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
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:
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.
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.
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.
Yup, that would have been great.
But no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o ........
(cough) blowjob (cough)
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