The Movie That Changed My Life

By Michael J. Legeros

"One hat.  Black."

One summer, between my junior and senior years in high school, my
family stayed on a boat.  Our boat.  Or, more accurately, my step-
father's boat, a 52-foot, slept-six (or was it eight?) Chris Craft
docked in Morehead City, N.C.  By parental decree, and with regis-
tered protest from Yours Landlubbing, the house was closed up and
our residence moved a few miles down the road to the marina.  And,
oh, what a treat that wasn't!  Three Muggy By The Sea months spent
either sticking to deck chairs or sleep-sweating in a poorly air-
conditioned cabin.  Nocturnal arrangements involved sharing an un-
dersized bunk-bed with my (little) brother.  The relentless humid-
ity wreaked havoc on any printed matter.  (A meteorological phe-
nomenon observed all too often by this obsessive comic-book col-
lector.)  *And* everyone had to shower at the marina building, be-
cause the water pressure on the boat was too low!  Ugh.

The house, however, *had* A/C.  And cable TV.  And ankle-attacking
carpet fleas, there because their preferred hosts had been boarded
elsewhere.  (Felix and Baldwin and where *were* the kitties kept,
anyway?)  Every so often, I'd sneak over to the Climate-Controlled
Zone, sometimes with a friend in tow, and usually to watch a movie
(or two) on HBO.  (We also had a VCR-- you know, one of those new-
er-fangled contraptions-- so taping was possible.)  And, make no
mistake, there were *many* movies that needed watching!  That was
the year I finally punched through the "R" wall and began devour-
ing as much "mature audiences only" stuff as I could:  raunchy
college comedies, gory horror movies, and any crime drama, regular
drama, chick flick, or love story that included even the *mildest*
T&A warning.  (Imagine all the movies I would've *missed*, had I
not known each included at least one second of female nudity!)

That was also the summer that I first watched a little comedy cal-

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as Jake and Elwood Blues.  I'd seen
them singing on "Saturday Night Live" and heard "Soul Man" on the
radio too many times to count.  (I was partial to "Pac-Man Fever"
and "The Curly Shuffle.")  My best friend also had an eight-track
(!) of the movie soundtrack, which we either religiously listened
to or listened to religiously.  (Mostly for the ultra-cool rendi-
tion of the "Peter Gunn Theme," as perfect music-for-cruising as
there ever was.)  He hadn't seen the movie either and, so, late
one summer night, and while the rest of the family was suffering
back at the boat, we watched it.  And we laughed our *asses* off.
The shades set us into fits, as did the swear words, as did the
deadpan, the absurdist action, and the just-like-that musical num-
bers.  (As it ain't on the album, 'twas also our first time hear-
ing them sing "Stand By Your Man."  And we died.)

With the possible exception of a certain sci-fi flick from George
Lucas, THE BLUES BROTHERS would end up as the most watched movie
in the Mike Legeros canon.  Twenty or thirty times by age 20, I'm
sure.  Watched over and over again as a reclusive-from-the-rest-
of-the-family high-school senior.  Took it to college and showed
it to every girl who either owned a VCR or could be lured to my
dorm room.  (Alas, many had the same reaction as to a Three Sto-
oges short:  huh?)  I attended all the special showings, such as
an outdoor, after-dark screening at the North Carolina State Uni-
versity Student Center.  (We roared.)  Years later, I even ended
up compiling a comprehensive quote list on the Internet!  (The
original shooting script has since become widely available and is
worth a read, particularly for the deleted scenes that didn't make
the final cut but have since shown up on a DVD release.)

THE BLUES BROTHERS was also the first movie that I ever analyzed;
the first movie that I paid closer attention to than every before.
Scene-by-scene and sometimes shot-by-shot.  Rewind and play.  Re-
wind and play.  I'd watch the opening credits and note the curious
mentioning of "music supervision" before anyone else.  I'd replay
the car chases (*and* foot chases) and get annoyed at those shots
that seemed out of sequence.  (See arrival of soldiers in finale.)
And I'd marvel at the comic techniques of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANI-
MAL HOUSE director John Landis, notably in the long stretches of
silence, the cutaway reaction shots from inanimate objects, and
the single best use of Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries"
since APOCALYPSE NOW. (Trivia:  the orange Pinto had to be classi-
fied as an aircraft with the FAA, before being dropped in midair!)

Not too many years later, I would turn that same nagging-eye-for-
detail onto other movies.  First, it was continuity and accuracy
issues.  You know, reviewing-as-nit-picking...  Later, I learned
to get a "feel" for a film, even as I often struggled to find the
right words to describe that "feeling."  The last piece came the
latest, learning the language that allowed a conversation on con-
text and subtext; being able to talk on *many* levels about what a
film was saying, showing, or doing.  But for all I've since learn-
ed-- or, least, made a good pretense of having learned-- I remain
both drawn and devoted to the simple comic complexity of THE BLUES
BROTHERS.  Seventeen years and 1000+ movie reviews since, I still
stay the same thing when asked what my favorite film is.  And it

Copyright 1999 by Michael J. Legeros


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