The Blues Brothers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD disc. Though this wasn’t a dazzling presentation, it looked quite good for a film of its era.
Sharpness usually worked nicely. A few slightly soft wide shots emerged, but the majority of the flick appeared distinctive and precise.
I saw no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Grain was light but natural, and print flaws failed to mar the proceedings.
Blues opted for a fairly natural palette, albeit one that leaned a little blue at times. The 4K UHD gave the hues nice range and vibrancy. The disc’s HDR accentuated the tones and allowed them to become pretty vivid.
Blacks looked largely deep and dense, while shadows offered good clarity and smoothness. The HDR brought nice punch to whites and contrast. All in all, this felt like a more than satisfactory image.
Note that some obvious inconsistencies came with the movie’s extended cut. You’ll detect the changes pretty easily, as they tend to look a little yellow and somewhat softer. They’re not terrible – they shouldn’t throw you out of the movie – but they’re obviously a drop from the theatrical scenes.
Downconverted to DTS-HD MA 7.1, the DTS X soundtrack likely made this the best Blues Brothers has ever sounded. Not surprisingly, the soundfield showed off music to the greatest advantage, as the film’s many tunes displayed excellent stereo separation, and the songs also spread nicely to the rears, as the latter offered good reinforcement of the tracks.
Effects usage on the sides and the surrounds was more limited, but I found the mix to provide a generally satisfying sense of atmosphere. They did contribute a lot of good information when appropriate, though.
Cars zoomed around convincingly, and gunshots flew about the room well. It wasn’t a soundfield that would compare with modern releases, but for the film’s age and its scope, it worked well.
Audio quality seemed good. Dialogue often came across as fairly natural and distinct, and effects generally worked acceptably well, but they displayed a smidgen of distortion at times.
Music continued to be the highlight of the soundtrack, as the vast majority of the songs appeared rich and vibrant. The highs were clear and well-defined, and the mix provided some nicely deep and tight bass.
These qualities applied only to material recorded for the film itself; when we hear other songs - like those of Sam and Dave - the quality definitely dipped, likely because the sound technicians who remixed the track wouldn’t have had access to high-quality masters of those tunes. Nonetheless, the majority of the film’s music was done for the movie, so most of it sounded great.
All in all, the audio showed its age at times but I still found it to offer a very solid track. I flip-flopped between an “A-“ and a “B+”. Despite the flaws, I thought the mix was so much better than average for its era that it deserved the higher grade, as this really was a very satisfying piece of work.
How does the 4K UHD compare with those of the Blu-ray version? The audio is a little peppier and more involving, while the 4K brings superior accuracy, colors and blacks. This winds up as a pleasing upgrade.
As noted, we find two editions of the film. We get both the movie’s theatrical cut (2:12:48) and the extended version (2:27:44).
The latter comes with a slew of longer scenes and additions to the musical bits. I’ve not seen the theatrical cut since 1985, so I can’t compare the relative impact. Fans seems to prefer the extended, but given how tedious it can feel, I suspect I’d prefer the theatrical.
For an extended documentary, we go to The Stories Behind the Making of The Blues Brothers. This 56-minute, 21-second program features interviews with director John Landis, musician Paul Shaffer, producer Robert K. Weiss, executive in charge of production Sean Daniel, editor George Folsey Jr., director of photography Stephen M. Katz, stunt performer Eddie Donno, special effects artist Art Brewer, production designer John Lloyd, and actors Dan Aykroyd, Tom Malone, Alan Rubin, “Blue Lou” Marini, Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Murphy Dunne, Frank Oz, Aretha Franklin, Kathleen Freeman and Henry Gibson.
It combines these with archival interviews from the set, film clips, and some shots taken during the production.
Overall, I thought this was a highly informative and entertaining piece. It detailed the origins of the Blues Brothers and filled in how the pair made it to the big screen.
We also get into the assembly of the band, crafting the characters and the story, selecting the film’s songs and the use of music in the flick, choreography and shooting many of the musical numbers, the Bluesmobile, scenes cut from the original version, locations and production design, stunts, complications connected to shooting in Chicago, and the film’s reception and legacy.
The show offered a terrific number of fun anecdotes; you’ll learn why original band member Paul Shaffer isn’t in the film, and you’ll also find out which singer can’t lip-synch. The documentary’s producers keep the pacing lively and light.
The only disappointment is that we don’t find any Blues Brothers clips from Saturday Night Live. Otherwise, it’s a terrific program that kept me consistently entertained and involved.
Transposing the Music runs 15 minutes, 18 seconds. It includes comments from Aykroyd, Shaffer, Landis, film and TV composer Howard Shore, costume designer Deborah Nadoolman, John’s widow Judy Belushi-Pisano, John Goodman and Jim Belushi.
They discuss the origins of the Blues Brothers as well as a few notes about the movie. We learn a little about the budget and the enormity of the production, the costumes, some favorite moments and continued popularity. The latter element shows us a lot of obsessed fans.
A few good moments pop up here, and we see some SNL footage, though not of the Blues Brothers. We get John Belushi as he does “I’m a King Bee” in a bee costume.
Some material repeats from the longer documentary. Unfortunately, much of the program feels self-congratulatory, especially during the second half when we’re told of the Blues Brothers’ impact and legacy. I think this piece inflates their importance and it becomes obsequious and tedious.
We also get a featurette called Remembering John. It lasts nine minutes, 41 seconds as it offers thoughts from Landis, Belushi-Pisano, Jim Belushi, Nadoolman, Aykroyd, Shaffer, and Shore.
We learn about how John met his wife, his time in high school and his development into a performer, his interest in music, and Belushi’s work. A few good anecdotes pop up here, but as expected, the tone emphasizes praise and fawning, so don’t anticipate a lot of substance.
This set provides a Blu-ray copy of the film. It includes the same extras as the 4K and adds the movie’s trailer.
Like The Jerk, 1980’s The Blues Brothers is a project thought of as a “comedy classic” with an appeal that simply mystifies me. The movie lacks coherence and it seems excessively indulgent, as many scenes appear to exist just for the filmmakers’ own amusement. That means that parts of it are fun, but most of it plods along and goes nowhere.
This becomes a strong 4K UHD, with positive picture and audio as well as some useful bonus materials. I’ll probably never like the movie, but I can’t complain about this solid release.
To rate this film, visit the 25th Anniversary review of THE BLUES BROTHERS