#unfairReviews – The Blues Brothers

Whatever happened to John Belushi? Once the darling of the comedy world, their notoriously fickle tastes today find him unemployable, and on the basis of The Blues Brothers, it is perhaps understandable why.

Also starring Dan Ackroyd as the titular siblings, the movie follows the plucky duo’s attempts to raise funds to cover their old school’s tax bills. The tax assessor turns out to be none other than Steven Spielberg, and once can only speculate how John Landis coped with having to share the studio with the director of such masterpieces as (insert Spielberg titles here, good ones if you can pls. Ta.)

Possibly Spielberg himself had some sympathy for Landis, as he had recently directed the well known director Francois Truffaut in Close Encounters. It is well known movie making lore that Truffaut will only speak in French (early CGI was employed to make Truffaut appear to speak English in Close Encounters – listen closely and you’ll hear his voice suddenly becomes that of a husky woman’s) and it is likely that the American Spielberg would have struggled to make himself understood. I think he might be able to speak Spanish. Can Truffaut? This would have made things easier, because then they’d both be communicating in the same language, even if it was not either man’s mother tongue. This is why, for many, Close Encounters remains something of a missed opportunity.

Perhaps fearing a repeat of this, Landis spent long hours, from the earliest days of preproduction, learning French in the mistaken belief that Spielberg was only able to communicate in this language. You must remember this was in the days before Wikipedia, when it was difficult to check facts.

This insistence on speaking in a language unfamiliar to the cast and crew resulted in several on-set bust ups: only Carrie Fisher, a proficient bilinguist, was able to understand the director, and this knowledge resulted in her standing in for Belushi in several key scenes (look at the hands!), directing crowd scenes and even re-writing a tender dream sequence between Ackroyd and his eleven-year-old self into a forty-five car pileup.

Today, John Belushi sits at home, staring at the telephone that never rings and asking himself: Is it really a sweet home (Chicago)?


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