Monday, June 30, 2008

JULY IS DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION MONTH!


Monday, July 28, 2008 will be, for the most part, a day like any other day, 24 more hours marked off toward the end of the summer. But it will also mark the day that activities like slurping Jell-o, dressing like ancient Greeks and behaving badly, and sending horses into cardiac arrest within the hallowed halls of our austere educational institutions began their long love affair with comedic sensibilities the world over. Yes, June 28, 2008 will mark the 30th anniversary of the release of National Lampoon’s Animal House, a tender, minor-key rumination on the bitter psychological ramifications of higher education as a force of oppression to be dodged, laughed at or otherwise humiliated by a cadre of smart-ass cognoscenti, all to the beat of the Kingsmen, Sam Cooke… and Stephen Bishop. And to honor the occasion, July is officially declared Animal House Double Secret Probation month here at SLIFR. I wish I had a daily offering on the order of Larry Aydlette’s recent Burt Reynolds tribute with which to pay homage to this unpretentious yet influential little picture. But, alas, I do not. I’m not sure there would be that much to say about it, to be honest, even if I did. What I do have is a smattering of surprises that will be scattered over the SLIFR landscape during the coming month like the leavings from Bluto’s piece of potato ball-zit performance art, and hopefully those surprises will stick to you as effectively as those projectile globs of masticated taters did to Babs and Mandy’s bouffants. There will be pictures, video, a couple of essays and, on July 28 proper, a special surprise-of-surprises that, if all goes well technically, should be a lot of fun for Animal House scholars and those who enjoy dabbling in someone else’s nostalgic ramblings alike. We will hopefully be in for a (cue orchestra) very special tribute to a movie that almost no one thought would be remembered past Christmas 1978—at least I didn’t. Honestly, did anyone ever think during the summer of 1978 while they were laffing it up over the hi-jinks of the Delta Tau Chi gang that people would be talking about this movie 30 years later? Yet it’s emerged as a beloved, highly influential piece of work (for good and bad), and in the minds of some a classic even. Has anyone seen a movie this summer they think might be thought of in the same way by so many people in the year 2038? (Well, there’s Speed Racer, but that’s probably just me and Don and Chris and Matthew…) So come on in, grab a brew—don’t cost nothin’—and enjoy what I hope will be a month full of fun with Bluto, Otter, Pinto, Flounder, Boone, Katy, Hoover, Niedermeyer, and maybe even a couple of the minor players too. And remember, if you mention extortion again I’ll have your legs broken.

19 comments:

driveindude said...

Look, I made it here first!

Hey Dennis, "Could l buy some pot from you?"

Jonathan Lapper said...

You know Mrs Dean Wormer makes a full face close-up appearance in "Frames of Reference" (from another movie she was in) but I don't think most of the people watching it knew that was her.

Speaking of Marion - " You can take your thumb out of my ass any time now, Carmine."

The Bandit said...

How awesome is the guy (James Daughton?) who plays Greg Marmalard? Surprised he didn't parlay that memorable turn into a Gregg Henry-esque career as supporting smarmballs. Lately one of the pay services has been offering up a 1982 T&A epic called "The Beach Girls," for which he's front and center. Amazingly I'd never heard of it... amazing, as I am the world's biggest fan of "Screwballs" and "Loose Screws."

Thanks to the early days of HBO, "Animal House," "Caddyshack" and "Blues Brothers" were in near-constant rotation and represented the Holy Trinity of Comedic Awesomeness even for a certain 8-year-old in 1981. Apparently I wasn't the only one, since it seemed like every kid in class was already quoting (and probably misquoting) them at that tender age -- with "Meatballs" a distant fourth, and "Stripes" joining the mix the following year when it hit The Box Office.

"You guys playing cards?"

Larry Aydlette said...

In the immortal words of Otter: I anticipate a deeply religious experience.

Steven Hart said...

It’s been years — decades! — since I saw Animal House, but two things about it (well, three, counting Karen Allen’s nude scene) stick in my mind: it is a reminder of those long-ago days when the words National Lampoon were an invitation instead of a warning, and it is one of the vanishingly small number of films with parties that actually look like fun.

Let me put it this way: if I had to choose between going to the party in The Party, with or without Peter Sellers, or getting poked in the eye with a flaming stick, I’d have to think it over for a bit. But if I could be magically transported into that Animal House frat party? I am so there . . .

http://stevenhartsite.wordpress.com/2008/07/01/animal-magnetism/

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Gentlemen, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! Let the favorite lines festival begin!

Bandit: I also remember Malibu Beach (1978), a fine Crown International sex-and-sand epic starring Daughton that came out the same summer. But he didn't get to punch Tim Matheson in that one!

Steven: I just read your excellent piece, and I'll be linking to it tonight. I really like your points about the Deltas flirting with academic disaster all the while knowing that the draft board awaited them should they flunk out or get tossed out of school, and especially the run-in at the Dexter Lake Club. Many people have cited the alleged racism of that scene, and while there may be an element of that at play here the scene actually plays out not only accurate to the times but also at the expense of the white kids, who as you say are in over their heads immediately, no matter whether they know Otis Day ("Otis! My man!") or not. Nice piece, and a great addition to the celebration. Thanks!

eroslane said...

Off topic...

I'm sure someone has shared this link of Leone with you already, but just in case not.....enjoy.

http://tsutpen.blogspot.com/2008/06/artists-in-action-382.html

eroslane said...

Curses Blogger and their truncated urls:

Here's the Tiny URL to the Leone picture I just mentioned.

http://tinyurl.com/3wlw73

Anonymous said...

We'll definitely be talking about 'Speed Racer' thirty years from now, no question. -- Robbie Kendall

driveindude said...

OK, I'm the less intellectual one in this group so I'll leave you with one more line of dialogue because it truly is one of my favorites:

OTTER: Come on, Flounder. You can't worry forever about your mistakes. You fucked up. You trusted us.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Eroslane: I usually make it over to If Charlie Parker... a couple of times a week, but I had not seen this great photo yet! Thanks so much for pointing the way! (And yes, I second your Curse of the Truncated Blogger URLs. What's even worse is when you try to paste a whole address in the comments section to create a link instead of using the TinyURLed version... disaster.)

Robbie: I think you're right. Bring on the future! (Or at least the DVD!)

DID: I'll continue this. "You're worthless and weak! Now drop and give me 20!"

J.D. said...

"I think I'm in love with a retard."

"Is he bigger than me?"

Awesome! This sounds great and I can't wait to see what goodies you have waiting to unleash us all.

Btw., I've linked your celebration of all things ANIMAL HOUSE to my blog as well:

http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2008/07/july-is-double-secret-probation-month.html

Robert Fiore said...

You probably are not aware, as it was almost published in secret, but Chris Miller, one of the co-writers, has a book called The Real Animal House, which combines the autobiographical short stories from the Lampoon with a memoir to fill in the gaps. (Reality intrudes -- the constant carousing led to some serious drinking problems for a number of his cohorts.) The hardcover can be had from Amazon for little more than the shipping cost.

And I hate to raise the level of discourse, but a huge chunk of the missing footage from Metropolis has been found in Buenos Aires, like around 20 minutes. When the last restoration was shown in L.A. I asked the fellow who restored it what the chances are that more footage would turn up, and he said it was unlikely at this late date, but there's always the chance. Would that there was such a chance for Ambersons or Greed.

Robert Fiore said...

Following up, it appears I underestimated. This seems to say they've found everything:

http://tinyurl.com/4f4qpo

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Robert, are you saying there's something else going on other than the exploits of a bunch of fictional frat boys that's worth discussing tonight?

Well, I agree. I've incorporated your link to ZEITmagazin into my brief post about the rediscovery of Metropolis. I've only ever seen a very bad 16mm print of this movie and a not-very-good DVD transfer. The thought of being able to see it in its original form, regardless of what shape the new/old pieces are in, is more good news from the movies than I ever expected to get in my lifetime.

But back to Chris Miller, I've heard good and bad things about this memoir. It definitely sounds like it's lacking the "fun" of the movie and the original short stories, though I wonder if Miller just miscalculated as to whether the fun translates from uncensored reality quite as easily. I would be surprised if there were any element of the conscious cautionary tale at work here.

Robert Fiore said...

At the price you can hardly go wrong with The Real Animal House. It's not all you could hope for, but it ought to be of interest to any aficionado of the movie. The biggest weakness is interpolating the short stories rather than writing a new book from the ground up, which may simply be a reflection of how much energy Miller was willing to put into it. (Actually, the short stories were used much better in the movie tie-in book, if you remember it.) It's not all boys of summer in their ruin, either; most of the brothers led very fruitful lives (it was an Ivy League college, after all), and an enviable sense of camaraderie lasting over the years comes through. Actually the college stories were never my favorites among Miller's Lampoon work; they don't have nearly the inspired filthiness of "The Night Before the Last Day They Filmed Star Trek," for instance.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I do indeed remember the movie tie-in book, which was just re-released last year as well. My original copy is well-worn, and my best friend re-upped me when the "29th anniversary" version came out last year. I remember enjoying those stories a lot. (I also remember anxiously pawing my way through the book hoping that my picture would appear in it somewhere; it did not.)

And thanks for the reminder about that Star Trek story. I read it when I was about 13 years old for the first time-- it was one of my first encounters with a more sophisticated, untethered voice in parody, one that was clearly occupying a world far beyond that of Mad, and it didn't hurt that it was tied so closely to a pop culture phenomenon with which I was more or less familiar. (I didn't really hit my Star Trek phase until I got into college, however.) My Internet search for Miller's article as a stand-alone downloadable was unsuccessful, but I did find a place where you can buy the issue of National Lampoon-- the Science Fiction issue from 1972-- in which it was featured.

Blaaagh said...

Hmph--Dennis, at least you didn't have to endure the disappointment of having a tiny photo of yourself in the original book (mine is similarly well-pawed; a fraternity brother in 1978 gave it to me as a gift, and it made the rounds), and then have that part of the book excised for the reissue last year--as I did. Whatever! Bring on the 30th anniv. celebration!

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