Animal House (National Lampoon's) (Blu-ray) (1978)

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Released 27-Jul-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-The Yearbook: Animal House Reunion
Featurette-Where Are They Now? A Delta Alumni Update
Game-Scene It? Animal House
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 108:46
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Landis
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring John Belushi
Tim Matheson
John Vernon
Verna Bloom
Thomas Hulce
Cesare Danova
Donald Sutherland
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $14.95 Music Elmer Bernstein


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Spanish dts 2.0
French dts 2.0
German dts 2.0
Italian dts 2.0
Spanish dts 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
French
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Danish
Norwegian
Finnish
Swedish
English
Smoking Yes, of numerous substances
Annoying Product Placement Yes, very mildly
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Watching a film that is nearly as old, or slightly older, as you are can sometimes be quite a trip. Animal House, National Lampoon's satire of America's tertiary education system, is so dated that even stamping every frame with this is a product of the late 1970s could not make it more so. And whilst it is still very funny in places, it sadly has not aged very well. Especially not in comparison to director John Landis’ next big hit, The Blues Brothers, which is due out at the end of this month.

     The plot, or rather the excuse to string one sketch to the next, concerns itself with two first-year students at the august institution of Faber College. Larry Kroger (Tom Hulce) and Kent Dorfman (Stephen Furst) begin proceedings by trying their luck at a more mainstream fraternity whose standards are, shall we say, a bit racist, classist, oh stuff it, let us just call them Nazi-wannabe Snob Fraternity, shall we? Anyway, after getting the message that they are not welcome, Larry and Kent go, on the suggestion of the latter, to a fraternity known as Delta Tau Chi. This is where all the fun begins. Delta Tau Chi has a reputation for being the worst fraternity at Faber. When Larry and Kent arrive at the door, they are greeted by semi-permanent student John Blutarsky (John Belushi), who urinates all over their feet. From that point it only seems to get worse as the drunken antics accelerate, and we meet such fraternity figures as chapter president Robert Hoover (James Widdoes), perpetually-annoyed girlfriend Katy (Karen Allen), D-Day (Bruce McGill), and rush Chairman Eric Stratton (Tim Matheson), to name a few. And as so often turns out to be the case, the outsiders prove to be the most fun to be around.

     Of course, this would not be much of a film if this was just about a bunch of academic no-hopers getting drunk enough to sing along with the Kingsmen's version of Louie, Louie and stay in both time and key. So we are introduced to Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon), who not-so-nicely requests that Nazi-wannabe Snob Fraternity do whatever they can to sabotage Delta Tau Chi both in academic and legal-obedience terms. Neither proves to be especially difficult as the fraternity has the kind of academic grades that would get them thrown out within a semester in the present local tertiary academic system. But all this does is whet the Delta's appetites for destructive and hilarious pranks.

     While a whole universe of things has changed since Animal House was first released, other things have certainly not. The tertiary education system both here and there is still used as a hidden reinforcement of a class/caste system. It still tries to make a pretence of being open to all those who qualify, while still separating the haves and have-nots. Animal House touches a little on these subjects, but none of this matters one bit in light of the hilarity it still occasionally rises to.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Animal House has never had a great run on digital home media. Part of this reflects the fact that the film was shot on a budget of three million dollars in 1978.

     The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window. The transfer varies in terms of sharpness. Close-ups have a level of detail that probably was not even visible in circa '78 theatrical prints. Medium shots are also visibly improved over the previous DVD release, but long shots are diffuse to an extent that leads me to wonder how much of that three mil they actually spent on negatives. Shadow detail has always been the biggest problem with this film, and this Blu-ray is no exception to that. There is a certain halo at the edge of unlit areas in the frame where a small amount of detail can be made out, then absolutely nothing. As much of this film takes place at night, it is a small mercy that the parts of the image which are important to make sense of the story are as sharp and detailed as they are. But this is one disc I cannot emphasise enough that I recommend watching in controlled lighting conditions. Low-level noise was not a problem in this transfer. Unlike many films of today, nothing was done to mess with the colour palette of Animal House. The transfer reflects this, with accurate skin tones and a total absence of bleeds or misregistration.

     The transfer is compressed with the VC-1 algorithm, and appears to be more or less completely free of compression artefacting. This is a big improvement over the first release of this film on DVD, where outdoor night scenes in particular appeared ready to explode into macro-blocking. Another big improvement is the total absence of aliasing, which was rampant on roads and greenery on previous releases. Film artefacts also appear to have been much reduced compared to the original DVD release. Grain is still visible in moderate amounts during the sequence with the angel and devil arguing, but this is more a reflection of the cheap methodology used to create this effect.

     Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired. They are pretty accurate to the spoken word, offering little to really complain about.

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

Audio

     Again, this film was shot on a small budget. Unfortunately, the audio transfer reflects this to a greater degree.

     A total of six soundtracks are offered on this disc. The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, bitrate unknown. Dubs are offered in DTS 2.0, in Latin Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Castilian Spanish.

     The dialogue in the English soundtrack is generally quite clear and easy to understand. It is also very well separated from the music and sound effects for the most part. Unfortunately, the lossless compression also serves to highlight the limitations of the original recording methods. Clipping is often evident when John Belushi really raises his voice, and at other moments when the amplitude of a given effect has pushed the recording equipment that little bit too far. Audio sync was usually spot-on, the only real exception being during sequences in which on-screen characters sing.

     The music in the film consists of a score by Elmer Bernstein, and several pieces contemporary to the period depicted. The score is pretty workman-like in nature, neither standing out too much nor being terrible. Otis Day appears in the film and performs a couple of his hits from the time, and of course there is a performance of The Kingsmen’s version of Louie, Louie that has to be heard to be believed. These numbers are the true musical signature of the film.

     The surround channels are used during outdoor scenes to separate the environmental sound effects, or during party scenes to enhance the raucous feel (and the music). They are not especially worked hard. The subwoofer occasionally made a peep during music sequences, but otherwise had the night off.

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

Extras

     A small helping of extras are present. Unfortunately, they are all recycled from a previous "special edition" of the DVD, and reflect this. Details can be found in our review of the previous DVD edition here. The Theatrical Trailer is especially terrible, being heavily window boxed within the 1.78:1 frame. If I recall correctly, the theatrical trailer provided on one of the DVD releases was 1.85:1 within a 4:3 frame, and had Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    A check of High-Def Digest's review of the Region A disc reveals more or less identical specifications, right down to the soundtrack and subtitle options. Given how cheaply I was able to pick this title up locally, importing this title seems wasteful to me.

Summary

     Animal House is one of those comedies that, unfortunately, diminishes over time. It is, however, a classic for the ages thanks to a cast full of awesome performances, especially from John Belushi and Sarah Holcomb. For whiling away a quiet night or sharing some kind of nostalgia with friends, it might work, but it tends to fit more into that once-in-a-blue-moon category. That is unless you are a fan of one of the actors or have a more avid interest in the art of film-making.

     The video transfer is good, but held back by the limitations of the source material. The audio transfer is good during some scenes, but most of the film may as well be in mono. The extras are very limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD45, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-P50U20A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

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