Cult Movie: The Blues Brothers marries music and mayhem in a classic comedy

Jake and Elwood, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, in John Landis's magnificently silly The Blues Brothers
Ralph McLean

IT WAS my first real holiday away from my family. Two weeks in the sun with a bunch of pasty-skinned mates looking for fun. You know the drill. Facilities at the down-on-its-luck tourist trap on the Greek island that we rolled up to were limited, to say the least, but we did find a little bar that firstly would serve us – a result in itself, as I remember, and secondly liked to show movies on the battered old portable TV hanging in the corner while a bunch of Irish lads tried to drink their age in pints.

The selection of flicks being offered wasn’t extensive – a few dusty old VHS tapes stacked alongside the Sambuca – but they did have The Blues Brothers and when the barman asked what we wanted to watch we chose the adventures of Jake and Elwood every time.

That was my first experience of The Blues Brothers and I still love the film dearly despite the associations it still conjures up of industrial hangovers and ill-advised espadrilles.

There’s another chance to enjoy the basic thrills of the film next Thursday when The Strand Arts Centre hosts a Blues Brothers night with a rare big screen outing for the film with The Box Car Blues Band and even some themed nibbles to get you in the mood.

Mood is everything with the film as well. A rolling feelgood juggernaut of a comedy caper, it’s never going to win prizes for complex plot twists or adventurous story arcs – this is simply the tale of two blues-loving, black suited, sunglasses-wearing brothers Jake and Elwood (John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd) who hit the road to try and reform their old group, play a charity concert and save the orphanage in which they grew up from closure – but it’s a seriously entertaining joyride packed with more endless car chases, celebrity cameo appearance and meaty R&B performances than you could ever want.

It’s all about providing a suitably soulful vehicle for the talents of Belushi and Ackroyd and director John Landis manages that, perfectly allowing the duo – who’d honed the act on Saturday Night Live and on record by the time the film appeared in 1980 – to freewheel with the loose script and seemingly random selection of set pieces he sets up along the way.

That means the “mission from God” that the boys are on sees them face off with rednecks, neo-Nazis, the entire Chicago police force and Jake’s unhinged ex, played by the late great Carrie Fisher.

Those cameos come thick and fast and the musical performances iconic.

The mayhem is delivered at a breakneck pace by Landis and while he may have made better films in his career, he never captured the sheer glee of the road trip again the way he does here.

Cruise along the The Strand next week in your finest black suit, slip on those shades and relive that magic one more time. I’ll see you at the bar – now “Hit it!”

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