Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Animal House


I happened to be living in Eugene, Oregon when this movie was shooting and when it opened. Not that I was aware of it at the time, though I wish I had been. It would have been fun to be an extra at the climactic parade, which was done in Cottage Grove, a few miles down I-5. But when we saw it, it was fun to identify the locations. Most of them were on the campus of the University of Oregon. Delta House itself was on 11th Avenue until it was stupidly torn down in 1986. I mean, come on, Eugene! Why couldn’t you have bought it and turned it into a tourist attraction? There could have been toga parties. People could have bought cheap guitars and smashed them on the stairway, like John Belushi did.

It’s sad to see Belushi. Drugs have a lot to answer for. They’ve killed so many brilliant people.

The movie is still very funny, though a lot of the jokes are pretty sexist. But hey, so are a lot of college boys. It can be a pretty wild time for kids fresh out of high school, and even more so in 1962 when a lot of them would never have had a drink or gotten laid. I know it was a crazy time for me, though I don’t recall killing any white horses in the dean’s office.

It was a ground-breaking film that I guess a lot of people wish had never been broken, as it paved the way for the gross-out comedy genre. (Envision Belushi filling his mouth with mashed potatoes and squeezing his cheeks: “I’m a zit!”) Me, I am okay with stuff like that. Everything about it is over-the-top, and that’s its genius. It boldly went where no comedy had gone before.

There were several people in the cast who were not yet as well-known as they would be, like Tom Hulce, Kevin Bacon, and Karen Allen. Peter Riegert and Tim Matheson are good as the main Delta House brothers, but it really comes back to John Belushi. His portrayal of total wild man Bluto Blutarsky is why the movie took off and made $140 million on a $2.9 million budget. He is absolutely insane in a way I don’t recall ever seeing before this movie. The way he recoils in shocked horror when he sees prospective pledge fat Flounder projected on a wall, or screams wildly when a guy carrying a carton of booze falls and breaks all the bottles …well, you just have to see it. And that’s just two wonderful shots. There are many more.

Where Are They Now?: A Delta Alumni Update (2003) This short mockumentary is included on the 25th Anniversary Double Secret Probation Edition DVD. The premise is that John Landis (not seen), the director, is going around finding the characters to see how they are doing now. We already knew that the despicable Douglas C. Neidermeyer was killed by his own platoon in Vietnam. Chip Diller found Jesus. Otter is a gynecologist in Beverly Hills. Dean Wormer is in a nursing home and mostly senile, though he comes to angry life when Delta House is mentioned and he attacks Landis. And Bluto? Obviously Landis could not interview Belushi, so … as it said at the end of the movie, he was first a Senator, and now he and wife Mandy Pepperidge are President and First Lady of the United States!