Animal House: 25th Anniversary Special Edition (National Lampoon's) (1978)

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Released 21-Jan-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Featurette-Where Are They Now? A Delta House Update
Music Video-MXPX - Shout
On-Screen Information Track-Did You KnowThat? Universal's Anecdotes
Featurette-The Year Book: An Animal House Reunion
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 104:12
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (74:41) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By John Landis
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring John Belushi
Tim Matheson
John Vernon
Verna Bloom
Tom Hulce
Cesare Danova
Peter Riegert
Mary Louise Weller
Stephen Furst
James Daughton
Bruce McGill
Mark Metcalf
DeWayne Jessie
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Elmer Bernstein
Stephen Bishop


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Russian
English Information
Danish Information
Finnish Information
Norwegian Information
Swedish Information
English Titling
Smoking Yes, tobacco and marijuana
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Ask for Babs!

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This Special Edition is the second time Animal House has been released in Region 4. The first version was released just over 18 months ago. In the meantime, this film was re-released in Region 1 in a "Double Secret Probation" edition. Reports have it that this new version in Region 1 has a better transfer (it would want to!).

    Everything I said about the movie in my previous review still holds, so I'm going to quote it here:

    National Lampoon was a magazine long before it became a prefix to various Vacation movies. "To lampoon" means "to satirise" or, in Australian parlance, "to send up". The idea behind "National Lampoon" is kinda to keep public figures honest by sending them up. Quite a long time ago (the late 1970s) one of the most important contributors to National Lampoon, Douglas Kenney, wanted to quit - he felt burnt out. He was told he couldn't quit because they needed him for the movie (there was no movie - this was just a ploy to keep him). This is the story we're told about the accidental start of the project that produced Animal House; it's believable, even if it sounds farfetched. This was the first movie National Lampoon made, but far from the last - unfortunately, it's arguable that they have yet to produce a film as good as this first one.

    Animal House is simple in premise - it is the story of "the worst fraternity on campus" at Faber College, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity. These guys are fun-loving, beer-drinking, and irreverent - not criminal attributes, but very unpopular with the Dean of the college, and with the snooty Omega fraternity who live next door - perhaps they are just jealous? The Dean (John Vernon) is looking for an excuse to kick them off campus, and the Omegas are willing to help.

    This is an ensemble piece, with a large cast contributing. It's hard to believe that the majority of these actors were comparative unknowns at the time, given how far some of them have come since - for example, this was Kevin Bacon's first real role; Karen Allen had yet to do Raiders of the Lost Ark; John Belushi was known for other things, but this was his first big movie. This was also Harold Ramis' first script. John Landis had made a couple of movies, but this was his first big success. Even Elmer Bernstein points out that this was his first comedy (he was renowned for dramatic scores to serious movies), and lead to ten years of scoring comedies. By the way, if you're a Buffy fan, you might be amused to know that the actor who played The Master in Season One of Buffy, Mark Metcalf, here plays Douglas Neidermeyer. This is one of the best movies John Belushi made in his short career (I include The Blues Brothers and Neighbours in that list).

    This movie was released in 1978, and I was in university at the time, so I could relate to it, even though there's no fraternity system in Australian universities. Yep, I knew people like so many of the characters in this movie. That's part of the reason this film was so outrageously successful - the characters are universally recognised.

    This film has been shown on television more than once, and the TV version is somewhat censored. This version is not censored, at least as far as I can tell. All the nudity is there (especially the sorority and road trip scenes), and the language is a little coarser. I think they filmed a couple of versions of the scene in the car on the road trip, because there's a goof as Shelly is ejected from the car (you'll see it if you watch carefully). If you're worried that you might be offended by the nudity, don't worry, it's just a few breasts and buttocks - you're much more likely to be offended by the scenes in Gregg Marmalard's sports car...

    This movie inspired a lot of comedies, but few, if any, have approached the wit of this one. The humour varies widely, from the delicate (Jennings' lecture on Milton) to the slapstick (the golf lesson, the horse..), even cartoon (Kevin Bacon in front of the crowd). It never descends into toilet humour (well, maybe once). In fact, it's never crude humour - a few of the jokes may be sexual, but they're beautifully polished. And you have to admire a movie that includes jokes like the shoe through the glass coffee table (you'll understand when you see it).

    Look, if you have seen this movie, you'll know if you want it on DVD (and you probably will). If you haven't seen this movie, but you like comedy, then you should take a risk - this is a lot of fun.

    The film hasn't changed, but the transfer has, so let's move on to talk about the transfer:

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. That's the original aspect ratio so it gets a big tick there. And the previous R4 disc wasn't 16x9 enhanced, so it gets another big tick for that.

    The image is a little soft, but reasonably clear. The image is rather dark (I thought the previous R1 Collector's Edition was very dark — this is almost as dark). Shadow detail is fairly poor. Film grain is not too bad, but it's quite noticeable. There's no low-level noise.

    Colour looks fairly well-rendered, once you get past the fact that it's too dark; there are a few scenes that look somewhat dull, but that is probably related to the source material. There are no colour-related artefacts.

    There are some small film artefacts, but nothing of any significance apart from the film grain.

    Aliasing is not a serious problem, and nor is moiré. There is no visible shimmer, and no MPEG artefacts. In all, this transfer is rather cleaner than the previous one.

    There are subtitles in just six languages, including English. I watched the English subtitles, and they are more accurate than the previous set, but just as easy to read, and equally well-timed.

    The disc is single-sided and dual-layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 74:41. It's very obvious, coming in the middle of a scene, and halting walking people in mid-step — quite a poor effort, and very much inferior to the previous one.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is only provided in English, but this time it's a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. It's not an exciting surround mix, but it's a bit of an improvement over the original mono.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. There are no audio sync problems.

    Elmer Bernstein's score is marvellous. He credits John Landis with the idea of scoring this as a serious film — it's funnier than an old-fashioned comedy score would have been.

    The subwoofer gets nothing of any significance to do. The surrounds get used for some score, but there are no significant directional effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are some decent extras on this disc, but still no commentary, and the production notes, bios and filmographies have been removed.

Menu

    The menu is cute, with grabs from the movie (some spoilers, even!) — animated with sound.

Featurette: Where Are They Now? A Delta House Update (23:23)

    This is a silly, but fun, pseudo-documentary made by John Landis (in 2003). He follows up quite a few of the characters, showing us where they have gotten to (can you guess where Babs is?). Entertaining, but it feels like the joke is stretched out about twice as long as it justifies.

Music Video: MXPX Shout (4:20)

    This is a band whose members were probably in nappies (if even alive) when the film was made, performing Shout. I don't know what this is doing here.

Trivia Track: Did You Know That? Universal's Anecdotes

    This trivia track has decent content, but it lacks some style: the items of trivia are presented as regular subtitles, unlike the neat boxes of text we see on other discs. Because it is presented as a subtitle track, it means that the end of the movie, where we're told what happens to each of the main characters, is spoiled — those subtitles don't appear. It's a shame the people who did this track didn't think to include those items — it wouldn't have been hard to do that.

Featurette: The Yearbook: An Animal House Reunion (45:19)

    This is the 1998 documentary piece that was on the previous disc. It's an excellent piece, and one that I'd expect to see included, but nothing new

Theatrical Trailer (2:45)

    Not 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Collector's Edition Region 1 version of this movie was released some time ago. It was 16x9 enhanced, unlike the original Region 4 disc, but it was quite dark. At the time, I recommended getting the R4, despite it not being 16x9 enhanced, because of the darkness of the R1. Now there's a Double Secret Probation version out in Region 1, and apparently it has a slightly better transfer, plus a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix.

    As far as I can ascertain, the Double Secret Probation Edition has exactly the same extras as the R4 Special Edition. I also get the impression that the two discs have fairly similar transfers (there are complaints about the darkness).

    I have compared the two R4 discs, and I have to say that the new one is definitely better, albeit a bit darker. There are significantly fewer artefacts, and the 16x9 enhancement has a real effect on the resolution. If you have the previous version, you'll see the difference.

    For now, I'm going to recommend this new R4 Special Edition, but there's definitely still plenty of scope for a better transfer some time in the future.

Summary

    A marvellous comedy, still given an imperfect transfer to DVD.

    The video quality is reasonable, but darker than it should be.

    The audio quality is good, but far from being a surround-sound spectacular.

    The extras are fun, but I'd love to hear a Landis commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, December 19, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
different songs than last edition -
The Music Change - Dane S (Bio...were you expecting some smart alec remark?)