It is 1978 and I have as usual selected three off-List movies to watch and review. This was more difficult than usual with plenty of great movies to choose from, yet I was never in doubt that I had to watch and review “Animal House”.
“Animal House” is the mother of all college comedies. Every single college comedy made since refers back to this movie, some more directly than others, whether it be the Nerds movies, American Pie (though technically high school) or “Accepted”. “Animal House” founded an entire genre and still remains among the best.
At the Faber college we find two polar opposite fraternities, the elite Omega house and the cool Delta house. While the Omega’s are straightlaced, elitist and mean, the Delta’s are fun, open and rebellious towards authorities. It is 1962 and the Delta’s are doing their best to party and skip actual schoolwork. The Deltas include such notable characters as Bluto (John Belushi), Otter (Tim Matheson), Flounder (Stephen Furst), D-Day (Bruce McGill), Hoover (James Widdoes) and many more.
Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon) has long seen the Deltas as a disgrace to the college and is looking for a good excuse to close it and expel the Deltas. To that end, he is setting the Omegas up to find dirt on them. This of course starts, if not simply extends, an ongoing war between the fraternities. The pranks pulled are awesome and hilarious.
In the end however the Dean manages to get them expelled and rather than repairing the situation, the Deltas set out on full scale rebellion. Crazy, career-suicidal, and outrageous.
There is no question this is one of the funniest college movies ever made. It is not a joke per minute style, but the setup and the pranks that are hilarious. The horse prank is gorgeous and Belushi is fun just by appearing. But it is also a rebellion movie in the tradition of “Zero de Conduit” and “If…”, where the students are challenging the system in an all-out attack, from which there is no way back. That makes it a very seventies movie in a way few college movies have been since. The way the Deltas are solving their problems by simply not addressing them is very counterculture. It takes a little to get the head into that mindset.
Everybody involved in this movie, with the exception of Donald Sutherland and Verna Bloom, were in the beginning of their career and if “Animal House” did not make them, then it was at least a huge step forward. John Landis as director, Harold Ramis as scriptwriter and Ivan Reitman as producer all went on to become huge. If you do not recognize those names, I am wondering why you are reading this blog. Karen Allen as Katy, Kevin Bacon as Chip Diller and Bruce McGill started out here and got excellent careers as did much of the cast. Even Elmer Bernstein with a long career in scoring behind him founded a new way of scoring comedies and did little else for the next ten years.
In fact, as great as “Animal House” is on it own, its real value should be measured in its legacy. Who has not been to a toga party in college? Who does not recognize these types from their college days? In fact, what campus did not screen this movie over the next forty years (I know our dorm did… a few times…). “Animal House” has left its mark everywhere.
It was also one of the few movies John Belushi did in his far too short career.
Don’t throw away you student years, but if you have to, this is the way to do it.