Watching this disc, Judge Jim Thomas anticipates a deeply religious experience.
Who dropped a whole truckload of fizzies into the varsity swim meet?
Everyone's favorite college reprobates come to Blu-ray as National Lampoon's Animal House (Blu-ray)
Facts of the Case
Flounder: I can't believe I threw up in front of Dean Wormer.
The plot itself is slight, but the film's infection energy, propelled by strong performances (for some reason, Peter Reigart singing into a beer bottle during the toga party kills me every time) and catapulted into the stratosphere by a star-making turn from John Belushi, transforms Animal House into more than a mere movie; it is part of our cultural heritage. Simply consider:
• Lines from the movie have become rhetorical mainstays; sadly, many I can't use in this forum, but I am muttering "Thank you, sir, may I have another" as President Obama and Congress scheme to sell middle class America down the river.
• I was a sophomore in high school when the movie came out; by the end of football season, we had started calling our assistant band director "Flounder."
• The movie quickly entered the nation's lexicon. In 1978, author Mark Childress (Crazy in Alabama) wrote an article for a Birmingham newspaper about the Mallet Assembly, the Men's Honors Program at The University of Alabama. It was entitled "Alabama's Own Animal House."
• In 1980, I was watching the movie on HBO at home when my mom came in and sat down. She started getting that disapproving look on her face, and a little voice in my head went "If I were you, I'd be—" Steeled for a number of awkward comments about whatinthenameofGODareyouwatching, I had one of those revelatory moments about my mom when she started belly laughing over the workers trying to remove the dead horse from Dean Wormer's office. The movie transcends generations, people, and that is what sets it apart from all of the imitators that inevitably followed.
It should come as no surprise that in 2001, the movie was added to the National Film Registry because of its cultural significance. Perhaps the only surprise is that it took that long.
Trivia: Donald Sutherland wanted $25,000 for what was essentially an extended cameo. Universal balked, and offered him a percentage of the film instead. Sutherland insisted on and got the $25K; he figures that if he had taken the points, he would have cleared more than $2 million—for one day of work.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
"The time has come for someone to put his foot down—and that foot is me."
While the film itself still delights, technically, the disc, based on the 2003 Animal House: Double Secret Probation Edition, is a disappointment. On the plus side, the sound is a step up from that edition. The DVDs 5.1 Surround has been upgraded to DTS-HD, but in both cases, the rear channels are present in theory only. Still, the lower registers are punched up nicely here, allowing you to appreciate both Elmer Bernstein's majestic score as well as John Vernon's sonorous voice. Video is a bit more problematic. Director John Landis felt that the transfer made for the Double Secret Probation was great. In fact, he said that it looked too good, and insisted that they muddy things up a bit. It appears that this VC-1 encoded track is based on that muddied-up transfer, when they might have been better served to start with the pre-muddied transfer, spruce it up for Blu-ray, then muddy things up a bit. In any event, we get mixed results. Flesh tones are a tad overdone and inconsistent throughout, sometimes within individual scenes, while colors in general are a little oversaturated. While textures and colors pop off the screen when they're well lit, black levels are completely hosed. Simply, shadows and dark colors become black holes, which is not good for a movie with as many dark scenes as this one. When Otter suavely hangs up Mrs. Wormer's fur only to completely miss the closet bar, you have to strain to see it. In fact, if you didn't know what was happening, you probably wouldn't have noticed it in the first place. To be fair, the DVD suffers from a similar problem, but the added detail in the Blu-ray makes the black problem much more noticeable. I get that Landis doesn't want the film to look perfect, the transfer shouldn't call attention to what are obvious mastering issues.
Universal has come up with a menu structure that is a tad Byzantine. Once the disc initially boots, you are prompted to select a language. This is not the language for the movie—the movie only has five or so language options while this initial menu has twelve. No, you are selecting the language to be used with the advertising ticker that plays over the disc menu. Adding insult to injury, from the moment you select the language it takes over two minutes for the disc menu to load, thanks to the advertisements. You can turn the ticker off, but you have to do so every time you insert the disc, and only after enduring the interminable load time.
The extras begin with the 2003 edition as well. "The Yearbook" is a compilation of retrospective interviews from cast and crew made for the 2000 Animal House: Collector's Edition. Also brought over is "Where Are They Now?," a mockumentary that catches up with several of Faber's more (in)famous alumni. New additions include an Animal House edition of Scene-It?, allowing you to pit your knowledge of all things Delta against the unwashed masses. The U-control feature is a bit of a wash; it periodically brings up a window with a scene-specific commentary culled from the retrospective interviews. Only about half the commentaries are actually scene-specific, but others are more general and have nothing to do with the scene. The other U-control option brings up an info box for each song that does little more than give you the option to buy the track via iTunes. Lame. Conspicuously missing from the previous release is "Did You Know That?," a fun subtitle trivia track. I guess something had to be cut to make room for the ads.
"Remain calm. All is well!"
Animal House is a classic movie, but this is not a classic disc. Now would be the appropriate time for Universal to step forward and say, "This may seem an inopportune moment to ask, Dean Wormer, but do you think you could see your way clear to give us just one more chance?"
The defendant is free to go, but Universal is hereby put on Double Secret Probation for such a shoddy package.
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