Animal House [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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National Lampoon's Animal House
A groundbreaking screwball caper, 1978's National Lampoon's Animal House was in its own way a rite of passage for Hollywood. Set in 1962 at Faber College, it follows the riotous carryings-on of the Delta Fraternity, into which are initiated freshmen Tom Hulce and Stephen Furst. Among the established house members are Tim Matheson, Peter Riegert and the late John Belushi as Bluto, a belching, lecherous, Jack Daniels guzzling maniac. A debauched house of pranksters (culminating in the famous Deathmobile sequence), Delta stands as a fun alternative to the more strait-laced, crew-cut, unpleasantly repressive norm personified by Omega House. As cowriter the late Doug Kenney puts it, "better to be an animal than a vegetable".
Animal House is deliberately set in the pre-JFK assassination, pre-Vietnam era, something not made much of here, but which would have been implicitly understood by its American audience. The film was an enormous success, a rude, liberating catharsis for the latter-day frathousers who watched it. However, decades on, a lot of the humour seems broad, predictable, boorish, oafishly sexist and less witty than Airplane!, made two years later in the same anarchic spirit. Indeed, although it launched the Hollywood careers of several of its players and makers, including Kevin Bacon, director John Landis, Harold Ramis and Tom Hulce, who went on to do fine things, it might well have been inadvertently responsible for the infantilisation of much subsequent Hollywood comedy. Still, there's an undeniable energy that gusts throughout the film and Belushi, whether eating garbage or trying to reinvoke the spirit of America "After the Germans bombed Pearl Harbour" is a joy.
On the DVD: Animal House comes to disc in a good transfer, presented in 1.85:1. The main extra is a featurette in which director John Landis, writer Chris Miller and some of the actors talk about the making of the movie. Interestingly, 23 years on, most of those interviewed look better than they did back in 1978, especially Stephen "Flounder" Furst. --David Stubbs --This text refers to the Blu-ray edition.
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This little devil, however, was amongst the first they made, and bucks all those later trends. You can easily watch it once a month, the humour is broad and black at the same time, and it's got such universal appeal, I've always wished I'd still been at Grammar school when it came out, so I could've tried a few tricks from the movie here. Unfortunately, I'd have been a peculiar retard to still be there aged 27!!
One good reason for its' success is the excellent weaseally performance of John Vernon as Dean Wormer. His crypto-Fascist efforts to squash Delta fraternities fun and excesses have remained ursurpassed, even by Alan Rickman as Sheriff of Nottingham in Prince of Thieves-talk about the pantomime villian incarnate.
But, of course, it helps to have a hero to match and finally outwit that villian. Luckily, it isn't an anaemic and tree-hugging one-it's the one and only John Belushi. There's probably no point in anyone else being on screen in every scene he's in-he just dominates events quite wonderfully.
I'll leave it there & not spoil the ending-let's just say the final battle between the WASP's and the anarachic Delta frat is something to behold, and beats Star Wars or Lord of the Rings hands down!
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