Wednesday, 29 July 2009



Of course I've seen The Blues Brothers before. But never projected. The last time I caught it, it was on a 4:3 pan-and-scan rental VHS tape, many years ago. So kudos to Universal for including it on their digital reissue schedule, following on from the wonderful Spartacus a few months ago and with Scarface, The Thing and Animal House to come soon.

And why I like it I've no idea, because it's a musical and that's not a genre I can usually watch on a full stomach, though that generally applies more to big splashy song and dance epics like Oliver and Showboat. Maybe it's that the R+B music appeals to me more than blowsy Broadway showtunes. Maybe it's the gallery of guest stars from both the music and film worlds (Carrie Fisher, John Lee Hooker, Steven Spielberg, Henry Gibson, Aretha Franklin, Charles Napier). Or Dan Aykroyd's deadpan performance. Certainly the funniest scene is where Jake and Elwood misbehave outrageously in a snooty restaurant - a scene I had completely forgotten since my last viewing. And it is thrilling to find, particularly in the wake of countless rapid-fire over-edited action movies such as Quantum of Solace, car chases made by people who know how to put car chases together without leaving the audience baffled as to which car is actually doing the chasing.

My one worry is that people just aren't going to bother going out to see these films on a cinema screen when they could - if they really wanted - just get them on DVD, as they're very cheaply available. Unfortunately, if nobody bothers to support them, these retro screenings aren't going to happen any more as the studios aren't going to bother doing them and the films will in time be forgotten. Why should cinemas bother to book a one day reissue of a semi-classic like The Blues Brothers when they can get more people through the door with another four screenings of the worthless Bruno - a film that actually deserves to rot in obscurity and the sooner the better? Great films deserve to be seen and re-released regardless of their age, and surely the willingness to experience more than this week's bland and homogenised studio sludge, no matter how shiny, should be encouraged? What classic movies are we making now that should be rediscovered in thirty years time? What cinematic legacy is being left for future generations? The numbers for Spartacus were apparently not high, but that's a three hour film from 1960. Scarface is also three hours long but has a bit more of a cult status, so it might get some decent sized audiences.

Meanwhile, The Blues Brothers is still great and it's a particular shame that it's only on for one day. These retro screenings should be seized upon while they're still there, whether you've seen the movie before or not. Terrific fun.


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