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"...We're On A Mission From God..." - The Blues Brothers on BLU RAY (Augmented Reality Edition)
on 29 April 2012
Part of Universal Studios "100th Anniversary" celebrations - there are 15 UK-released titles in this 23 April 2012 BLU RAY and DVD series - and "The Blues Brothers" is one of them - an "Augmented Reality" issue.
So what is "Augmented Reality"? It's a 3D mini-show that's built into the front sleeve of each release. You download the free "Universal 100 App" from their website to your Smartphone or Tablet (iPhone 3GS or above, iPad 2, Android and other high-end devices) - you open the download and hold your phone/tablet over the front sleeve. It wirelessly loads and then begins playing a 3D display that lasts about 20 seconds - in this case you're looking down on both the suited boys dancing on the cover. That's it I'm afraid. The "Jurassic Park" one has a Velocaraptor attacking a Tyrannosaurus Rex while the Rex lets out that distinctive roar. Pretty silly stuff and over as soon as its begun.
As you can imagine this is essentially a 'gimmick' primarily only available to iPhone users and the novelty wears off pretty quickly. Worse - some marketing bright spark has also stuck a lengthy "Lifetime Of Memories" Universal sticker right across the back of each release advertising holidays and prizes you can win - except that it completely covers that part of the back-cover which tells you what BONUSES on the disc. In other words you cannot visually tell what's actually on this release - even as you hold it in your hand! It's a simple mistake - but a staggeringly stupid one - and I'd argue sabotages sales of otherwise excellent titles. For instance this "Blues Brothers" issue has BOTH the Theatrical Release and the Extended Version - a superbly restored print and comprehensive extras - but the packaging doesn't tell you that because it's busy selling you competitions and 3D gimmick packaging that few will see let alone want.
Better however is the 'price' - this is the first time Universal has reissued BLU RAY retailing at less than ten pounds - these singular discs are eight quid in most places - the DVDs two for a tenner. The blue "100th Anniversary" packaging is generic to all 15 titles and the artwork on the disc under the card wrap reflects this also. So what do you get on this BLU RAY?
Despite some grain and bad picture quality as the credits role - when you get to the following sequence where Jake is being paroled from Chicago's Joliet Prison - suddenly both the picture and sound kick in to extraordinary effect. It's really clean and pretty much stays that way for most of the movie. And while the print is beautifully restored in most places - I cannot emphasize enough how good the remastered soundtrack is. When the Henry Mancini "Peter Gunn" guitar riff comes at you as the boys go into the Plymouth Hotel by the overhead rail tracks - or when the Blues Brothers theme plays as they wreck the shopping mall in their 'cop car with cop shocks' - it's just brill - full of power and clarity.
The Extras for "The Blues Brothers" are the same as the Special Edition: "Stories Behind The Making Of The Blues Brothers" from 1998 runs to a pleasing star-filled 55-minutes and is broken down into 14 parts. Second up is a 14-minute "Transposing The Music" featurette that has interviews with Howard Shore (who gave them the name) and keyboardist Paul Schaffer (now with "The Jay Leno Show"). And finally a tribute to John Belushi called "Remembering John" that features his wife Judy and film-star brother James Belushi. It's properly comprehensive stuff and none of it is padded out with excessive film-clip duplication.
THE FILM ITSELF:
I had to double take when I looked at the date on "The Blues Brothers" - 1980? Is it really thirty-two years ago - Jeez Louise! I remember seeing it at the cinema with my mates and being absolutely blown away. Audacious, funny and hip - it had property destruction on an industrial scale, car chases to make your nose bleed, cool black outfits and shades, the cartwheels, the running dance, both Aykroyd and Belushi gelling together so beautifully - and better than anything - the totally killer music that seemed to fill every scene with life and joy.
In fact "The Blues Brothers" literally set off a global phenomenon - the resurgence of interest in old Blues and Soul - and is beloved for it by fans of both to this day. And like "The Big Lebowski" or "Withnail And I" - you know you're in the presence of a cult classic when dialogue- quotes from it pepper the Internet... Kathleen Freeman as the fearsome nun Sister Mary Stigmata nicknamed The Penguin - whacking the boys with a wooden ruler every time they curse "...You come back here with foul mouths and bad attitudes!", the lady at the house when the boys enquire after former members of their band "Are you from the Police? No Mam! We're musicians!" John Belushi in the high-class Chez Paul restaurant asking a snob customer to sell his wife and daughter to him for sex "How much for the little one? I want to buy your women!" When they get into the Bluesmobile (BDR 529) with all manner of State Police after them - "It's 106 miles to Chicago. We've got a full tank of gas, half a packet of cigarettes and we're wearing sunglasses. Hit it!" And of course best of all - the quote that titles this review...their mantra throughout the film for getting the band back together to pay off $5000 worth of debt on the convent they grew up in - "We're on a mission from God..."
Written with aplomb and affection by DAN AYKROYD and Director JOHN LANDIS - and played out by the greatly-missed-madcap JOHN BELUSHI (who had an incredible singing voice as the "I'm A King Bee" extra shows) scene after scene is filled with their love of the Blues in all its forms. The Decca 78" of Louis Jordan's "Let The Good Times Roll" in their tiny Plymouth Hotel room - the picture of the wonderful Atlantic Records star Big Joe Turner on the wall - all great touches.
You also forget about the incredible number of cameos - Frank Oz of The Muppets as the Parole Officer in Joliet Prison reading out the contents of Jake's worldly possessions ("One unused prophylactic - one soiled..."), Carey Fisher of "Star Wars" fame with a rocket-launcher intent on killing Jake for running out on her three years earlier, Twiggy as a Chic Lady, Pee Wee Herman's Paul Reubens as a waiter in Mr. Fabulous' restaurant, pint-sized Henry Gibson from "Saturday Night Live" as a hysterically funny neo-Nazi (the American Socialist White People's Party), Mr. T from the A-Team in the crowd - and you even get Steven Spielberg as a clerk with a sandwich in his mouth in the Cook County Assessor's Office at the end of the movie.
But the film belongs to the music and the superstars of that music - James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker and Cab Calloway - many of who had their fading careers revived by the public's rekindled love affair with Blues, R'n'B and Soul. There's Cab Calloway as Curtis the Janitor in the convent counselling the orphan boys on what to do next ("You get wise! You get to church!"), James Brown as the all-singing all-dancing revivalist preacher Reverend Cleophus ("Have you seen the light!"), Aretha Franklin as the mouthy owner of the 'Soul Food Cafe' in Chicago's Maxwell Street ("There's two honkies out there dressed like Hasidic diamond merchants!"), Ray Charles as the blind proprietor of a pawn shop who shoots two bullet holes in the wall as a street urchin tries to steal a guitar ("Breaks my heart to see those kids go bad..."), John Lee Hooker singing "Boom Boom" and shouting "How! How!" in the street-market and then getting into a row about who wrote it. The backing band Murph and The Magic Tones turn out to be Steve Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Willie Hall, Murphy Dunne and Tom Malone - the guts of Booker T and The MG's - the backing band at Stax. There's harmonica legends Walter "Shakey" Horton and Pinetop Perkins, guitarist Joe Walsh as a prisoner, soul legend Chaka Khan in the Choir, singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop as a chatty State Trooper...and on it goes...
In the end - a movie like "The Blues Brothers" defies description. But like a good secondhand record shop that you stumble on in the city - you're so glad it's still there after all these years - still surviving - still bringing pleasure - still doing the business...
Gimmick packaging or not - dive in on this BLU RAY. (Pun intended) - you'll be 'Soul' glad you did.
BLU RAY Specifications:
VIDEO: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
AUDIO: English DTS 5.1
SUBTITLES: English SDH, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish
1, Both Theatrical and Extended versions of the Film
2. Stories Behind The Making Of The Blues Brothers (14 parts, 55 minutes)
3. Transposing The Music (14 minutes)
4. Remembering John (9 minutes)
PS: for details on Universal's "100th Anniversary" Series in general (both UK and USA) - see the 'comment' section attached to this review...