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Jake and Elwood

Blues Brothers Connection
by yo go re

Chicago is known for many things: great weather, pizza you could go wading in, an idea of how to serve hot dogs that is nearly a crime against humanity... and the blues. The musical style didn't originate there, but it found a very welcoming home in the City of Broad Shoulders. It also led, indirectly, to one of the greatest movies of the '80s.

Jake and Elwood have a kayfabe origin story, but we'll skip that for now, and instead tell you about the real-world inspirations. Dan Akroyd was a fan of the blues from his college days, and actually rented his own bar in New York after joining the cast of SNL - the Holland Tunnel Blues Bar. The cast would hang out there after the show wrapped, and it was there that Akroyd introduced John Belushi to the blues. Belushi was soon fascinated, and the two began performing with local bands; in 1978 The Blues Brothers appeared as the musical guests twice on SNL.

These figures were released in 2005 under the banner "The Blues Brothers Connection" from little-known company SD Toys. Well, SD Toys made them - they were distributed in the US by SOTA. They were sold individually on wraparound blister cards, but let's be serious: was there really anyone who would only want one of the boys? That's why we'll be reviewing them as a set.

The figures are done in a near-7" scale. Elwood stands 6⅞" tall, while Jake is a scant 6½". We'll tell you right now that there's no articulation in this set: both figures are solidly immobile from head to toe. Both Jake and Elwood are posed with their arms crossed over their chests, which is why no joints would have added anything of value. This is a display piece, but at least the sculpt is better than some similar efforts. If you look at their hands, you can see hints of the name tattoos on their fingers.

The Blues Brothers' trademark outfits were originally just costumes SNL had on hand - when Chevy Chase was playing President Ford, Belushi and Akroyd wore dark suits and glasses to back him up as Secret Service agents. They added the hats as a nod to noted bluesman John Lee Hooker, and the look was complete. The toys' hats are removable: when you do that, they end up looking like they belong in a Quentin Tarantino film. The sculpt of the clothes is very good, right up there with McFarlane, NECA and SOTA. Jake's tie blows back behind him, while Elwood's is tucked safely under his arms.

What's really impressive, though, are the likenesses. There's a cartoony hint to both of them, but just enough to make them look right - not Mezco levels of abstraction. Elwood looks more like Dan Akroyd than Ray Stantz does, and Jake looks more like Jim Belushi than the Samurai Baker. Their Wayfarer sunglasses are permanently attached, and there are no eyes sculpted behind them.

Both figures come with a display base - a rough chunk of highway molded in black and painted with white stripes. The stripes aren't the same size they'd be on a real road, but the idea is what's important. There's a single large footpeg on each base, and they're designed to fit seamlessly together. It's actually quite impressive how well they fit: with the two halves pressed against one another, the seam is no more obvious than any of the other cracks sculpted on the surface. Each brother also comes with half a license plate with his name on it: inserted into a notch in the front of the base, the halves also line up perfectly.

The Blues Brothers really is a great '80s film, and if you haven't seen it, well, you need to fix that posthaste. Come on, nerds, it's got Carrie Fisher in it! The soundtrack is a legitimately good blues album, too. It took me a long time to buy Jake and Elwood in toy form, because I didn't want to pay full price for statues, but I'm glad I got them before they disappeared from Suncoast's shelves. No, they don't move, but they look cool, and when you're talking Blues Brothers, isn't cool what you want?

-- 02/24/11

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