Animal House (John Landis / U.S., 1978):

The joke is that it's Anderson's If... redrawn by Termite Terrace, or rather "The Varsity Drag" belched out by the Baby Boomer Chorus. Farber College at the dawn of the Sixties already has the battle lines drawn, the stuffed-shirt dean (John Vernon) presides over academia as a Nixonian spoilsport. (His Kennedyesque opposite number is the campus lothario played by Tim Matheson, tie worn over toga at the bacchanalia.) The Omega preppies make do with sado-hazing and gloved handjobs, the vitelloni at the Delta "zoo fraternity" meanwhile luxuriate in keggers and shenanigans, R&B and "a morally casual attitude"—a playpen for überslob Bluto (John Belushi), who welcomes newbies with a long piss, inhales jello and smashes guitars and generally barrels through like Zero Mostel reincarnated into Hunter S. Thompson. The counterculture rupture, the banner of debauchery: "I think this situation absolutely requires a really stupid and futile gesture be done on someone's part." John Landis directs the entire raucous megillah in the proper National Lampoon manner, with a sidelong glance at the golf ball landing in the cafeteria stew and an eyebrow cocked at the fellow voyeurs enjoying the coed pillow-fight. Chabrol's Les Godelureaux is a little-known precedent in the art of Dionysian assholery, McCarey's white horse in the office (Wrong Again) is updated with pistol and chainsaw. The American Graffiti approach is sent up all the way to the closing title cards, the jukebox here includes the theme from A Summer Place while the freshman contemplates the mayor's jailbait daughter, as well as a soupçon of Nino Rota for the chaotic finale. (A visit to the soul roadhouse is all it takes to expose the would-be hepcats.) The lure of Milton avails the pot-addled professor (Donald Sutherland) no more, but Downey (Up the Academy) keeps the education going into the Eighties. With Tom Hulce, Peter Riegert, Stephen Furst, Mark Metcalf, Karen Allen, Mary Louise Weller, Martha Smith, Bruce McGill, James Daughton, Sarah Holcomb, Verna Bloom, and Kevin Bacon.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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