Animal House(1978) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Animal House (1978) is now 25 years old, and they have released a special anniversary edition. Let me get the bad news out of the way first. There is no new footage, even though there were several minutes of running time cut from the first rough cut. Also, the transfer is no better than previous releases, and is just a little dark.

The DVD includes "Animated Facts" which pop up during the film, but I didn't get a chance to explore those. They have a new "where are they now" feature expanding on the ending of the film, and a lengthy "making of" featurette, which is mostly what I will be talking about. The film came about because Douglas Kenney was burning out, and threatened to quit the Lampoon. To keep him on board, they told him they were going to make a movie. He and Herold Ramis churned a High School Charles Manson thing called Laser Orgy Girls, which was way too strange to make, so they said let's move it to college. The added Chris Miller to the writing team based on some articles he had written for the Lampoon about his frat days. The three divided the story into thirds, after three months of brainstorming and comparing notes on everything they could remember from college. After each finished their thirds, they swapped and rewrote each other's section. Once they had a script ready to show around, they found nothing but closed doors.

Out of the blue, Universal contacted them, and asked if they ever had anything for a film at the Lampoon. Universal gave them a development deal on the spot. The project nearly didn't get green-lighted, because of the cast of unknowns (John Belushi, Thomas Hulce, Stephan Furst, Mary Louise Weller, Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, Tim Matheson) but they relented when Donald Sutherland, a known player, joined the cast. John Landis was chosen based on the comic sensibility he demonstrated with Kentucky Fried Movie. Finding a location proved nearly impossible because no college wanted any part of this film. At the last minute, The University of Oregon offered their campus. After reading the script for The Graduate, the dean at Oregon had turned it down as a film that would go nowhere, and he didn't want to make the mistake again.

Before the start of principal photography, all of the Deltas moved into the same hotel, the Roadway Inn, and hung out together. They actively ostracized the crew, and the players that were Omegas, while partying constantly. By the time filming started, they were very close. Shortly before filming started, they were invited to an Omega type frat party, and ended up getting beat up after Tim Matheson hit on the girlfriend of one of the head preppy brothers, then drenched another with a cup of beer. This also united the Deltas.

The studio was not impressed with their initial screening. They just didn't understand it. Then they tried a sneak preview with a real audience went crazy over it, and the rest is history. It is the first, and the best, film in its genre. A very talented cast and crew went into the making of this film, but it is really John Belushi that is remembered. 

NUDITY REPORT

  • Breast exposure from Mary Louise Weller and her sorority sisters.
  • Breasts from Lisa Bauer and Sarah Holcomb.
  • Buns from Karen Allen
  • Lingerie from Verna Bloom and Martha Smith.
Scoop's comments in yellow:

NOTES ON THE MOVIE:

Everyone has his favorite moment in Animal House. Tuna likes the Peeping Tom scene. Celebrity Sleuth likes the Road Trip. My favorite is a simple, fleeting, wordless moment. The camera is on Bluto's (Belushi's) face when the Delta president is showing slides of the new recruits. Bluto is uninterested, probably thinking "who cares, are we out of beer?", when his face changes dramatically, fixed in horror. The camera then cuts away from his face, and we see the goofy high school yearbook picture of Flounder on the screen, being pelted with food and beer by the booing Deltas. It would have been a good scene even without Belushi, but his facial expression transformed it into comedy magic.

Landis pointed out in the special features on this DVD that the film started out as the producers' film, then became the writers' film, then briefly became Landis's film, but when the public finally saw it, there was no doubt that it was Belushi's film.

Someone told a marvelous bittersweet anecdote about a visit he made to John Belushi's grave on Martha's Vineyard. There was a hand-written sign taped to the stone. "He could have given us so much more laughter, but no-o-o-o-o-o- .. "

As I've pointed out in other reviews, the one thing which really distinguishes Animal House from the other funny campus comedies, besides the redoubtable talent of Belushi, is its sincerity. Old School is a funny movie, but it was obviously created by comedy writers trying to dream up silly situations. Animal House really happened, although it has been exaggerated for comic effect. Chris Miller, modeling the Deltas after his own fraternity at Dartmouth (Alpha Delta Phi), wrote a series of National Lampoon short stories which were eventually to become this movie.

I recognize a lot of these guys from my own college days, although I just missed this era. My fraternity house was the animal house of our university, and that is the exact term we used in 1966-67, twelve years before this movie came out. When I was a freshman looking to join a fraternity house, I went to a bunch of frats during rush week, and the animal house was the one where I was comfortable.

I had earlier gone to an interview at Alpha House, the intellectual frat. They served Chablis and played string quartet music while they conducted formal interviews by asking questions about subjects like the art of Andrew Wyeth.

In contrast, "C" house - my future fellow animals - had no interviews. When I showed up for my appointment, they were having a beer party and a guy named "Bone" was doing spit tricks and fart tricks. I guess you can guess what fart tricks are. Spit tricks involved Bone stuffing colorful food items into his mouth, spitting them upward until they stuck on the ceiling, then catching them back in his mouth as they dripped down. There was even pari-mutual wagering on the results, as I remember. His big crowd-pleasing finale was done with Hostess Cupcakes. I wonder whatever happened to Bone. I ended up staying all night, playing poker, drinking beer, and ducking drippings from the ceiling. My future was determined. And probably doomed.

Unfortunately or not, depending on your perspective, the whole world changed after those seniors graduated. Bone and his fellow seniors said "sayonara" in 1967, the Summer of Love happened immediately afterward, and the campus was never the same. Simple frat pranks, panty raids, and spit tricks were replaced by heavy dope smoking and serious anti-war politics. We continued to be animals, but the old days of beer blasts and politically incorrect "pig parties" were replaced by a new kind of consciousness, even for us. Nonetheless, from my experiences in the year when I was a freshman and Bone was a senior, I know that Chris Miller was tellin' it like it was in Animal House. If you graduated from college in the period 1963-1967, you probably know just how real Animal House is, because you knew these guys, even if you were not one of them. Ol' Bone had been a true Delta, even if I was just a half-breed.

Some fun facts about Animal House:

for the part of: Landis wanted: He ended up with:
Bluto John Belushi John Belushi
Otter Chevy Chase Tim Matheson
Boon Bill Murray Peter Riegert
Hoover Brian Doyle-Murray James Widdoes
D-Day Dan Aykroyd Bruce McGill
Dean Wormer Jack Webb John Vernon
Mrs. Wormer Kim Novak Verna Bloom

It's pretty obvious that they created D-Day with Aykroyd in mind. Dan and Chevy, and most of the others who passed on the film, liked the project but simply had other commitments.

Jack Webb?

During casting, director John Landis asked everyone if he had any unusual talents, and then tried to include that in the film Bruce (D-Day) McGill could really play the William Tell Overture on his throat, James (Hoover) Widdoes could juggle tennis rackets, and John (Bluto) Belushi could crush beer cans on his forehead.

Lots more great Animal House trivia here.

NOTES ON THE DVD:

To tell you the truth, I was disappointed with the new Double Secret Probationary Edition of Animal House, for the following reasons:

1. It's dark. You'd think they would have cleaned and brightened it when they remastered the whole thing.

2. Looking in on the characters 35 years after their graduation from Faber was a nice feature, but I was hoping for something else - something much better. There was originally another 66 minutes of footage which was cut from the film after the initial screenings. It wasn't cut because the footage sucked. The shorter running time was an economic decision. They knew from the preview audiences that the film would be a monster hit. Cutting it to 1:49 allowed them to run it three times per screen per evening. At the original 175 minute running time, only two evening showings would have been possible, and even two showings would have dragged the second one past midnight.

What was in the missing footage? Well, Chris Miller, one of the three co-authors of the script, also wrote an illustrated paperback book which expanded upon the story within the movie, and filled out the history of Delta House as well. The extra material in the book may not be precisely the same as the extended film footage, but it gives us a good indication of how the story would be fleshed out. Some of the material in his paperback merely expanded the roles of the minor characters like Mothball, Hardbar, and Stork, but some of it was fascinating material which provided more laughs and more insights.

  • Did you know why Pinto was called Pinto? The final cut of the movie doesn't say (Bluto simply says, "Why not?"), but there was an explanation in the longer version. Pinto had a childhood accident which caused his dick to become spotted, like the hide of a Pinto pony.

  • Also unrevealed in the final cut: How did the Deltas get persuaded to accept Flounder, despite their obvious disdain for him? The supplemental material indicates that they told Flounder he would be rejected unless he could somehow betray his best friend in the world,  with an important secret that the friend would not want revealed. Flounder immediately told them Pinto had a spotted dong, and they were both in.

  • Did you know D-Day was fond of reciting soliloquies from Hamlet and skiing down the stairs naked?

  • Interestingly, the final cut of the film lost what I thought was the most poster-friendly line in the movie. Bluto, outwitting a cafeteria wimpoid (played by director John Landis, below), says, "ya don't fuck with the eagles unless you know how to fly."

  • Didn't you wonder what Otter said in the rest of his pro-Flounder speech at sink night, which was obviously truncated? Did you wonder why some guy named Bruce Bonnheim, playing the part of B.B., is listed in the cast above Boon, Otter, Hoover, and D-Day? I don't even know who the hell he is, but obviously he must have been more important in an earlier cut.

  • The paperback actually has a different camera angle of the scene where Bluto pisses on their shoes. It is dark so there is no detail, but Belushi is actually seen grabbing his crotch and pissing, and the camera is in front of him.

The big question is this - "what happened to the other 66 minutes?" OK, maybe it sucks, maybe it's in bad condition, maybe it's not finished or not scored or something, but if it exists in any form, we fans wanna see it, right? The special edition DVD would have been an ideal place to showcase all that deleted footage. That's the very reason why DVD was invented.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Where Are They Now? A Delta Alumni Update

  • Did You Know That (Universal Animated Anecdotes)

  • The Yearbook: An Animal House Reunion

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

Yup, that would have been great.

But no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o ........

(cough) blowjob (cough)

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • At the time of its release, Animal House was the highest grossing comedy of all time ($141m). Adjusted for inflation, its box office is still in the top 200 films of any kind.

 

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Tuna says, "this is somewhere in the A to A- range. I suppose there are some who wouldn't be won over." Scoop says, "one of my favorite movies, a solid C+ as the king of its genre. A film that still resonates with 14 year old boys of all ages. Needless to say, it still doesn't play with the Chablis and Monet set, or the extremely religious, and people from outside the United States really don't get why it is supposed to be so funny. I guess ya hadda be dere, because for me watching this film is like entering a time warp.

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