Steady readers of the National Lampoon may find National Lampoon’s Animal House a somewhat soft-pedalled, punches-pulled parody of college campus life circa 1962. However, there’s enough bite and bawdiness to provide lots of smiles and several broad guffaws.
Writers have concocted a pre-Vietnam college confrontation between a scruffy fraternity and high-elegant campus society. Interspersed in the new faces are the more familiar John Vernon, projecting well his meany charisma here as a corrupt dean; Verna Bloom, Vernon’s swinging wife; Cesare Danova, the Mafioso-type mayor of the college town; Donald Sutherland as the super-hip young professor in the days when squares were still saying ‘hep’.
Of no small and subtle artistic help is the score by Elmer Bernstein which blithely wafts ‘Gaudeamus Igitur’ themes amidst the tumult of beer ‘orgies’, neo-Nazi ROTC drills, cafeteria food fights and a climactic disruption of a traditional Homecoming street parade.
Among the younger players, John Belushi and Tim Matheson are very good as leaders of the unruly fraternity, while James Daughton and Mark Metcalf are prominent as the snotty fratmen, all of whom, quite deliberately, look like Nixon White House aides.