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Case Number 19459: Small Claims Court

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John Belushi: His Final Hours

MVD Visual // 2006 // 52 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // August 11th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Victor Valdivia's final hours will be full of regret and self-loathing...pretty much like every other hour.

The Charge

A look at the final 24 hours of the life of John Belushi…

The Case

John Belushi: His Final Hours originally aired as part of the Final 24 series on History. Although it might initially seem crass, the show is surprisingly thoughtful. The premise—the last 24 hours in the life of a famously dead celebrity—seems ghoulish and exploitative, but there are some remarkable insights and revelations here. This isn't a typically cheap unauthorized DVD; it's actually worth seeing for fans.

To get an idea of how restrained this show is, consider the list of interviewees: Belushi's widow Judy Belushi Pisano, his best friend and most frequent collaborator Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers), his manager Bernie Brillstein, and his bodyguard and anti-drug enforcer Smokey Wendell. All describe their time with Belushi and how they attempted to deal with his drug addiction and self-destructiveness. The show mostly focuses on the last day of Belushi's life, but there are also several stories told from earlier, from his early days in high school to his rise to fame on Saturday Night Live and in films like National Lampoon's Animal House. Wisely, though the show doesn't shy away from depicting Belushi's addiction to cocaine, it also puts this addiction in the proper context of Belushi's life and career and the era in which he emerged. By explaining who he was and how his addiction began, it emphasizes just what a waste his death really was.

The segments on Belushi's final hours are the weakest. Here, the show relies on actors reenacting the events that led to Belushi's death and these scenes are not great. They're not all that convincing and they end up undermining the intended effect. Also, viewers familiar with the particulars of Belushi's death will note that some famous celebrities who partied with him just hours before he died are not mentioned here, presumably for legal reasons. However, addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinksy (Celebrity Rehab) is also interviewed, and he does have some fascinating insights into how Belushi's addiction manifested itself. Belushi, of course, died on March 5, 1982, after he embarked on a heavy cocaine and heroin binge that killed him. While you'll get to see, more or less, how that happened, the actual details of how are less interesting that what led up to it. In this regard, the show gets the story right.

Ultimately, John Belushi: His Final Hours isn't nearly the inane unauthorized product you might have feared. It serves as a pretty good thumbnail biography of Belushi and does give some hints as to why he was important. There aren't enough clips of his work to really do his talent justice, though, so for that you'll have to track down his SNL sketches and some of his films. Still, for both fans and newcomers interested in Belushi's life and death, this is worth a look.

Technical specs are typical TV quality: anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, Dolby stereo mix, both acceptable. There are no extras.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: MVD Visual
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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