cocaine that Belushi indulged in during the filming, he was also fuelled by quaaludes, mescaline, LSD, and even amphetamines. The only major drug he never touched was heroin. Well, he did try it once and well… All of the drug use was on top of the alcohol consumed as John and Dan set up their own private bar during production; The Blues Club, where the cast and crew would attempt to drink the place dry after a day of filming.

Belushi’s drug usage aside. There was even confusion over what kind of film they were making to begin with. Is the picture a comedy, buddy flick, musical?

John Landis:You could tell there was confusion. I told some of the crew, ‘This is a musical.’ They were so confused. They didn’t know what the fuck they were making.

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It was only about a month into the shoot when the producers began to worry about the budget of the film. That initial $12 million was almost all gone already. A lot of the money was being spent on having to pay people overtime as John Belushi’s notorious partying began to cause problems. Belushi would often stay out all night drinking and doing drugs then turn up for filming pretty much wasted and would either continually ruin takes or just lock himself in his trailer and sleep for most of the day. These constant problems began to cause a rift between Belushi and Landis. You ever notice that most of the film takes place at night? This was party due to the fact Belushi was too wasted to work during the day.

John Landis:John was fucked up. It became a battle to keep him alive and to keep him working on the movie.

One night around 3 AM while filming the infamous shopping mall/car chase scene. Landis and Belushi got into an argument and then John Belushi just disappeared and nobody had any idea where he had gone to, not even his wife; Judy. His trailer was checked and nothing, the search began to find one of their main stars. Dan, on a hunch followed a nearby grassy path leading towards a residential area. As he gets closer, he noticed a house with a light on at 3 AM, so he thought he would ask to see of anybody there had seen Belushi, as Dan recalls…

Dan Aykroyd:Uh, we’re shooting a film over here. We’re looking for one of our actors.

‘Oh, you mean Belushi?’ the home owner replied. ‘He came in here an hour ago and raided my fridge. He’s asleep on my couch’.”

Only John Belushi could walk into a complete stranger’s home at 3 AM and help himself to the contents of the fridge, then fall to sleep like Goldilocks. Dan woke John up and they both returned to the film as if nothing had ever happened.

By now, the shoot was now well over budget and time too. It was supposed to finish filming around mid September 1979. But September came and went and the film was still not finished. At this point, Landis had enough of all the delays being caused by Belushi’s antics and he headed to his trailer to confront him. When Landis got inside, he finds Belushi is not there but he does find a small mountain of cocaine on a table.

John Landis:It’s like Tony Montana. It’s like a joke. I scoop it all up and flush it down the toilet. Probably a lot of money’s worth. So I’m on my way out of the trailer, and John comes in and says, ‘What’d you do?’ Then he pushes me, mostly to get to the table. It’s pathetic. He’s trying to get to the table to save the cocaine.

As Landis recalls, the pair got into a slight scuffle but nothing too serious. Belushi then just broke down and began crying, the two Johns just hugged each other. It was painfully clear that Belushi was in desperate need of serious help. The idea to send Belushi to rehab came up but this would cause all sorts of problems in itself. They couldn’t replace John and use doubles to finish the shoot, no one can do John Belushi other than John Belushi. They could’t shut down production and wait for Belushi to get back from rehab as the film was already way over budget and any more delays would just cause even more problems. Then there was also the big problem that there would be no way Belushi would agree to go to rehab anyway. There was no option other than to just keep on filming.

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Eventually, the Chicago shoot was finished, but there was still work to do in Los Angeles. This brought with it it’s own set of potential partying for Belushi. He was known to party at the Playboy Mansion, wild nights out with De Niro and Nicholson among others too. Around this time, Smokey Wendell (Belushi’s anti drug bodyguard) recalls a time when John Belushi came to speak to him.

John Belushi:If I don’t do something now, I’m going to be dead in a year or two.

During the Los Angeles shoot, Belushi did show some periods of sobriety. He was still using drugs on a regular basis and going out drinking all night, but he had cut back a lot since the filming began. Belushi was also on his best behaviour when in the presence of the picture’s big musical stars; Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Cab Calloway. These were like heroes to him and he was eager to impress them as much as he could.

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It was time to shoot the big final concert scene which was shot at the Hollywood Palladium. Its a big and impressive scene that features hundreds of extras, Cab Calloway the entire Blues Brothers band and the dancing that Jake and Elwood had become famed for, the two stars needed to be 100% focused and fit for the filming. Sean Daniel, Universal’s vice president in charge of production at the time gets a phone call the day of the shoot. The story goes that Belushi saw a kid playing on a skateboard in the street and asked if he could have a go… he fell off the skateboard and seriously injured his knee.

Sean Daniel:This was bad. We had to deal with it in the most effective and emergency-like way.

It was also Thanksgiving weekend and finding a reputable doctor/orthopedist at such short notice was next to impossible. It took a few angry/desperate phone calls by the production staff but somebody was eventually found who was willing to give up their weekend. The orthopedist wrapped up and injected Belushi with painkillers as he then grits his way through the finale. Yes, John Belushi did that big finale with all the dancing and back flips while under medication and bandaged up after a really stupid accident.

The film is finally finished, yet it came it at just over two and a half hours. Which for a comedy film in 1979 was ridiculous. John Landis was ordered to cut the film down, he eventually removed around 20 minutes from the film (later re-added to the extended cut on DVD). But the problems didn’t end there. Landis received a call from the producers about a well respected cinema chain owner; Ted Mann of Mann Theaters. Among his cinemas were the Bruin and the National, both located in Westwood, a prosperous white neighbourhood. John Landis recalls the conversation…

Ted Mann:Mr. Landis, we’re not booking The Blues Brothers in any of our national or general theatres. We have a theater in Compton where we’ll book it. But certainly not in Westwood.

John Landis:Why won’t you book it in Westwood?

Ted Mann:Because I don’t want any blacks in Westwood.

Apparently, Mann explained why white people would refuse to see The Blues Brothers.

Ted Mann:Mainly because of the musical artists you have. Not only are they black. They are out of fashion.

Isn’t racial harmony a great thing eh?

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Back then, your average film would get between 1,200-1,400 bookings to show the film in cinemas. The Blues Brothers got around 600 for the entire North US. The film was eventually released on 20th June, 1980 and it received pretty poor reviews from critics at the time. The odds were definitely against this film and its original $12 million budget being exceeded by more than doubling the initial estimate to around $26 million due to the various production problems and delays… and probably John Belushi’s drug expenses. It was looking like the film would be a major bomb, everything was going against it.

Yet the film proved the critics wrong. On its opening weekend, The Blues Brothers took around $5 million (that was a lot in 1980) and ended up taking $115 million worldwide by 1983… and it still pulls in the cash today too.

The Blues Brothers was/is one of Universal’s biggest hits and still continues to endure by entertaining and engaging audiences today. It has become its own successful franchise, spawned live stage shows, countless fan tributes and introduced several generations of people to a great and often overlooked genre of music and musical artists. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and James Brown all credited this film with rejuvenating their careers at the time.

The Blues Brothers is one of my all time favourite films and I’ll never get tired of watching it… never. Learning about the problems the film had just makes me enjoy all the hard work put into it even more.

When John Belushi went to his “anti drug bodyguard” while making this film and said he thinks he’ll be dead in a year or two… he was not wrong. John Belushi died from acute cocaine and heroin intoxication on 5th March 1982 aged 33. Sadly, he never got to see just how popular and influential the film would become. Belushi’s early death also meant we never got to see any of those promised Blues Brothers sequels from Dan’s original script, though  a few of the ideas did eventually make it into Blues Brothers 2000.

A life ended way too early, but what a legacy he left behind.

JB

John Belushi:I give so much pleasure to so many people. Why can I not get some pleasure for myself?

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The Blues Brothers

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Little Bit of History: Directed by John Landis and written by Dan Aykroyd & John Landis, released by Universal Pictures in 1980. This film is a wonderful mix of comedy, music and car chases. Featuring an amazing all star cast of some of the greatest blues/soul musicians ever. The film début of the classic Saturday Night Live characters of the same name.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: The plot is pretty simple. The recently released from jail; Jake Blues is reunited with his brother; Elwood. They pay a visit to their old orphanage where they were raised and agree to get money to keep the old place open by reforming their old band to play some gigs and raise the money needed.

Little Bit of Character: So many characters to cover here starting with the titular brothers; Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) Blues. The ‘penguin’; Sister Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman), Reverend Cleophus James (James Brown), Ray (Ray Charles), Mrs. Murphy (Aretha Franklin), Curtis (Cab Calloway), then there are the ever persistent Burton Mercer (John Candy), Illinois Nazi leader (Henry Gibson) and Jake’s mysterious girlfriend (Carrie Fisher) as the characters trying to chase and stop The Blues Brothers in their “mission from God”. That’s before we even get to The Blues Brothers Band; Steve “the Colonel” Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Murphy Dunne, Willie “Too Big” Hall, Tom “Bones” Malone, “Blue Lou” Marini, Matt “Guitar” Murphy and “Mr. Fabulous” Alan Rubin. Plus cameos from Steven Spielberg, John Lee Hooker, Twiggy, Paul Reubens, Chaka Khan, Charles Napier and Frank Oz among others. The film is full of amazing talent.

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Little Bit of Influence: The Blues Brothers started out as a simple musical sketch on the infamous Saturday Night Live TV show, but it grew into this film and spawned a very successful franchise. With a sequel movie; Blues Brothers 2000. They also had several music albums; Briefcase Full of Blues (1978), Made in America (1980), The Blues Brothers Band Live in Montreux (1990), Red, White & Blues (1992), Blues Brothers and Friends: Live from Chicago’s House of Blues (1997) as well as two movie soundtracks and even several compilation albums. Then there were numerous Blues Brothers video games. Plus they even had their own bar; The Blues Brothers Bar was an illegal back-house tavern started by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd themselves, until it was discovered by authorities and forced to close in 1982.

Little Bit of Memories: I honestly can’t remember the first time I saw this film, I have seen it so many times they all kind of blur into one. But I’m pretty sure an old family friend, Mike Price (I bet he can still recite the opening monologue to ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’) was the one who introduced me to this film when I was a kid. The film is a huge cult classic with die hard fans all over the world. Since falling in love with the film, I have seen several Blues Brothers tribute acts and even the official Blues Brothers live show. I always make sure to watch the live Blues Brothers show at Universal Studios every time I go. I do recall introducing others to this film, including my oldest and best mate, Paul, who loves the film just as much as I do.

Little Bit of Watchability: Is this film still watchable today? Hell yes. Its one of the greatest films ever made. Amazing music, some of the best car chases ever caught on film, damn funny comedy and a cast that is so full of talent, I can’t think of any other film that comes close. The fact the band are a real band full of respected musicians and can actually play really adds to the musical elements of this film. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were at the top of their game and their chemistry is unmatched. Plus the film is directed by the mighty John Landis, one of the greatest film directors of the 80s. This film is my Bible.

Now, its about here in my movie overviews where I choose a line from the film that is memorable, funny, iconic, witty, emotional, etc. Just one line that sparks off some kind of a memory. The trouble with The Blues Brothers is that is has so many iconic and memorable lines its impossible to select just one. I could write up a dozen quotes from the film and still not even scratch the surface, which one do I choose?

“We’re on a mission from God.”?
“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas…”?
“Four fried chickens and a Coke.”?
“Well thank you, pal. The day I get outta prison, my own brother picks me up in a police car!”?
“How much for the little girl? How much for the women?”?
“It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks…”?
“It wasn’t a lie, it was just bullshit.”?
“Who wants an orange whip? Orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips.”?
“No, ma’am. We’re musicians.”?
“I offered to help you… You refused to take our money. Then I said: I guess you’re really up Shit Creek!”?
“We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline.”?
“So, Jake, you’re out, you’re free, you’re rehabilitated. What’s next? What’s happenin’? What you gonna do? You got the money you owe us, motherfucker?”?
“Ow, you fat penguin!”?
“2000 bucks and it’s yours. You can take it home with you. As a matter of fact, I’ll throw in the black keys for free.”?
“You on the motorcycle… You two girls… tell your friends.”?
“Jake, you get wise. You get to church.”?
“The Blues Brothers? Shit! They still owe you money, fool.”?
“Did you get me my Cheez Wiz, boy?”?
“You’re gonna look pretty funny tryin’ to eat corn on the cob with no fuckin’ teeth!”?
“Breaks my heart to see a boy that young goin’ bad.”?
“Get out, and don’t come back until you’ve redeemed yourselves.”?
“You want I should wash the dead bugs off the windshield?”?
“Why not? If the shit fits, wear it.”?

I need to stop and select a quote before I go on too much… I know, too late.

BB 3

Elwood:Hey, Jake. Gotta be at least seven dollars worth of change here.

I actually want to do a more in-depth look at this film and The Blues Brothers in general when I have more time. As the making of the film has some really interesting titbits and stories behind it. But that will have to wait until a later date… or you can just click here.

Anyway, thanks for introducing me to this film Mike.
“YES! YES! JESUS H. TAP-DANCING CHRIST… I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT!”

BB 4

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