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"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- led THE BLUES BROTHERS. 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 ain't STAR WARS, CASABLANCA, DR. STRANGELOVE, or CITIZEN KANE. Copyright 1999 by Michael J. Legeros
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Copyright 2019 by Michael J. Legeros