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The Blues Brothers (1980) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot

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Summaries

  • Jake Blues, just out from prison, puts together his old band to save the Catholic home where he and brother Elwood were raised.

  • After the release of Jake Blues from prison, he and brother Elwood go to visit "The Penguin", the last of the nuns who raised them in a boarding school. They learn the Archdiocese will stop supporting the school and will sell the place to the Education Authority. The only way to keep the place open is if the $5000 tax on the property is paid within 11 days. The Blues Brothers want to help, and decide to put their blues band back together and raise the money by staging a big gig. As they set off on their "mission from God" they seem to make more enemies along the way. Will they manage to come up with the money in time?

  • Fresh out of the slammer, Jake Blues, along with his brother Elwood, visit the Catholic home where they both grew up. They find out that it will soon shut down because of lack of funds and support. One misguided spiritual revelation later, they go in search of reuniting their old blues band and raise the $5000 to pay off the home's taxes. As they go on their way to perform in the perfect big-paying gig for the group, their adventure takes many unexpected detours and encounters with zany characters, the police, revenge-seeking militant groups, angry country singers and psychotic former girlfriends.

  • After three long years in the Joliet Penitentiary, Jake Blues reunites with his brother, Elwood: the other half of the "Blues Brothers", their small R&B band. Reared in a Catholic orphanage, the brothers pay a visit to the old place, only to find out that the institution is in jeopardy unless they raise $5,000 to pay the taxes. With this in mind, the Blues Brothers set out on a mission from God to salvage the asylum by getting the band together, playing at gigs where friends like Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, and Ray Charles, among many others, await in the most unlikely places. However, in this fund-raising quest, the brothers will be up against the forces of darkness, including a posse of suburban cops, a team of furious countrymen, and a bunch of avenging Nazis. Now--against the backdrop of great music, endless car chases, and explosive destruction--will the Blues Brothers manage to save their beloved home?


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The film opens with several aerial shots of the factories and oil refineries around Chicago at night as the images pan overhead to a prison.

    We next see a prisoner being roused and escorted by two guards through Joliet Prison in Illinois. Is he on his way to the gallows? No, he's up for "standard parole". His personal items are returned to him, including a broken watch and prophylactics. The prisoner is released -- it is Jake (John Belushi). He meets his brother Elwood (Dan Akroyd) outside the prison gate. These are the Blues Brothers. Elwood has shown up in a used Plymouth police car after having traded in their old Cadillac for a microphone. Demonstrating the power of the car, with its cop tires, cop suspension, and 440 cubic-inch power plant, Elwood convinces Jake that this is the new Bluesmobile.

    They go see the "Penguin", Sister Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman), the head nun at the Catholic orphanage they grew up in in downtown Chicago. She explains that they need $5,000 to pay property taxes, or else the orphanage will be closed by the local Archbishop. Aghast at Jake and Elwood's casual swearing, she beats them with a yardstick and throws them out of her office saying she'll pray for their souls and not to return until they've "redeemed" themselves.

    Jake and Elwood meet up with their old friend and father figure Curtis (Cab Calloway), a handyman who operates the orphanage who advises them to "get yourself to church". They go to a Baptist church, where Reverend Cleophus James (James Brown) delivers an uplifting sermon. Jake "sees the light" realizing that he must put the Blues Brothers Band back together in order to raise the $5,000. Now they are on a mission from God.

    That evening during a drive about how to get their old band back together, Elwood runs a red light and the Bluesmobile gets pulled over by a local state trooper police car. The two State Troopers Daniel (Armand Cerami) and Mount (Steven Williams) ask for Elwood's driver's license and registration. Through SCMODS (State County Municipal Offender Database System), the officers learn that Elwood has numerous outstanding traffic tickets and moving violations. The police intend to impound the car, but Elwood takes off, leading to a car chase. Another State trooper car driven by Trooper La Fong (director John Landis) and a "charming Trooper" (Stephen Bishop) joins in on the chase. The Blues Brothers get away (destroying a shopping mall in the process by driving through it), but now the Illinois authorities are searching for them. Both Troopers Daniel and Mount vow to catch or kill the Blues Brothers.

    Jake and Elwood park their car in a run-down part of the Loop of downtown Chicago where they walk to a fleabag hotel where Elwood is staying. A mystery woman (Carrie Fisher) attempts to kill Jake by firing a rocket launcher at him, but the Blues Brothers duck and the rockets miss. The woman drives away in a red Cadillac. Unfazed, Jake and Elwood enter the hotel (populated by homeless transients). Elwood asks the manager Floyd if there were any phone calls. The manager says no calls but a man named Burton Mercer (John Candy), a local corrections and parole officer, visited looking for Elwood. Jake and Elwood then go to Elwood's small room that sits right near the local L-train line where Jake falls asleep in Elwood's bed.

    The next morning, the mystery woman arrives at the fleabag hotel just as Troopers Daniel and Mount show up along with Burton Mercer who ID's the correct home address of Elwood. The unknown woman then blows up the entire hotel building with a bomb, but Jake and Elwood walk away from the rubble (as do the cops who were just about to apprehend them).

    Trying to find their old band members, who have since taken other jobs, they visit a boarding house where one of the members had previously stayed. The landlady doesn't remember where he went, but at the last minute she finds a business card with "Murph and the Magic Tones" on it.

    That evening, Jake and Elwood find Murph and the Magic Tones playing at a Holiday Inn Hotel lounge whom makes up of keyboardist/lead vocalist Murphy Dunne, guitarist Steve Cropper, guitarist Donald 'Duck' Dunn, drummer Willy Hall, and sax player Tom Malone. During drinks, they agree to rejoin the Blues Brothers Band but demand the money that Jake and Elwood owes them from past gigs.

    Jake and Elwood visit the swanky Chez Paul restaurant, where another band member and former trumpet player, Alan 'Mr. Fabulous' Rubin, is maitre'd. The brothers behave offensively while eating a meal, tossing food and offering to buy women. Promising that they'll be back to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day at this restaurant until he joins them, Mr. Fabulous reluctantly agrees.

    The next day, while tooling around in the Bluesmobile, the guys get stuck in a traffic jam. Some Neo-Nazis are protesting on a stone bridge. Proclaiming "I hate Illinois Nazis", Elwood uses the Bluesmobile to force the Nazis to jump off the bridge. The humiliated lead Nazi (Henry Gibson) vows to find those guys and brutally kill them... further adding to the Blues Brothers ever growing list of enemies.

    Jake and Elwood arrive in a seedy area of Maxwell Street where they park their car and see John Lee Hooker as he plays outside a soul food restaurant. Inside the restaurant, the brothers meet Matt 'Guitar' Murphy, as well as 'Blue Lou' Marini to ask them to rejoin their band. Matt's wife (Aretha Franklin) sings "Think", warning Matt to think about it before leaving the restaurant they own. Matt and Lou quit, and the band is complete.

    Meanwhile, the mystery woman that is hounding Jake and Elwood is revealed to work and own a local beauty salon. After the salon closes for the night, she reads up in a book on how to operate a flame thrower.

    The next morning, the band's first stop is Ray's Music Exchange in Calumet City. The proprietor Ray (Ray Charles) shows off the action in a keyboard, singing "Shake A Tail Feather". The band buys $1,400 worth of instruments, on an I.O.U.

    While driving aimlessly that evening, the Blues Brother's first gig is at Bob's Country Bunker, where the Good Old Boys are scheduled to play. Passing themselves off as the Good Old Boys, the Blues Brothers manage to play both types of music (Country and Western). They earn $200, but drink $300 worth of beer. They skip out on paying. Now Jake and Elwood have yet another set of enemies, that of the bar owner Bob (Jeff Morris) and Tucker McElroy (Charles Napier) the lead singer of the late-arriving Good Old Boys. They get away when the pursuing truck is T-boned by State Troopers Daniel and Mount who have spotted the Bluesmobile. Daniel and Mount place Bob, Tucker, and the Good Old Boys under arrest for speeding and damaging their police car as Mount deadpans, "boys, you are in big trouble".

    In a sauna the next day, Jake and Elwood have a business meeting with promoter Maury Sline (Steve Lawrence) who agrees to book the Palace Hotel Ballroom for them tomorrow night.

    The word goes out on the streets -- Jake and Elwood swipe an enormous air-raid siren, strap it to the roof of the Bluesmobile, and use it as a loudspeaker to make announcements throughout the city about the upcoming concert. They run out of gas. The local gas station is also out of gas. Elwood flirts with a chic lady (Twiggy) while waiting for the tanker truck to arrive.

    The Blues Brothers Band play their concert at the Palace Hotel, beginning with Curtis as an opening act sings "Minnie The Moocher" as they wait for Jake and Elwood to arrive. Having heard about the concert, the authorities lead by Jake's parole officer, Burton Mercer, along with Troopers Daniel and Mount, stake out the joint, planning to apprehend them after the show. Bob, Tucker and the Good Old Boys, having just made bail, also see the advertisement and show up at the concert vowing to kill both Jake and Elwood.

    Jake and Elwood sneak past the cops and join the band. The crowd is unmoved at first but are soon cheering. The band plays so well that backstage a producer for a major record company offers them $10,000 cash as an advance on their first recording session. Jake and Elwood accept the offer and keep $5,000, asking the producer to send $1,400 to Ray's Music Exchange and to give the rest to the band. The brothers take off through a trap door in the stage while the band continues vamping.

    The mystery woman confronts them in an underground tunnel, firing an automatic M-16 rifle at them. It is revealed here that the mystery woman is Jake's former fiancee whom he abandoned at her wedding several years ago and she wants to personally kill Jake for her humiliation. Pleading for his life, Jake removes his sunglasses for the first (and only) time in the film. She melts, smiles "oh, Jake", and kisses him. He pushes her to the ground, saying "let's go".

    The police begin realizing the brothers are making their escape. Jake and Elwood are in the Bluesmobile with 106 miles to get to Chicago, a full tank of gas, a half pack of cigarettes, at night, and they're wearing sunglasses. An epic and climatic car chase begins as the Blues Brothers head towards Chicago to pay the taxes. Bob, Tucker and the Good Old Boys join in on the chase, but Elwood had earlier sabotaged their trailer by spraying super glue to the gas/accelerator peddle which causes Tucker to loose control of the trailer and crashes it into a nearby pond.

    In the morning, numerous police cars tumble off an embankment, and one (driven by Troopers Daniel, Mount and Burton) ends up in a truck. As they approach the city, all city police authorities are alerted and "the use of excessive force is approved" in their apprehension. The chase continues in Chicago, reaching speeds of 110 mph on Lower Wacker Drive. Dozens of police cars continue to pile up. Hearing chatter on the police radios, the Nazis spot the Bluesmobile and give chase. The Bluesmobile stops at the edge of a highway overpass under construction, but the car with the lead Nazi tumble over the edge. Jake and Elwood arrive at Daley Plaza just in time, as their car literally falls apart.

    The police buildup continues absurdly, with National Guard units, helicopters, and SWAT teams getting involved. Jake and Elwood hastily make their way to the Cook County Assessor's Office, barring doors and sabotaging an elevator on the way. Hundreds of troops are in pursuit. In the assessor's office they grab the clerk (a cameo by Steven Spielberg) and give him the money to pay the taxes. The moment the tax receipt is handed to them they are handcuffed, surrounded by countless troops with pointed firearms.

    The film closes with the Blues Brothers and their Band playing their next concert in prison, beginning with "Jailhouse Rock".

See also

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