Animal House (National Lampoon's) (1978)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 19-Jun-2002

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Featurette-"The Yearbook" - An "Animal House" Reunion
Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Web Links
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 104:09 (Case: 109)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (83:05) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Landis
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring John Belushi
Tim Matheson
John Vernon
Donald Sutherland
Thomas Hulce
Cesare Danova
Kevin Bacon
James Widdoes
Peter Riegart
Karen Allen
Bruce McGill
Douglas Kenney
Mark Metcalf
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Elmer Bernstein


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Dutch
German
Swedish
Norwegian
Polish
Czech
French
Greek
Turkish
Hungarian
Bulgarian
Smoking Yes, infrequent, but includes cannabis
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, The first Universal Studios joke after the credits

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

Plot Synopsis

    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, 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 Niedermeyer. 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.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    I'll get the bad news out of the way first - this film is not 16x9 enhanced. It is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which is good, but it would have been better if it had been 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is variable - there are moments of sharpness, but it is generally a bit soft. Shadow detail is not fabulous. In places it is downright poor, but it's mostly acceptable. At least there's no low-level noise.

    Colour is a bit variable, too. There are passages that are beautifully colourful, and others that are a bit dull, but colour is generally pretty good. At least there's no oversaturation or colour bleed.

    There are quite a few film artefacts, understandable in a film that's 24 years old, but almost all of them are tiny. Perhaps the worst is a watermark at 100:46. There's also a black mark at 34:09, but pretty much everything else is negligible. There's medium level aliasing and moire - I blame the lack of 16x9 enhancement - it would have been less trouble otherwise. There's mosquito noise, or background shimmer, too, but it doesn't overly detract from the film.

    There are subtitles in fifteen languages, including English. I watched the English subtitles. They are generally accurate, always well-timed and easy to read. I caught a real mistake: around 42:54 the audio says "...wrap yourself up in a bed sheet and pour grain alcohol all over your head", but the subtitle reads "...you'll dress in a sheet and drink too much".

    The disc is single-sided (with a picture label matching the cover) and RSDL-formatted, with the layer change at 83:05. It's a marvellous change, located at a scene change, before a scene that starts with a still image, so it is pretty much invisible.

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

Audio

    The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. That exhausts the list.

    The dialogue is clear and comprehensible, with no visible audio sync problems.

    Elmer Bernstein credits John Landis with the idea of scoring a comedy movie as though it were serious. It set a standard followed by a great many comedies since, because it works very well.

    This is a mono soundtrack - not a lot of scope for the surround speakers or the subwoofer.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu looks simple enough, but it is a bit of a pain to operate. It is easy enough to choose from the main menu, but it is not so easy to navigate from sub-menus to the main menu, mainly because it's hard to tell which minor item is selected.

Featurette - The Yearbook (an Animal House Reunion) (45:19)

    This is a documentary filmed in 1998, the 20th anniversary of the release of Animal House. They manage to track down and interview a great many of the cast and crew. This is quite an impressive effort, and much more interesting than the average Making-of. Very much recommended.

Production Notes

    9 pages of fairly small print conveying quite a bit of information about the production.

Bios - Cast and Crew

    A total of 79 pages of biographies and filmographies. We get bios for:

Trailer

    They claim this is the theatrical trailer, but it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced) - I rather suspect it is the TV trailer.

Weblinks

    There's a file called uni_lnks.htm you can open from a DVD-ROM drive to access Universal weblinks. Or you could simply visit:

    http://www.universalstudios.com/home

R4 vs R1

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

    This is an interesting situation. The Region 1 disc has almost identical features - all the same extras, and the film is presented in the same aspect ratio. The Region 1 disc is 16x9 enhanced, the Region 4 is not, so you'd think that it would be a lay-down win to the Region 1. However, I have compared the two carefully, and I have to recommend the Region 4. Why? Because the Region 1 version is quite dark, with lousy shadow detail through the vast majority of the film. The Region 4 video presentation is flawed, but the Region 1 is quite a bit worse. To make things worse, there's noticeable hiss in the soundtrack of the R1.

    Ideally, someone will make a better transfer at some point, with higher brightness, better shadow detail, and 16x9 enhancement; they might even remix the sound. Until then, I suggest you get the R4 disc.

Summary

    Animal House is one of the greatest comedies ever made.

    The video quality is not wonderful, but it's considerably better than the R1.

    The audio quality is perfectly acceptable.

    The extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
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

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Gavin T
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Chris W (read my bio)

Comments (Add) NONE