Ned Zeman‘s Vanity Fair piece about the making of The Blues Brothers (“Soul Men“) reminds that there actually used to be a thing called a “cocaine movie” — a film that exuded a certain hyperness, a tone of manic extremity. Or a belief, at least, in the legend of same. But how many cocaine movies were there outside of The Blues Brothers and Martin Scorsese‘s New York, New York? I’m asking.
The best depiction of a manic cocaine state is in that running-around-with-bloodshot-eyes sequence in the third act of Goodfellas, but that was made straight.
“What was it about The Blues Brothers that obliterated and suffocated?,” I wrote last May. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the fact that it was an unfunny, over-emphatic, overproduced super-whale that was made on cocaine (or so the legend went)?
“I asked Blues Brothers director John Landis about this wildly inflated, pushing-too-hard aspect when I interviewed him in ’82 for an American Werewolf in London piece. It was over breakfast at an Upper East Side hotel (Landis was hungrily wolfing down a plate of scrambled eggs and home fries). At one point I said that the ‘enormity’ of The Blues Brothers seemed ‘somewhat incongruous with the humble origins of the Chicago Blues.’
“That hit a nerve. ‘It wasn’t supposed to be a documentary about the humble origins of the Chicago Blues!’ Landis replied. But the essence of the Chicago blues wasn’t about flamboyant energy and huge lavish musical numbers and car chases and mad slapstick, I said. And your movie seemed to take that Paul Butterfield current and amplify it beyond all measure or reason.
“Okay, I didn’t literally say all this to Landis but that was the basic implication. (I wasn’t impolitic enough to call it ‘a cocaine movie’ but that’s what it damn sure felt like.) As Landis argued with me the Universal publicist sitting at the table started making ‘no, no’ faces, indicating I should tone it down.
“In any case I mostly hated The Blues Brothers from the get-go, and here it is 32 years later and I still hate it. And now Press Play‘s Aaron Aradillas has written an essay about it called “Cruel Summer.” — from “Chicago Blues + Nose Candy,” 5.14.12.