National Lampoon's Animal House


1h 49m 1978

Brief Synopsis

A college fraternity made up of misfits makes life miserable for the school's conservative dean..

Film Details

Also Known As
American College, Animal House, Deltagänget, Desmadre a la americana
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Comedy
Period
Release Date
1978

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 49m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Unable to gain acceptance at the snootier fraternities they pledge, the Deltas, a a motley crew of misfits and sociopaths bent on disrupting the well-starched status quo, engage in various illegalities that land them in hot water with both the stern college dean and the neighboring jock fraternity. Their exploits eventually cause them to be placed on "double-secret probation," until finally, they are kicked out of school and, as the dean reminds them, newly eligible for the Vietnam draft.

Film Details

Also Known As
American College, Animal House, Deltagänget, Desmadre a la americana
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Comedy
Period
Release Date
1978

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 49m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)


Elmer Bernstein, the film composer who created unforgettable music for such classics as The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, and won his only Academy Award for Thoroughly Modern Millie, died of natural causes at his Ojai, California home on August 17. He was 82.

Elmer Bernstein, who was not related to Leonard Bernstein, was born on August 4, 1922, in New York City. He displayed a talent in music at a very young age, and was given a scholarship to study piano at Juilliard when he was only 12. He entered New York University in 1939, where he majored in music education. After graduating in 1942, he joined the Army Air Corps, where he remained throughout World War II, mostly working on scores for propaganda films. It was around this time he became interested in film scoring when he went to see William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), a film whose score was composed by Bernard Herrmann, a man Bernstein idolized as the ideal film composer.

Bernstein, who originally intended to be a concert pianist and gave several performances in New York after being discharged from military service, decided to relocate to Hollywood in 1950. He did his first score for the football film Saturday's Hero (1950), and then proved his worth with his trenchant, moody music for the Joan Crawford vehicle Sudden Fear (1952). Rumors of his "communist" leanings came to surface at this time, and, feeling the effects of the blacklist, he found himself scoring such cheesy fare as Robot Monster; Cat Women of the Moon (both 1953); and Miss Robin Caruso (1954).

Despite his politics, Otto Preminger hired him to do the music for The Man With the Golden Arm, (1955) in which Frank Sinatra played a heroin-addicted jazz musician. Fittingly, Bernstein used some memorable jazz motifs for the film and his fine scoring put him back on the map. It prompted the attention of Cecil B. De Mille, who had Bernstein replace the ailing Victor Young on The Ten Commandments (1956). His thundering, heavily orchestrated score perfectly suite the bombastic epic, and he promptly earned his first Oscar® nod for music.

After The Ten Commandments (1956), Bernstein continued to distinguish himself in a row of fine films: The Rainmaker (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Some Came Running (1958), The Magnificent Seven (a most memorable galloping march, 1960); To Kill a Mockingbird (unique in its use of single piano notes and haunting use of a flute, 1962); Hud (1963); earned a deserved Academy Award for the delightful, "flapper" music for the Julie Andrews period comedy Thoroughly Modern Mille (1967), and True Grit (1969).

His career faltered by the '80s though, as he did some routine Bill Murray comedies: Meatballs (1980) and Stripes (1981). But then director John Landis had Bernstein write the sumptuous score for his comedy Trading Places (1983), and Bernstein soon found himself back in the game. He then graced the silver screen for a few more years composing some terrific pieces for such popular commercial hits as My Left Foot (1989), A River Runs Through It (1992) and The Age of Innocence (1993). Far From Heaven, his final feature film score, received an Oscar® nomination for Best Score in 2002. He is survived by his wife, Eve; sons Peter and Gregory; daughters Emilie and Elizabeth; and five grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole
Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)

Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)

Elmer Bernstein, the film composer who created unforgettable music for such classics as The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, and won his only Academy Award for Thoroughly Modern Millie, died of natural causes at his Ojai, California home on August 17. He was 82. Elmer Bernstein, who was not related to Leonard Bernstein, was born on August 4, 1922, in New York City. He displayed a talent in music at a very young age, and was given a scholarship to study piano at Juilliard when he was only 12. He entered New York University in 1939, where he majored in music education. After graduating in 1942, he joined the Army Air Corps, where he remained throughout World War II, mostly working on scores for propaganda films. It was around this time he became interested in film scoring when he went to see William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), a film whose score was composed by Bernard Herrmann, a man Bernstein idolized as the ideal film composer. Bernstein, who originally intended to be a concert pianist and gave several performances in New York after being discharged from military service, decided to relocate to Hollywood in 1950. He did his first score for the football film Saturday's Hero (1950), and then proved his worth with his trenchant, moody music for the Joan Crawford vehicle Sudden Fear (1952). Rumors of his "communist" leanings came to surface at this time, and, feeling the effects of the blacklist, he found himself scoring such cheesy fare as Robot Monster; Cat Women of the Moon (both 1953); and Miss Robin Caruso (1954). Despite his politics, Otto Preminger hired him to do the music for The Man With the Golden Arm, (1955) in which Frank Sinatra played a heroin-addicted jazz musician. Fittingly, Bernstein used some memorable jazz motifs for the film and his fine scoring put him back on the map. It prompted the attention of Cecil B. De Mille, who had Bernstein replace the ailing Victor Young on The Ten Commandments (1956). His thundering, heavily orchestrated score perfectly suite the bombastic epic, and he promptly earned his first Oscar® nod for music. After The Ten Commandments (1956), Bernstein continued to distinguish himself in a row of fine films: The Rainmaker (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Some Came Running (1958), The Magnificent Seven (a most memorable galloping march, 1960); To Kill a Mockingbird (unique in its use of single piano notes and haunting use of a flute, 1962); Hud (1963); earned a deserved Academy Award for the delightful, "flapper" music for the Julie Andrews period comedy Thoroughly Modern Mille (1967), and True Grit (1969). His career faltered by the '80s though, as he did some routine Bill Murray comedies: Meatballs (1980) and Stripes (1981). But then director John Landis had Bernstein write the sumptuous score for his comedy Trading Places (1983), and Bernstein soon found himself back in the game. He then graced the silver screen for a few more years composing some terrific pieces for such popular commercial hits as My Left Foot (1989), A River Runs Through It (1992) and The Age of Innocence (1993). Far From Heaven, his final feature film score, received an Oscar® nomination for Best Score in 2002. He is survived by his wife, Eve; sons Peter and Gregory; daughters Emilie and Elizabeth; and five grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

National Lampoon's Animal House


Landmark films don't always look like Citizen Kane (1941) or The Seventh Seal (1957). Take National Lampoon's Animal House, for instance, a low-budget ($2.7 million) comedy of questionable taste set at some fictitious college, that earned more than $141 million in the U.S. alone, the highest-grossing comedy ever made at the time of its release. But box office take isn't enough to make a landmark film; Animal House (the shorter title by which it's now universally known) also marked a new era in American comedy, bringing together the anarchic Ivy League sensibilities of the Harvard Lampoon and the freewheeling, sketch-driven style of Chicago's legendary Second City improv troupe. It was a match that would come to define and dominate the approach to modern comedy, reaching its greatest audience through its TV proving ground, the now nearly 30-year-old Saturday Night Live.

As a cultural phenomenon, Animal House was one of the first big studio comedies aimed at the teen/college demographic and has the dubious distinction of spawning the toga party and making food fights seem like a venerable American institution. In a recent New Yorker magazine profile, one of the film's writers, Harold Ramis, was lauded as a key force in creating movies that "attack the smugness of institutional life," thereby rescuing Hollywood comedy from its "smooth, polite perfection." In the same article, the movie is credited with heavily influencing the current kings of high-concept gross-out comedy, the Farrelly Brothers. Animal House also figures largely in the image of the comic actor as dangerous, iconoclastic rock star that has been so much a part of the culture in the last 25 or more years, a fairly direct line from John Belushi to Jack Black. Finally, this is likely the only film in the National Film Preservation Board Registry to feature a character imitating a zit with a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

At its inception, however, no one expected to make such a mark. Ramis and Doug Kenney were working on a bizarre comedy script based on the concept of Charles Manson in high school. The crazy spirit of that script eventually became folded into co-writer Chris Miller's experiences as an undergrad at Dartmouth, with a heavy dose of Nixon White House parody. Director John Landis was brought in on the basis of his fast, efficient work on two low-budget independent movies, Schlock (1973) and The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). "It was an indication of how little the studio thought of the movie that I got the job," Landis later said.

By the time Universal agreed to make the picture, Saturday Night Live had become a major hit, and both the studio and the film's creators wanted to cast many of the people associated with the show, but Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray and Dan Aykroyd all turned it down for other commitments. One actor, however, was an absolute must for the studio and the director - John Belushi. The role of Bluto had been written with him in mind, and his casting (in his first feature film role) sealed the deal. Also making debuts were Karen Allen (whose work here got her cast by Steven Spielberg in Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981), Kevin Bacon and Peter Riegert (in a role that Ramis never quite forgave Landis for not giving him). Landis also had to accept disappointment on his choice for the roles of Dean Wormer and his nympho wife; he wanted Jack Webb and Kim Novak. Donald Sutherland, the biggest-name actor in the cast, signed on because of his friendship with Landis, but he had so little faith in the project, he opted for an up-front payment of about $50,000 (the highest salary of the cast) instead of a percentage of the gross (which would have earned him millions). The next highest-paid cast members, at $40,000 each, were Belushi and Junior, the horse ridden by ROTC fanatic Neidermeyer.

The movie was scheduled to be shot at the University of Missouri until the school's president read the script and withdrew his permission. The University of Oregon finally agreed but insisted shooting be completed in 30 days. Because almost the entire production, including interiors, was done on campus, cast and crew had to put in 6-day weeks, with Belushi flying back and forth to the East Coast to work on SNL. The famous toga party scene (in which Belushi's real-life wife Judy played his date) was shot in two 12-hour days. Landis finished principal photography at the school in 28 days.

Landis and the previously skeptical studio executives were stunned by the response of preview audiences and the subsequent booming box office receipts. What had started as an almost throwaway project about a renegade frat house making a shambles of the conservative (fictional) Faber College in Pennsylvania quickly became the second highest grossing release of the year (behind Grease). It remains an often-quoted and for many people fondly remembered movie today. The film concludes with a coda - a take-off on the ending of American Graffiti (1973) - in which we're told what happened to each of the character's in the years after college. Not only was it a fun device to reveal the success of the unruly Delta House members versus the miserable futures of their clean-cut nemeses, but it also served as a springboard for keeping the movie alive in references elsewhere. For instance, the overly disciplined and belligerent Neidermeyer is revealed to have been killed by his own men in Viet Nam. In Landis' Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), a segment set during that war has some soldiers discussing "fragging Neidermeyer." The Babs character from Animal House is revealed to have become a tour guide at Universal Studios. For years, the studio used to offer discounts or free entries for anyone who asked for Babs at the start of their tour. The movie also spawned a short-lived TV sitcom, Delta House, featuring several members of the original cast (and a young Michelle Pfeiffer) and other copycat TV shows and movies. Dean Wormer's wife Marion (played by Verna Bloom in the original) turns up again as a photo of the wife of Lt. Kellaway (Peter Riegert) in The Mask (1994), and some of the TV viewers seen in the comedy EdTV (1999) are shown watching from the Delta Tau Chi fraternity house, the full name of the fictional Delta House.

Director: John Landis
Producers: Ivan Reitman, Matty Simmons
Screenplay: Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, Chris Miller
Cinematography: Charles Correll
Editing: George Folsey, Jr.
Art Direction: John J. Lloyd
Original Music: Elmer Bernstein, songs by Stephen Bishop, Sam Cooke
Cast: John Belushi (John "Bluto" Blutarsky), Tim Matheson (Eric "Otter" Stratton), Peter Riegert (Donald "Boon" Schoenstein), Tom Hulce (Larry "Pinto" Kroger), John Vernon (Dean Wormer), Karen Allen (Katy), Verna Bloom (Mrs. Wormer).
C-109m. Letterboxed.

by Rob Nixon

National Lampoon's Animal House

Landmark films don't always look like Citizen Kane (1941) or The Seventh Seal (1957). Take National Lampoon's Animal House, for instance, a low-budget ($2.7 million) comedy of questionable taste set at some fictitious college, that earned more than $141 million in the U.S. alone, the highest-grossing comedy ever made at the time of its release. But box office take isn't enough to make a landmark film; Animal House (the shorter title by which it's now universally known) also marked a new era in American comedy, bringing together the anarchic Ivy League sensibilities of the Harvard Lampoon and the freewheeling, sketch-driven style of Chicago's legendary Second City improv troupe. It was a match that would come to define and dominate the approach to modern comedy, reaching its greatest audience through its TV proving ground, the now nearly 30-year-old Saturday Night Live. As a cultural phenomenon, Animal House was one of the first big studio comedies aimed at the teen/college demographic and has the dubious distinction of spawning the toga party and making food fights seem like a venerable American institution. In a recent New Yorker magazine profile, one of the film's writers, Harold Ramis, was lauded as a key force in creating movies that "attack the smugness of institutional life," thereby rescuing Hollywood comedy from its "smooth, polite perfection." In the same article, the movie is credited with heavily influencing the current kings of high-concept gross-out comedy, the Farrelly Brothers. Animal House also figures largely in the image of the comic actor as dangerous, iconoclastic rock star that has been so much a part of the culture in the last 25 or more years, a fairly direct line from John Belushi to Jack Black. Finally, this is likely the only film in the National Film Preservation Board Registry to feature a character imitating a zit with a mouthful of mashed potatoes. At its inception, however, no one expected to make such a mark. Ramis and Doug Kenney were working on a bizarre comedy script based on the concept of Charles Manson in high school. The crazy spirit of that script eventually became folded into co-writer Chris Miller's experiences as an undergrad at Dartmouth, with a heavy dose of Nixon White House parody. Director John Landis was brought in on the basis of his fast, efficient work on two low-budget independent movies, Schlock (1973) and The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). "It was an indication of how little the studio thought of the movie that I got the job," Landis later said. By the time Universal agreed to make the picture, Saturday Night Live had become a major hit, and both the studio and the film's creators wanted to cast many of the people associated with the show, but Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray and Dan Aykroyd all turned it down for other commitments. One actor, however, was an absolute must for the studio and the director - John Belushi. The role of Bluto had been written with him in mind, and his casting (in his first feature film role) sealed the deal. Also making debuts were Karen Allen (whose work here got her cast by Steven Spielberg in Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981), Kevin Bacon and Peter Riegert (in a role that Ramis never quite forgave Landis for not giving him). Landis also had to accept disappointment on his choice for the roles of Dean Wormer and his nympho wife; he wanted Jack Webb and Kim Novak. Donald Sutherland, the biggest-name actor in the cast, signed on because of his friendship with Landis, but he had so little faith in the project, he opted for an up-front payment of about $50,000 (the highest salary of the cast) instead of a percentage of the gross (which would have earned him millions). The next highest-paid cast members, at $40,000 each, were Belushi and Junior, the horse ridden by ROTC fanatic Neidermeyer. The movie was scheduled to be shot at the University of Missouri until the school's president read the script and withdrew his permission. The University of Oregon finally agreed but insisted shooting be completed in 30 days. Because almost the entire production, including interiors, was done on campus, cast and crew had to put in 6-day weeks, with Belushi flying back and forth to the East Coast to work on SNL. The famous toga party scene (in which Belushi's real-life wife Judy played his date) was shot in two 12-hour days. Landis finished principal photography at the school in 28 days. Landis and the previously skeptical studio executives were stunned by the response of preview audiences and the subsequent booming box office receipts. What had started as an almost throwaway project about a renegade frat house making a shambles of the conservative (fictional) Faber College in Pennsylvania quickly became the second highest grossing release of the year (behind Grease). It remains an often-quoted and for many people fondly remembered movie today. The film concludes with a coda - a take-off on the ending of American Graffiti (1973) - in which we're told what happened to each of the character's in the years after college. Not only was it a fun device to reveal the success of the unruly Delta House members versus the miserable futures of their clean-cut nemeses, but it also served as a springboard for keeping the movie alive in references elsewhere. For instance, the overly disciplined and belligerent Neidermeyer is revealed to have been killed by his own men in Viet Nam. In Landis' Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), a segment set during that war has some soldiers discussing "fragging Neidermeyer." The Babs character from Animal House is revealed to have become a tour guide at Universal Studios. For years, the studio used to offer discounts or free entries for anyone who asked for Babs at the start of their tour. The movie also spawned a short-lived TV sitcom, Delta House, featuring several members of the original cast (and a young Michelle Pfeiffer) and other copycat TV shows and movies. Dean Wormer's wife Marion (played by Verna Bloom in the original) turns up again as a photo of the wife of Lt. Kellaway (Peter Riegert) in The Mask (1994), and some of the TV viewers seen in the comedy EdTV (1999) are shown watching from the Delta Tau Chi fraternity house, the full name of the fictional Delta House. Director: John Landis Producers: Ivan Reitman, Matty Simmons Screenplay: Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, Chris Miller Cinematography: Charles Correll Editing: George Folsey, Jr. Art Direction: John J. Lloyd Original Music: Elmer Bernstein, songs by Stephen Bishop, Sam Cooke Cast: John Belushi (John "Bluto" Blutarsky), Tim Matheson (Eric "Otter" Stratton), Peter Riegert (Donald "Boon" Schoenstein), Tom Hulce (Larry "Pinto" Kroger), John Vernon (Dean Wormer), Karen Allen (Katy), Verna Bloom (Mrs. Wormer). C-109m. Letterboxed. by Rob Nixon

Quotes

You guys playing cards?
- Flounder
Boon, I think I'm in love with a retard.
- Katy
Is he bigger than me?
- Boon
He can't do that do that to our pledges.
- Otter
Only we can do that to our pledges.
- Boon
Let me give you a hint. She's got a couple of major-league yabbos.
- Otter
Norma!
- Boon
No. But you're getting warmer. Here's another: "Oh God, Oh God, OH GOD!"
- Otter
Marlene! You're gonna pork Marlene Desmond!
- Boon
Pork?
- Otter
Greg, honey, is it supposed to be this soft?
- Babs

Trivia

Co-writer Chris Miller (III) based the National Lampoon short stories that gave rise to the film on his experiences in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity at Dartmouth (from which he graduated in 1962).

The movie was set to be filmed at the University of Missouri until the president of the school read the script and refused permission. It was filmed at and around the University of Oregon in Eugene instead.

The Delta House actors were brought to the set 5 days before the Omega House actors to get into character, in an intentional effort to cause cliques to form.

The movie concludes by describing each character's fate. Niedermeyer was "killed in Vietnam by his own troops." In director John Landis' segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), some soldiers are overheard discussing "fragging Niedermeyer."

The bass player in the band Otis Day and the Knights is then-unknown bluesman Robert Cray. Cray was instrumental in getting the musicians together that appeared as the band.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States July 1978

Released in United States Summer July 28, 1978

Released in United States on Video March 10, 1988

Re-released in United States on Video October 13, 1998

Released in United States August 1997

Shown at Radio City Film Festival sponsored by Universal Pictures August 20-24, 1997.

Selected in 2001 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Released in USA on laserdisc December 1988.

Released in United States July 1978

Released in United States Summer July 28, 1978

Released in United States on Video March 10, 1988

Re-released in United States on Video October 13, 1998 (20th Anniversary Edition)

Released in United States August 1997 (Shown at Radio City Film Festival sponsored by Universal Pictures August 20-24, 1997.)