The Blues Brothers: Extended version

The Blues Brothers - extendedSynopsis: After the release of Jake Blues from prison, he and brother Elwood go to visit the orphanage where they were raised by nuns. They learn that the church stopped its support and will sell the place unless the tax on the property is paid within 11 days. The brothers decide to raise the money by putting their blues band back together and staging a big gig. They may be on a “mission from God” but they’re making enemies everywhere they go.

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The Blues Brothers: Extended version 8.5

eyelights: the extended music.
eyesores: the extended scenes.

I’m a HUGE fan of ‘The Blues Brothers‘. I continue to claim that it’s the best musical that I’ve ever seen, bar none, and probably will to the end of my days. I mean, unlike even the slickest Hollywood production, this picture can make me sing along – and would probably have me dancing, too, if I didn’t have three left feets.

What a lot of people don’t know is that the original film was an epic that ran something like three hours long, including an intermission. There was so much footage shot for this cockamamie action-comedy-musical, that they had to leave tons of it on the editing room floor to pare the end result down to a manageable length.

Much of that footage has since been lost, but some of it was retrieved, and director John Landis produced an extended cut of the original film, now boasting an extra 13 minutes of additional scenes, tidbits and padding. To this day, it’s the closest thing that we have to John Landis’ original vision for ‘The Blues Brothers’.

But is it any better?

Personally, I’ve never liked this cut: I find it unnecessarily long, and nearly none of the additional footage contributes anything material to the picture. Interestingly enough, a lot of it consists of 8-10 seconds more in some scenes; it was footage that was carefully excised to make the film tighter, to hit the comedy beats just right.

There was a good reason why it was cut out.

In any event, here are the most notable additions:

  • Before Jake is taken to the Corrections Officer, there’s a little bit more footage of the prison, and a couple of guards go to Jake’s cell to wake him up, raking their batons against the bars. Somehow seeing him before he’s walking down the corridor takes away from Jake’s enigmatic quality.
  • After walking Jake through the prison, the guards open a door and tell him “Well, this is it!”, before taking him to see the Corrections Officer.
  • After being asked what will happen to her when the school is closed down, the Penguin tells Jake and Elwood that she’ll “be sent to the missions: Africa. Latin America. Korea”. So redundant, and to the detriment of the beats.
  • Jake and Elwood arrive at the Church, discuss their plan a little bit and we see more parishioners walk in. Meh.
  • After driving through a series of lengthy alleys, Elwood parks the Blues Mobile under a High Voltage generator, then climbs out of the tight garage over the car. This is mildly amusing, but far too long. At least there’s an extended jam of “The Peter Gunn Theme” – that’s cool!
  • Back at Elwood’s apartment the two brothers discuss their plan. Again. Redundant, but not excessive.
  • The cops come for Jake and Elwood, but stop by the hotel clerk’s desk first. It doesn’t hurt, doesn’t contribute anything either.
  • After Elwood tells Jake it’s time to go to work, he actually goes to work. I always thought he meant that it was time for them to get to work at getting the band together. But no: here’s this scene that sees him lifting an aerosol can at the factory where he works and quitting, telling his gullible boss he’s going to become a priest. Personally, I think this scene makes Elwood look like a loser, not like a cool cat. And it doesn’t add anything to the plot. They did right in ditching it.
  • When Jake and Elwood go to the Soul Food Cafe, John Lee Hooker’s number is shown in full. It always felt abruptly cropped in the original, but I guess they cut it because watching the Blues Brothers making their way to the Cafe seemed excessive. And it is. But Hooker’s number is SO good that it’s worth it. And it ends with an amusing bit of he and his bandmates arguing over who wrote the song they’d just played. This is by far the best contribution to the extended version. Hooker is too cool.
  • When the Blues Brothers try to convince Maury Sline in the steam room, he tells them that the bars they used to play in have been turned into discos and he rants about it a little bit. The scene isn’t as tight with this included in it.
  • There’s a small bit at Bob’s Country Bunker, where Bones is handed a playlist by Bob. I actually quite liked that scene, because Bones really doesn’t know what to make of it. However, it doesn’t work in the movie because it doesn’t make sense that the Blues Brothers or the band would wait until they go on to look at it.
  • Cab Calloway tells the band that the Blues Brothers are donating all of the group’s proceeds to charity, and they all react in unison. It’s amusing, but it defies all logic – why would they still play and do so without resentment, as they do here? This bit just doesn’t make sense.
  • As Jake and Elwood refill their gas tank, after a lengthy wait, they overfill it and inadvertently blow up gas station when Jake tosses out his cigarette. Naturally, they are oblivious to the explosion that ensues. Frankly, I found that gag tired and didn’t think it contributed anything new.
  • On their way into the venue, Elwood injects something from one of his aerosol cans in a cop’s car tire.
  • Their arrival from the bathroom to the hall is lengthier – for no real reason. In fact, it’s kind of annoying because Cab Calloway is looking all over for them and he does it really poorly.
  • During the Blues Brothers’ escape, the exploding tire stalls the cop cars as they collide with each other in a tight spot. The problem here is that the cops are out of the hall before the Blues Brothers. My questions was: Where are they going? What will they chase?
  • The end of the “Jailhouse Rock” number was extended to include the guards being called in to stop what’s turning into a riot. It’s not bad or good.

And there’s more. For a complete breakdown, see http://www.movie-censorship.com/report.php?ID=4798 or http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080455/alternateversions

Perhaps the full-length, three-hour version, including an intermission, would be more enjoyable. Unfortunately, these 13 extra minutes are 11 minutes too much for me. Still, it doesn’t take away from the humour or the musical numbers, and the picture remains relatively potent – it just overstays its welcome a little bit.

Stick with the original.

Date of viewing: July 17, 2016

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