Off and on over the past few years, I have conducted research on the Chicago-area filming locations used in The Blues Brothers. Much of it has been frustrating, especially given the many web sites with spurious “facts” based on “my neighbour’s cousin knew this truck driver who worked on the shoot and he said it was somewhere around here.” Things like claiming the Nazi rally bridge was in Garfield Park, rather than Jackson Park… or the filmed Pinto drop was at 115th and Doty (which is near, but not necessarily exactly where, the test drop was conducted). There are shitloads of bad info out there. Even the fanatical Blues Brothers Central site (BBC) has never put together a comprehensive list. It’s amazing how many threads on that site’s forums ask the same damn questions—such as “Where was Mrs. Tarantino’s house?”—yet never seem to come up with something definitive.
So I put it all together, and being the kind of detail-oriented guy who loves finding all the missing pieces of a puzzle, I think I did a pretty damn good job of making a comprehensive list. But how to share it? I sent a copy of my spreadsheet to Chris at BBC, who thanked me effusively… but months later has still not managed to get it posted.
Enter Google, and the wonderfully hackable Google Maps.
Using code developed by other, slightly more adept programmers, I built a simple little site and pinpointed all the locations. I even made some scouting trips, including one to Cicero to confirm exactly where Mrs. Tarantino lived. (And by the way, every online mapping site places the marker for 1623 S. 51st St. in the wrong position.) The whole thing went live around 1 June, although for the first couple of weeks it required lots of tweaking to keep it alive when Google made changes to their API interface as it transitioned out of beta.
It slowly started to get noticed. Of course, I mentioned it in several threads on BBC. Then Google started putting it near the top of their results in searches for “blues brothers chicago locations” and similar variants. The climb was gradual: 122 visits in June, 216 in July, 294 in August.
Then, on Wednesday, 14 September, the site got noticed on the weblog circuit. Not sure who posted first, but within a few hours several sites, including ones on Illinois politics, filmdom, and even something in Italian, all posted mentions of it. The site took a big hit—not exactly a slashdotting, but still a serious leap in traffic: 753 hits on that day alone. For the first time ever, I saw a message in my error logs saying “server seems busy, you may need to increase spare servers.” Traffic tapered off pretty quickly—by the weekend, it was back to only slightly above normal—but for the month of September the site ultimately saw some 1,718 visits.
Some of the postings follow.
Tuesday, 13 September, 18:00 (EDT?)
Where it apparently began: no comment, just a link… via a thread in Google groups, where Stéphanie Dumas wrote “Someone had [sic] put the filming locations of the Blues Brothers movie by using Google maps, it’s at http://kevinforsyth.net/film/blues.htm” on 11-Sep, 10:03. (permanent link)
Wed, 14 Sep, time unknown (via Google Maps Mania)
The number one linking site. “Look up Chicago locations for the original Blues Brothers movie with this great Google Maps mash-up.” (permanent link)
Wed, 14 Sep, 11:20 (TZ? PDT?)
“A blow by blow of Chicago events in The Blues Brothers, mapped out.” (permanent link)
Wednesday, 14 Sep, 12:21 EDT (GMT-4)
“Someone has put Google Maps to good use. They’ve used the service to pinpoint all the Chicago locations Jake and Elwood visited while evading Nazis, the Illinois State Police, The Good Old Boys and an M-16 wielding Carrie Fischer [sic] in the Blues Brothers. Just about every place seen in the movie for more than a minute is highlighted, and it even includes stills from the movie to give it some perspective. They’re even in order.” (permanent link)
Wed, 14 Sep, 22:20 CEST (GMT+2)
Not sure why Italians would care, but this link caused ‘.it’ to become the top-ranked two-letter country domain for the month of September. (In August it tied for ninth with the Netherlands.) “Se sei un cultore dei Blues Brothers probabilmente apprezzerai questa hack di Google Maps che posiziona le varie location del film direttamente sulla mappa di Chicago, *Illinois*.” (permanent link)
Thu, 15 Sep, 16:16 (TZ?)
Making my head swell: “Some genius (named Kevin Forsyth) put together this page which shows all of the shooting locations used in “The Blues Brothers.” I like to think of it more along the lines of using Google Maps to track Jake and Elwood on their mission from God.” (permanent link)
Fri, 16 Sep, 11:50 (TZ?)
Some of the kindest words to date: “Cinematical actually posted this a while ago, but I happened to come across it again this morning and decided it was really worth linking to: a fan of the Blues Brothers has created a Google map of pretty much every location in the film. Most of the virtual pushpins come with pictures and expository captions. I like the Blues Brothers, but what mainly impresses me about this page is the amount of time, research, and care that was taken in creating it.” (permanent link)