‘The Blues Brothers,’ an icon of vehicular mayhem, turns 40


Blues brothers
A duplicate Bluesmobile with reproduction Jake and Elwood on the Volo Auto Museum | Volo Auto Museum

Half musical, half morality play, and top-of-the-line car-chase motion pictures of all time, “The Blues Brothers” turns 40 years previous this 12 months. 

It debuted June 20, 1980, and at the moment “The Blues Brothers” is
remembered for cementing John Belushi’s standing as a comedic star and for
elevating the Black artwork type of blues—all via the antics of Belushi and Dan
Aykroyd, who gave Nazis their due whereas they reveled in vehicular

The plot facilities round Jake and Elwood Blues, a pair of recidivist ne’er-do-wells raised in a Chicago orphanage run by a stern nun (“the Penguin”) seemingly imbued with supernatural powers. Upon Jake’s launch from jail, the duo visits the orphanage and uncover it should quickly be shut down as a result of it owes $5,000 in again taxes.

The brothers resolve to get their previous blues band again collectively to lift the tax cash and run afoul of the legislation and Illinois Nazis alongside the way in which. On what they view as their mission from God, they’re chased by legions of cops, the navy, the Nationwide Guard, a SWAT crew, and the Nazis, creating wanton destruction of their wake.   

Director John Landis made the size of the film a part of its
humor. Go large, break the price range, and watch your two antiheroes finest the almost
unstoppable forces amassed towards them throughout and between musical numbers. The
automotive mayhem dovetailed into that neatly: In keeping with CarThrottle, 103 vehicles have been wrecked whereas
making the film.

“A part of the joke with ‘The Blues Brothers’ was measurement,” Landis mentioned in a behind-the-scenes take a look at the film on the movie’s 25th anniversary DVD. “The distillation of my idea of ‘The Blues Brothers’ may very well be Daley Plaza, the place the plenty of the legislation are simply congregating. This enormous focus of energy and navy would possibly coming down on these two little guys within the elevator.”

Landis was referring to the top of the
film when a 106-mile automotive chase led to downtown Chicago. The town of Chicago
and the state of Illinois muster all it could to catch Jake and Elwood Blues on
their run from the profitable live performance that raises the cash wanted for the
orphanage. “Use of pointless violence within the apprehension of the Blues
Brothers has been authorized,” a police dispatcher deadpans through the chase.

The size was large in manufacturing, too.
In keeping with Landis, the crew used 60 Illinois State Police vehicles, 42 Chicago
metropolis cop vehicles, 17 ambulances, 150 Nationwide Guardsmen, 60 Chicago cops, 400
troops, 350 weapons, 150 batons, 4 Sherman tanks, and three helicopters. The
crew purchased 60 former police vehicles for $400 every, and used 13 variations of the
Bluesmobile, a clapped out 1974 Dodge Monaco former police automotive Elwood purchased at
public sale. Forty stunt drivers created the motion.

“John Landis directed this transfer as
Basic Westmoreland would possibly put together a battle,” Henry Gibson, who performed the lead
Illinois Nazi, quipped on the DVD commentary.

The crew plotted the film’s chase scenes in its “warfare room,” with maps of Chicago, aerial views, and scale fashions. The crew coordinated to close down metropolis streets on Saturday and Sunday mornings with the police and fireplace departments, and a manufacturing assistant with a walkie-talkie was stationed at each alley and intersection to ensure no one walked out into the carnage.

And Landis did his finest to make the car
 practical—a hazard to any passersby.

“We had nice drivers. The doubles for
Belushi and Aykroyd have been Tommy Huff and Eddie Donno, and Tom Huff was a
good driver. And what we have been doing in that film that was uncommon was we
have been going that quick,” Landis mentioned. “I imply we had 34 vehicles going 110 miles an
hour in downtown Chicago. I don’t assume you would try this once more.”

They have been fortunate to have the ability to do it in any respect. Former Mayor Richard
J. Daley prohibited filming in Chicago after a scene in “Mod Squad” depicted a
Chicago cop taking a bribe, based on Landis. However Daley had died in late
1976, and Jane Byrne was the brand new mayor in 1979 when the movie was shot. She not
solely allowed the filming but in addition town of Chicago arrange a movie workplace for
the film that was chargeable for luring future movie and TV tasks to inject
new cash into town’s economic system. Since “The Blues Brothers,” there have been
greater than 1,100 movies and TV reveals shot in Chicago, based on the Chicago
Film Office

At coronary heart, it was a film about
Chicago, filmed in Chicago
, about Chicago blues. Filming on
location spanned a lot of what’s now thought-about larger Chicagoland, however 40
years in the past the realm it outlined was separated by greater than 100 miles of farmland,
from Joliet to the west, Calumet Metropolis (which borders Indiana) to the south, all
the way in which as much as Wauconda, close to the Wisconsin border to the north. In a single key
scene, Milwaukee, 85 miles to the north, even subbed for Chicago. 

The Bluesmobile

Aykroyd is a automotive man. In keeping with
Landis, the character of D-Day, who turned a 1966 Lincoln Continental into the
Deathmobile in “Animal Home,” was based mostly on him. “Danny’s thought of an excellent time
was to get in his automotive in Los Angeles and drive to New York straight,” Landis

Aykroyd definitely talked the speak, each
in “The Blues Brothers” and when speaking in regards to the film.

No automotive fanatic can overlook Elwood
informing Jake of the charms of a sure 1974 Dodge Monaco: “It’s received a cop
motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. It’s received cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks.
It’s a mannequin made earlier than catalytic converters, so it’ll run good on common
fuel. What do you say? Is it the brand new Bluesmobile or what?”

Aykroyd, who wrote the unique script
that was later lower down by Landis, selected the Bluesmobile for a cause.

“At the moment, the most popular police automotive in America was the Dodge Monaco with the 440-cubic-inch engine. And that turned the Bluesmobile as a result of Elwood knew that he needed to keep no less than, if not one leap forward of the legislation no less than, you understand, on the identical sort of technological footing with them,” Aykroyd mentioned within the DVD commentary.

Aykroyd’s unique script included a
scene that defined how the Bluesmobile was imbued with particular powers. It was
parked beneath the El tracks close to a transformer and it absorbed that energy to
enable it to do jumps and flips. Landis shot the scene however lower it from the
theatrical launch, arguing that the automotive’s talents wanted no clarification.
Viewers might additionally interpret the automotive’s stunts have been supernatural, identical to the
Penguin’s capability to glide again into her workplace. 

Within the chase scenes, the Bluesmobile
bests all comers, police and Nazis alike, then falls aside unexpectedly simply as
Jake and Elwood attain their vacation spot: Daley Plaza the place the Cook dinner County
Assessor’s Workplace can take the tax fee for the orphanage.

It’s the chase, not the
vacation spot

For lovers of “The Blues Brothers,”
it’s all in regards to the journey as a lot because the vacation spot, or the chase as an alternative of
the journey. Two notable chase scenes make that journey far more enjoyable: the
pursuit via and full destruction of a shopping center and the run from the
murderous Illinois Nazis.

The Dixie Mall in Harvey, Illinois,
which is south of Chicago, had been deserted a few 12 months earlier than movie
manufacturing started, and it served as an ideal backdrop for Aykroyd’s wild thought.
The crew stuffed the car parking zone with principally new vehicles, and re-created the shops
inside, borrowing the merchandise (something destroyed or stolen needed to be paid
for). Stunt individuals stuffed the mall as prospects, after which the crew set about
destroying what it had constructed to the music of Otis Redding’s “Can’t Flip You
Unfastened.” Matter-of-fact traces like Jake declaring “disco pants and haircuts”
or Elwood noting “new Oldsmobiles are in early this 12 months” solely made the wanton
destruction extra joyous.

The deserted mall stood for an additional 32 years earlier than it was demolished in 2012.

Later, the Illinois Nazis choose up the brothers’ location by
monitoring police scanners and set off after them in a pair of Ford wagons, an
orange Pinto and a inexperienced LTD. This time the music isn’t blues. It’s Wagner’s
“Flight of the Valkyries,” a classical piece that provides drama, grandeur, and
ironic humor to the scene. Although the chase begins in Chicago, it leads to
Milwaukee so the manufacturing might use what was identified on the time as “the bridge
to nowhere.” A deliberate northern extension of the I-794 spur within the coronary heart
of Milwaukee
was started but never finished

The unfinished bridge supplied the
good setting for a few of that Bluesmobile magic. Confronted by the top of
the street after throwing a rod, the Bluesmobile stops wanting falling off the
bridge. You possibly can see the additional construction the crew added behind the entrance wheels
so the entrance tires might teeter off the bridge because the automotive involves a cease.

In a physics-defying transfer, Elwood jams the automotive into reverse and it does a again flip with a twist to flee because the unsuspecting Nazis fly off the bridge.

That is the place the material of space-time
warps two extra occasions and leaps additional into pure fantasy. The bridge in
Milwaukee was possibly 40-50 ft excessive however the Pinto fell 1,200 ft in Chicago,
first headed towards the peninsula the place Chicago shops its winter street salt
(the place the automotive was really dropped). Then, one way or the other, it finally ends up smack dab in
the center of a metropolis avenue. The LTD follows on prime of the Pinto so as to add harm
to harm.

In keeping with movie producer Robert Okay.
Weiss, the Pinto was dropped from a helicopter so the autumn might exhibit the
Chicago skyline. A drop that prime meant the Pinto needed to be licensed by the
FAA for its lack of airworthiness as a result of the company was afraid it might act
like an airfoil and sail over metropolis streets. The crew had a 50-by-50-foot goal
and the automotive hit the mark on the primary strive, folding up like an accordion because it
met the earth.

“Elwood is a genius driver,” Landis mentioned. “He does extraordinary issues along with his automotive.” Elwood’s capability to flee is tinged with a magical realism that provides the film a grand model.

The huge machine the antiheroes have been up towards and the real pleasure their music supplied made it straightforward to cheer for them and think about the destruction they wrought as comedic moderately than prison. Jake and Elwood performed David to the legislation’s Goliath. Landis made all of it funnier by going large, which turned “The Blues Brothers” into essentially the most entertaining car-chase film of all time.

This text was initially printed by Motor Authority, an editorial accomplice of ClassicCars.com.


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