Blog Directory CineVerse: House rules

House rules

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

by Erik J. Martin

Recently, I was challenged to name my favorite comedies of all time. After much deliberation, the top choice was obvious: "Duck Soup" starring the Marx Brothers. But the silver and bronze winners and other follow-ups were not so easy to rank. When in doubt, they say it's best to trust your heart--or, in this case, your funnybone. And the movie that consistently makes me laugh more than few others has got to be "National Lampoon's Animal House."

Twenty-plus years aggo, toga parties, food fights and frat parties were all the rage, thanks to this modern comedy classic directed by John Landis. It became the highest grossing comedy of its era, and has come to be regarded as one of the funniest films of all time.

Based on co-screenwriter Chris Miller's experiences at his Dartmouth College fraternity house in 1962, "Animal House" details the side-splitting exploits of the bawdy Delta House frat boys, who wage a war against class and the classroom by being, well, classless.

Released in 1978 by Universal Studios, the film launched the big screen careers of many of its stars, including John Belushi (as party-hard slob Bluto Blutarsky), Kevin Bacon (Chip), Karen Allen (Katy), and Tom Hulce (Larry, the character modeled after Miller). It also put Landis and co-screenwriter Harold Ramis on the map as Hollywood's hottest comedy creators. Only two years later, Landis would go on to direct "The Blues Brothers."

After more than 50 colleges rejected Landis' request to film on location, the director finally bagged the University of Oregon at Eugene as his set, on the condition that location shooting wrap 30 days or less. The result? A hectic six-day work week of filming, which allowed Belushi's on-the-spot improv antics to steal many a scene. The building used for filming Delta House's exterior shots was also a halfway house for convicts, only adding to the behind-the-scenes absurdity.

A bit of little-known "Animal House" trivia: Dan Aykroyd was originally cast as motorcycle madman D-Day, and Chevy Chase was first offered the role of Otter, played by Tim Matheson; Belushi earned a mere $35,000 for his role; and Otis Day & the Knights' bass player in the film is none other than marquee blues guitarist Robert Cray

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