Plot: What’s it about?
“My advice to you is to start drinking heavily…”
Ah yes…”National Lampoon’s Animal House”! This was, of course, back in the day that the preface “National Lampoon’s…” actually meant you could expect some sort of a quality movie. Unlike today. For every “Annie Hall”, “Star Wars” or “The Deer Hunter” that they had back in the late 70’s, there was a movie that was drastically their opposite. This sounds a bit odd, though, as Animal House was actually a critical and financial success. But it wasn’t meant to be that way, it just worked out. You might say it was the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” of its day. The unquestioned star of the movie was John Belushi, who tragically died of a drug overdose just a few years after the film. Belushi was a success on the then early days of Saturday Night Live and he was one of the first members of the cast who made the successful leap from television cast member to bona fide movie star. Still, though, to say that “Animal House” worked just because of John Belushi is just silly, as the supporting cast played just as much of a role in its success as the title charter of “Bluto”. So what did John Landis (who helmed a variety of movies including “An American Werewolf in London”, “Trading Places” and “Kentucky Fried Movie”) do that was so right?
There isn’t really much of a plot when it comes to “Animal House”. Fraternities have been stereotyped with this label ever since it came out (and countless others have been claiming that they were the original Animal House before it came out). The tagline for “Caddyshack” says it all “The Snobs versus the Slobs”! But the story does follow two Freshmen, Larry Kroger (Tom Hulce, who would gain more notoriety in “Amadeus” years later) and Kent Dorfman (Stephen Flounder) as they decide on which fraternity is right for them. Having looked at the best and the rest, they finally end up at the Delta House (Delta Tau Chi) where they see that life is different and this is something that they like. The men of the Delta house may not have money, looks or a good name on campus, but they know how to party. And isn’t that what college is all about, my friends? The movie follows them (now named ‘Pinto’ and ‘Flounder’ along with the rest of their pledge brothers) through their term as maggots as they play pranks on the other fraternities and try to avoid being expelled after their house is placed on “Double Secret Probation” (ironically enough, the name of this DVD set). Together with Bluto (John Belushi), Otter (Tim Matheson), Boon (Peter Riegert); they battle the men of the Omega house (with a young Kevin Bacon as a pledge) for the right to stay on campus.
“Animal House” is simply a movie that will never be duplicated. Though many have tried (to varying degrees of success), most all of them have failed. For all the success that “Revenge of the Nerds” had, it’s still off by a long shot compared to this movie. The characters are unforgettable, even the ones with little or no speaking parts; and every fraternity man in the country (including me) has either been forced to or has tried to imitate a character from the film in one way or another. It has all of the politically incorrect scenes that we wouldn’t expect to see today, teenage drunkenness, date rape (though in a very funny light), drug use, and cheating in college to name but a few (oh, and they kill a horse in the dean’s office…you know, the usual). We root for the men of Delta Tau Chi because they represent us, whether we know it or not, even the “Omegas” of the world will find something to relate to in “Animal House”. The movie also coined the phrase “Food Fight” and probably inspired so many toga parties that the producers wish they had a copyright on the term. I take a quote from my original review of the movie when I say “ … no collection is complete without it.” (And I’d like to think I’ve improved on my DVD reviews since then)! Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Believe it or not, this is now the third incarnation of the movie in the DVD format. The first version was a full-frame only version that, well, sucked. The second did sport a “new” anamorphic transfer that was good at the time (1999), but times and technology have changed a lot since then. This new version has yet another new anamorphic transfer (one that John Landis called “too good”) that takes the movie-going experience to an even higher level. Framed in it’s 1.85:1 anamorphic aspect ration, “Animal House” has literally never looked better. The colors are bright, vivid and sharp though it does seem a bit odd for a low-budget film to look this good (especially 25 years after its initial release). Still, fleshtones look on target and though there is some artifacting and edge enhancement to be seen, it’s not at all that bad. If you have an earlier version of this movie, sorry, but you’ll have to upgrade for the picture-quality alone.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio isn’t nearly as important as the video here, but that’s not to say that it’s not important at all. I mean, how could we hear all of the jokes if not for a great audio track? Now granted, this movie would probably still be funny even if there were no audio, but it’s just not important to the film. Yes, we get to hear versions of “Louie, Louie”, “Hey, Hey Paula” and “Shout” among others, but the new 5.1 mix is a definite improvement over the previous mono soundtrack. Dialogue still has somewhat of a “whispy” quality to it, and thereby dates the movie a bit. Still, this movie doesn’t depend on the audio that much and though a new 5.1 track is included, there really is no need (yes, I basically just said that in the earlier sentence). No matter which route you go, you’ll be getting a better mix here as opposed to one of the earlier versions out there.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Though it sounds a bit odd, “Animal House” is yet the latest movie to be released as a “Special Edition” edition. Though some of the features are the same, this one has a rather interesting feature in that it has an all-new interview with the cast in character! This is surely something that will be ripped off on other discs, but the crew seemed to have some fun with it and I though it was hilarious! There’s not a commentary track, but there is a “Pop Up” trivia track that offers some information (though if you’re a hard-core fan like me, you know most of it already). The documentary is intact from the previous disc as is the original theatrical trailer and some music videos. All in all, as far as Special Editions go, this leaves a little t be desired; but the disc is a must own even if you already own the original. I said it before and I’ll say it again…this disc belongs in any collection.