After Friday’s night’s special screening of The Blues Brothers at the Astor Theatre in St. Kilda, director John Landis took to the stage for an exclusive Q & A with the sold-out audience. ‘Well it’s a strange film…’ were among the first words uttered by the 63-year old American filmmaker also responsible for Animal House, Coming to America and even the ‘Thriller’ video and, in many ways, he’s right. A redemption story about two suited-up blues-blooded bad boys in sunglasses on a mission from God that also happens to feature the crème de la crème of American soul music and perhaps the most ridiculous car chase ever captured on film: strange is one way of putting it. At this particular screening, organized in conjunction with the Melbourne Festival, stranger things were certainly to come.
In film and pop culture circles, The Blues Brothers is considered a ‘cult classic’ and walking into the elegant surrounds of the Astor, a cult vibe was certainly palpable. Fedora hats, sunglasses and even the odd nun habit were the order of the evening as hardcore fans of all ages didn’t hold back in their celebration of the iconic 1980 film. After a lengthy wait, Landis finally arrived to rapturous applause and he expressed his eager anticipation to witness ‘the Australian experience’ of the film. He didn’t leave disappointed.
Be warned. Cult screenings are an acquired taste and anyone wishing to enjoy a nice quiet evening out at the cinema should definitely avoid them at all costs. Clapping, cheering, heckling, singing, stomping and even throwing confetti isn’t only allowed, it’s encouraged, as the Astor transformed into one giant living room of film buffs. Although The Blues Brothers’ ‘cult classic’ status is legendary and undeniable, even I was surprised how well the die-hards recalled some of the film’s most obscure moments. Up on the balcony was the hardest of the hardcore fans, the “barmy army” of Blues Brothers fanatics and they were the instigators of most of the chaos. Re-enacting scenes with torch lights, pointing lasers pointers at the screen and at one moment during the Aretha Franklin diner scene even pelting the Stalls with white bread from the balcony, these guys certainly came prepared. Distracting? Well yeah, but the collective attitude at a cult screening seems to be ‘come on, you’ve seen in that many times, let’s party!’
At the conclusion of the film, Landis returned to the stage for the Q & A. Although the occasional fanboy question was unavoidable, punters were otherwise treated to a series of stories behind the film’s origin on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ the shooting of the famous mall car chase and an insight into Landis’ relationship with the late John Belushi. And as the audience exited the theatre, treading on white bread remnants and preparing to shake their tail feathers into the evening, they didn’t envy the cleaners in the slightest.