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Blu-ray Reviews

National Lampoon's Animal House Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted July 23 2011 - 07:20 PM

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NATIONAL LAMPOON’S

ANIMAL HOUSE


Studio: Universal

Year: 1978

Length:  1 hr 49 mins

Genre:  Comedy/College/Fraternities


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1


BD Resolution: 1080p

BD Video Codec: VC-1 (@ an average 30 mbps)

Color/B&W: Color


Audio:

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.0 mbps – up to 4.0 during the musical moments)

French DTS 2.0 Mono

German DTS 2.0 Mono

Spanish (Castillian) DTS 2.0 Mono

Spanish (American) DTS 2.0 Mono

Italian DTS 2.0 Mono


Subtitles: English SDH, French (European), French (Canadian), Italian, German, Spanish (Castillian), Spanish (American), Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian


Film Rating: R (Let’s see…Gross Out Humor, Language, Nudity, More Gross Out Humor, Still More Gross Out Humor, etc)


Release Date: July 26, 2011


Starring:  John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom, Thomas Hulce, Cesare Danova and Donald Sutherland


Written by:  Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney & Chris Miller

Directed by:  John Landis


Film Rating:    3 ½/5


Animal House finds its way to Blu-ray release this coming week.   It’s a fun movie to look back on, considering what a surprisingly big hit it was back in 1978, and considering the long list of successful actors, directors and writers who came out of it.  (The list is staggering when you think about it – Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman, Tom Hulce, Tim Matheson, Peter Riegert, Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, etc.)  As originally conceived and made, Animal House was the first movie to really translate the post-60s idioms of “Saturday Night Live” and National Lampoon into something like a coherent feature-length story.  Made for a low budget, the film follows the exploits of the outcast Delta Tau Chi frat house at Faber College as the brothers and pledges proceed to disrupt the campus in every conceivable way.   Among other fun events in the mayhem are the now-famous toga party, which became an overnight sensation around real college campuses after people saw the movie.  One could think of this film as a raunchier alternative to American Grafitti, in that this film takes a decidedly darker view than Lucas’ film.  And this is definitely a raunchy movie, make no mistake about it.  There is a gleeful sense of anarchy at work here, harnessed with some authority by John Landis in one of his first directorial outings.  What he reveals here is a strong sense of scale, and some very funny ideas for comic staging.  (One great bit has John Belushi’s Bluto falling backwards with a ladder onto a grassy field.  Landis stages the fall in a sustained wide shot, which emphasizes its absurdity in an appealing way.)   The movie has certainly aged at this point – if anything, the humor is no longer as shocking as it was in 1978.  But it’s still a lot of fun – if only to get one more chance to see John Belushi in all his glory, at the moment that he and “Saturday Night Live” were in their prime.


Animal House has been released multiple times on video.  This latest release combines the documentary and the trailer from the 1998 Signature Laserdisc with a “Where Are They Now” mockumentary made for the 2006 Double Secret Probation DVD, and adds a pair of “scene it?” games, a PIP version of the 1998 documentary and a PIP music guide.  The film receives a VC-1 1080p picture transfer that has some quality issues and a DTS-HD MA audio track that rocks the house.  The usual BD-Live and pocket BLU functionality is included.


                                                       

VIDEO QUALITY   3 ½/5

Animal House is presented in a 1080p VC-1 1.85:1 transfer that I initially believed showed signs of DNR and other unfortunate issues.  In multiple places, I believed I could see skin tones and details being affected by some sort of digital correction.  There is an added issue here – in that the original HD transfer done for the HD-DVD was made to look much grungier at the instruction of director John Landis.  It is possible that this is the same transfer, but I can’t be sure.   I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.  UPDATE TO ALL THIS:  Robert Harris has looked over the title and has concluded that the issues I've been seeing are a normal aspect of the grungy look of the movie.  I have accordingly raised the score by a full point and I thank him for his input.



AUDIO QUALITY   4 /5

Animal House is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that has great fun with all the musical numbers and the onscreen mayhem.  Given the international popularity of this title, it’s no surprise that DTS 2.0 Mono mixes have been included in six other languages as well.


SPECIAL FEATURES      3/5

The Blu-Ray presentation of Animal House comes with multiple special features, almost all of which are drawn from earlier laserdisc and DVD releases.  There’s a bit of PIP functionality, providing a music guide and repurposing a laserdisc documentary into a series of PIP moments.  The usual BD-Live and pocket BLU materials are included.



The Yearbook:  An Animal House Reunion – (45:19, Full Frame, 480p) (FROM THE 1998 SIGNATURE LASERDISC) – This 45 minute documentary covers all the basic ground from the creation of the script through the production.  It’s shocking to realize that even this material is now 13 years behind us…


Trailer – (2:47, Non-Anamorphic, 480p) (FROM THE 1998 SIGNATURE LASERDISC) – A copy of the film’s trailer is ported over here.  This is an older copy of an older trailer, but that suits the movie when you think about it.


Where Are They Now?  A Delta Alumni Update – (23:23, Full Frame, 480p) (FROM THE 2006 DVD) – This mock documentary has John Landis visiting with several of the characters from the film, bringing us up to date on what has happened with all of them in the years since.   If you think about it, though, this piece must take place in the mid or late 1990s, given that the film itself had them in school in 1962, not 1978.   This appears to mostly be ad-libbed and improvised within the framework of where we find each character. 


Scene It? Animal House –   Two rounds of a trivia game involving the movie are included on the disc.  I found this feature confusing, since I’ve never played this particular game before.


There are also two U-Control PIP functions available here:


Scene Companion PIP – This function essentially carves up the 1998 laserdisc documentary and presents the pieces at various points during the movie itself.


The Music of Animal House PIP – This function is a little more interesting – it provides information about whatever song is being played on the soundtrack at the moment.  There are options for making a playlist of the songs and/or purchasing them from iTunes.


BD-Live – The usual BD-Live functionality is present.


Pocket BLU – The usual pocket BLU functionality is present.


The movie is subtitled in English and nine other languages, including two variations each on French and Spanish.  When you first put the disc in the player, an initial language screen will ask which one you speak – thus activating the appropriate subtitle once you get going with the movie.  The usual chapter and pop-up menus are present.


IN THE END...

Animal House is a notable movie on its own terms, as well as the incredible amount of talent assembled to make it.  It’s still funny today, although the raunchiness no longer packs quite the punch it once did.  The new Blu-ray has some picture quality issues, but I can’t tell if these are the result of too much digital work or simply a reflection of director John Landis’ wishes when he had the HD-DVD transfer adjusted.  (UPDATE:  The PQ issues have been addressed and are confirmed to actually be the proper image for this title.)  Fans of John Belushi should own some version of this movie.  Fans of Harold Ramis may be interested to see his beginnings here. 


Kevin Koster

July 23, 2011.



#2 of 5 OFFLINE   Felix Martinez

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Posted July 25 2011 - 05:14 AM

Very nice review, Kevin.

For the previous transfer, which might be the one used here (or a tweaked version of it), Landis was undoing the cleanup and de-graining by the technicians, who - without a sense of irony - notated "image degraded by director request."  Landis was making it look grungier compared to what the technicians had done.  Dark and coarse-grained films can still look quite beautiful on Blu-ray, if done right (ex. Criterion's Blu-ray of De Palma's Blow Out). Dark and grainy material may be an issue for some technicians, but not for Blu-ray.


The reference to Animal House is at 1:55 in this clip.


I'm looking forward to viewing the Blu-ray to see if additional processing was added.


#3 of 5 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted July 25 2011 - 06:07 AM

Felix, I think more processing was indeed added.  I was seeing skin texture issues if that makes any sense, for example on girls' bare arms during the early pledge scene where Pinto and Flounder go to the mean frat house.



#4 of 5 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted July 27 2011 - 07:39 AM

I have updated this review to reflect Robert Harris' excellent commentary on the matter.  I have also upgraded the PQ score by a full point.


Please remember that up to this point, I have been reviewing titles on a 40" Sony XBR2 LCD.   As of this morning, a Panasonic 65" VT30 was delivered to my home.  Installation happens at 7am on Saturday.  Stay tuned for a wild ride after that...



#5 of 5 OFFLINE   Peter Neski

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Posted July 27 2011 - 08:02 AM

It really sucks that the only Universal DVD(or Blue Ray) that includes the Bio Channel Documentary Is the one that came in a DVD SE Box Set ,and is nowhere to be found on this Blue Ray,instead we get a lesser much Older and shorter 1:33 one,when they could give us Both,what a screw up,or they are too cheap to pay for it again