NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE
US, 1978, 108 minutes, Colour.
John Belushi, Thomas Hulce, Tim Matheson, Stephen Furst, Bruce Mc Gill, Peter Reigert, Karen Allen, Donald Sutherland, John Vernon, Cesare Danova, Kevin Bacon.
Directed by John Landis.
When it first appeared in 1978, Animal House was very popular and well received and reviewed. It seemed rather cheeky at the time – with a touch of the permissive. It was set in a fraternity at a university in 1962, well before the 1960s actually came into being, though the behaviour of the students anticipates some of the drug-taking, sexual freedom, anti-authoritarianism.
The film was directed by John Landis who was to make The Blues Brothers and American Werewolf in London soon after this.
John Belushi appears as an extremely eccentric character, with a distinctive screen presence. He was to make The Blues Brothers but died of an overdose in 1982.
This was the first appearance of Tom Hulce (as Thomas Hulce) on screen. He had a strong career, especially with his Oscar-nominated performance as Mozart in Amadeus. However, he was mainly a star of the stage. Tim Matheson and many of the other cast had prominent careers but principally on television. In fact, the main person in the cast who had a more successful career on screen was introduced in this film (and gave a somewhat stilted performance), Kevin Bacon. Karen Allen also appeared in many films in the 1980s, principally in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Another familiar face, though not particularly well known by name, is Bruce Mc Gill who had a constant career for many decades, often as a screen villain. Peter Reigert also appeared continuously for many decades on the big screen and on television. Amongst the adults, John Vernon appeared regularly in films of the 1970s and Donald Sutherland had a career spanning almost fifty years.
In comparison with some of the college fraternity films of later decades, with their crass characters and behaviour and unsubtle writing, Animal House appears something of a classic. In fact, it is on the National Registry of Films in the US.
1.The classic status of the film, the national registry?
2.The impact in its time, cheerful and cheeky, daring, spoof aspects?
3.How does the film seem in the light of subsequent decades, crass college comedies? Its tone, humour, moral perspective? The questioning of traditional morality and behaviour?
4.The work of the director, the cast, their careers?
5.The 1962 setting, the pre-1960s, the free 60s on the way? Education, discipline, fraternities, authorities? The young, freedoms, drugs, sex, wild oats? Eccentric behaviour?
6.Larry and Kent, their being introduced, the nerdish group, their reaction? Backgrounds, expectations? Kent and his brother (and the later borrowing of the car, and the crashing of the car, its being used as a float in the parade)? The interviews with the fraternity presidents, the reaction of the presidents, Kent and Larry being offloaded, despised? The group of eccentric students?
7.The picture of the fraternity presidents, their WASP style, presumptions, snobbery, attitudes?
8.The meetings, the votes, the reasons for accepting Larry, for accepting Kent? The ceremony, their fraternity names?
9.Delta fraternity, its reputation, rough, mayhem? The president and his earnestness in keeping order? Otter and his supreme self-confidence, his sidekick? Superior attitudes, behaviour, meeting all the would-be fraternity members? Drinking? The sidekick and his relationship with Katie, his treatment of her? John Belushi as the eccentric, the anarchic behaviour, his comments?
10.The picture of the lectures, Jennings, the lecture on Milton, his reaction to Milton, the students and the tutorial, his offering them pot, at his house, his relationship with the students, the revelation of his affair with Katie?
11.Larry, taking pot, the others, the early days of drug-taking?
12.Their activities, the dean and his critique, the military leadership, the parades, the discipline, shouting at the men, the push-ups? The incident with the horse, the officer falling off, the cleaning up of the stables, Kent, the gun, the dead horse, in the dean’s office – and the comedy of the dean interviewing the mayor and the man measuring the horse and preparing to cut it up and move it?
13.Otter, his girlfriends, his presumptions, leadership? The drinking? Otter’s sidekick and his ambition to drink all the time? Katie and her reaction? His shock about discovering Katie with Jennings?
14.John Belushi’s performance, his antics, taking the food in the cafeteria leading up to the food fight, ogling the girls on the ladder? Deday(**??) and his friendship, mechanic, sharing in all the mischief?
15.The dean, his spite, using the WASP leaders as spies, the plan to ruin Delta, expel it? The double secret surveillance? The discussions with the mayor, the need for financial support? His confronting the Delta men? The build-up to the hearing, his prompting the judges, the confrontation with Otter?
16.Larry, life in the frat, his being persuaded to steal in the supermarket, the encounter with the checkout girl, inviting her out, the drinking, the build-up to a sexual encounter, her age, her being the mayor’s daughter? His later going back and discovering the truth?
17.Otter, the encounter with the dean’s wife, drinking, inviting her to the party? Her arrival?
18.The hearing, the speeches, Otter and his rousing up the group with patriotism, the Delta supporters, the dean, the members of the board, the dean’s spies? The walkout?
19.Otter, the girl, her jealousy, setting him up, the phone call, the motel, his being bashed?
20.The military types, treatment of the others, Kevin Bacon as the young follower? His severity?
21.The sex taunts, the WASPS, their inadequacy and impotence? Their being satirised?
22.The parade, the preparation for the mayhem, the motivation, buying the marbles, the floats, the car being repaired, the float coming apart, the girls and their clothes, the collapse of the dais? The dignitaries, their scurrying for safety?
23.The aftermath, the various pieces of information about the various characters, satiric – and Larry being the editor of National Lampoon?