Judge Clark Douglas ate lots of little chocolate donuts, but his athletic abilities didn't improve much at all.
Our review of Saturday Night Live: The Best Of John Belushi, published September 12th, 2005, is also available.
"Don't rain on your parade? There are plenty of worse things that could happen to your parade."
If one were to make a list of the greatest Saturday Night Live players over the years, surely John Belushi would have to rank somewhere near the top. An unpredictable wild card with a tendency to turn from low-key bystander to bombastic force of nature in a heartbeat, Belushi was one of the show's greatest assets during its earliest seasons. Though Saturday Night Live: The Best of John Belushi was first released on DVD a few years ago, it's now receiving a new edition boasting slightly more content than the previous release. Let's take a look at what the disc offers:
• Disclaimer: 101 Dalmatians/Wolverines: An oddly amusing introductory card is followed by an oddly amusing cold open. A fun way to kick off the disc.
• Samurai Deli: Belushi's first appearance as the Samurai and a rather entertaining one at that. It's the sort of idea that could have easily been a throwaway gag, but Belushi's matter-of-fact performance makes it a surprisingly entertaining piece.
• Little Chocolate Donuts: An entertaining, brief commercial built around the idea that little chocolate donuts have turned Belushi into an Olympic champion.
• Beethoven 1/Beethoven 2: I really enjoy these little sketches featuring Belushi as the great composer, mostly because his subtle physical comedy is sublime. I love the first installment in particular, as Belushi's Beethoven plays "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" and looks like he's getting away with something terribly naughty.
• Godfather Therapy: Belushi's Brando impersonation is decent, but the sketch carries on far longer than it needs to.
• Greek Restaurant: "Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger!" Belushi's only a part of this fun sketch, with numerous SNL members (including a spot-on Bill Murray) contributing to a symphony of chaos.
• Update/Luck of the Irish: A pitch-perfect piece in which Belushi transforms a calm examination of Irish heritage into a hysterical, embittered rant. Genuinely hilarious.
• Star Trek: While it's fun to watch Belushi, Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd respectively playing Kirk, Spock and Bones, this sketch takes a while to get going. Even so, it has a terrific punch line and is never less than smile-inducing.
• Wilderness Comedian: A trailer for a film about a comedian who does stand-up acts for animals in the woods. Heh. "Imagine dealing with a 400-pound wilderness heckler! Opening for Jerry Vale was never like this."
• The Blues Brothers—"Soul Man": You know they had to turn up at some point. Belushi and Aykroyd turn in a terrifically entertaining performance of "Soul Man."
• Celebrity Corner: Bill Murray's performance as a vapid talk show host is fun, but the show is stolen by Belushi's appearance as Elizabeth Taylor (munching on a comically enormous piece of chicken, no less).
• Samurai Night Fever: It's Saturday Night Fever, but with The Samurai instead of John Travolta. I'm still not sure why Belushi's approximation of Japanese is a series of caveman-like grunts, but it's pretty entertaining. Hey, is that O.J. Simpson?
• Joe Cocker: Belushi generates big laughs as Cocker performing "With a Little Help from My Friends" just by accurately mimicking the singer's particular tics and amping them up just a notch.
• Party: Superman (Bill Murray), Lois Lane (Margot Kidder), The Flash (Dan Aykroyd), Lana Lang (Jane Curtin) and others are having a party, but things go awry when The Hulk (Belushi) turns up. Giddy fun all around.
• Update/Radio City Rant: A variation on the "Luck of the Irish" piece in which Belushi works himself into a temper tantrum. Not quite as brilliant as the aforementioned installment, but still very enjoyable.
• Don't Look Back in Anger: Funny how time can change the tone of a sketch entirely. In this one, Belushi dons old age makeup and visits the graves of his fellow Saturday Night Live cast mates. "I always thought I would live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse behind," he says. "Guess not." Once upon a time this was morbidly funny stuff; now it's just sad. The moments in which Belushi warns against the dangers of drug use are particularly mournful.
• King Bee: Before he was an Oscar-winning composer, Howard Shore was the leader of "Howard Shore and the All-Bee Band." This musical number is an enjoyably appropriate way to finish off the main feature, though Belushi reportedly hated wearing the bee suit.
The DVD transfer is rather mediocre, but I suppose that's to be expected given the age of these sketches. There's a lot of color bleeding and detail is terrible, but it's rarely bad enough to damage the comedy. Audio is similarly so-so, as some bits of dialogue are a little muffled and distorted. In terms of extras, a few items from the previous release are repeated here: Belushi's screen test, a photo gallery, a Rolling Stone magazine interview and an archival television interview.
Bonus sketches: New to this version of Saturday Night Live: The Best of John Belushi are six additional pieces—"Samurai Hotel," "Samurai Tailor," "Peckinpah," "Farbers Meet the Coneheads," "Update/Songs About Weather," and "Update/Skylab." The highlight of these additional pieces is "Peckinpah," in which Belushi offers a hilariously brutal portrait of the famously difficult director.
More than most of these Best-Of Saturday Night Live discs, this one offers a genuinely solid representation of Belushi's work. The bonus sketches aren't exciting enough to warrant an upgrade if you have the previous DVD release, but they're a welcome addition.
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