National Lampoon's Vacation

Details At A Glance

Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1983 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 94:14 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 4 Director Harold Ramis

Warner Home Video
Starring Chevy Chase
Beverly D'Angelo
Imogene Coca
Randy Quaid
John Candy
Christie Brinkley
RRP $34.95 Music Ralph Burns

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 1.0
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    One of a series of films, each progressively worse than the next in the opinion of some, under the National Lampoon banner and the first of the "Vacation" series.

    Clarke Griswold (Chevy Chase) is the ultimate loser who dreams of being like everyone else - except he does not know it. He has visions of dragging his family across the United States to visit Walley World in the perfect family vacation. Since this is the Griswolds, the trip is obviously fraught with adventures beyond the comprehension of most people, right from picking up his new car - where he takes a car he did not order. Wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) takes most of this in stride, but things do get a little carried away at times as they bumble their way across the western part of the United States, especially when the stunning blonde in a red Ferrari (Christie Brinkley) attracts Clarke's attention. Eventually the Griswold's reach Walley World - only to find it is closed for two weeks maintenance. Naturally, Clarke goes a little off the deep end, but everything works out well in the end.

    One of the endearing characteristics of the National Lampoon films is that plot really does not count for an awful lot, and if you want plot you are really barking up the wrong tree here. These films are supposed to be 'stupid', hence the name 'lampoon' - and that is precisely what they are. And Chevy Chase plays this sort of role all too well. The only problem with the film is that it really does not bear repeated viewing too well. This is now only saved from the dire pile by Christie Brinkley - one very attractive woman - and a seriously nice car, but that is my personal view.

Transfer Quality


    This is very much a run of the mill transfer - nothing too great but not too bad either.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Since this is sixteen years old, it cannot compete with more recent films: the transfer is not that sharp and lacks a little in definition. This is not to say it is unwatchable, indeed it comes up a lot better than I expected; it simply means do not expect brilliance here. Shadow detail is quite average and this is where the transfer really shows its age a little.

    Colours are very rich, and almost hint at oversaturation throughout. The resultant skin tones for instance take a little getting used to, but the transfer is consistent in this regard. The colours were quite vibrant where necessary.

    There was a hint of possible MPEG artefacts during the sequences involving the rollercoaster, where some parts got slightly blurred, although this is not too noticeable unless you are looking for it. There were hints of video artefacts in the form of some quite minor wobble in the later stages of the film, although this is again not too noticeable. Surprisingly, film artefacts were not too much of a problem, although they were present.


    What is this - mono Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtracks?

    There are three such mono Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtracks: the default English, French and Italian. The default English soundtrack was listened to.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand throughout.

    Audio sync did not appear to be a problem with the transfer, although at times I felt that it did seem to be on the verge of getting out of sync. Some who have especially sensitive players or who have less tolerance for audio sync may have some quibble here.

    The music score comes from Ralph Burns and a thoroughly undistinguished effort it is too. The highlights here are definitely the two songs from Lindsey Buckingham (of Fleetwood Mac fame), "Holiday Road" and "Dancing Across the USA"; the former is well used throughout the film.

    You can forget the surround channels in this one - they get no use whatsoever, nor does the bass channel.


    Yeah, right. The packaging refers to production notes, but these are not present on the disc. The packaging also gives a screen capture for the menu of the Region 1 release which includes recommendations - false advertising?


    Slightly more adventurous effort from Warners here, but since the DVD plays straight into the movie and subtitle and language options can be selected from the remote, it does not have a whole heap to do. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:     If widescreen format is an absolute necessity, then clearly Region 4 is the way to go. If not, then since the Region 1 version has a bit more in the way of extras, and is probably available slightly cheaper by e-order, then Region 1 is the way to go. Your choice on this one - although I will always go for the widescreen option.
[Ed. I would personally always prefer the correct theatrical aspect ratio over everything else.]


    National Lampoon's Vacation was once a funny film - but it has not held its appeal at all well over the years.

    Overall video quality is acceptable.

    Overall audio quality is barely acceptable, since it is mono.

    There are no extras to worry about.

    You will note the RRP shown above - yes folks, the prices from Warner's have gone up by $5, effective this month. A sixteen year old film, bugger all extras, incorrect packaging and a cheap cardboard/plastic snapper case to boot. They really have to be joking big time, surely? Sorry guys, but this is my symbolic last retail purchase of a Warner's Region 4 DVD until you come to your senses. If you want to charge the same price as everyone else, then package the goods the same as everyone else. My how the one time Region 4 leader has fallen rapidly behind the competition.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
17th October 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL