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Animal House back on the big screen

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Some 38 years after it was first released, National Lampoon’s Animal House remains one of the most popular screen comedies ever made. Produced on a budget of less than $3 million, the film went on to become – for a time – the highest-grossing comedy in history, spawning a slew of imitations and knock-offs, catapulting John Belushi and director John Landis to immediate stardom, and establishing National Lampoon magazine as a viable filmmaking entity. 

It was also the first R-rated movie I ever saw in the theater, and boy, was my mom thrilled.

Now, Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies will re-release Animal House to select theaters nationwide as part of its ongoing “TCM Big Screen Classics” series, with two showings Sunday, Aug. 14 and encore screenings Wednesday, Aug. 17. Some 600 theaters will be presenting this special event, including the Cinemark Brassfield Cinema 10 (2101 New Garden Rd.) and the Regal Greens boro Grande Stadium 16 (3205 Northline Ave.) in Greensboro.

The year is 1962 and the place is Faber College, an esteemed institution of higher learning whose founder, Emil Faber, made the profound observation “Knowledge is good” (that’s what the legend on his statue reads), National Lampoon’s Animal House centers around the denizens of antics of the brothers of Delta House, unquestionably the worst fraternity on campus.

Dean Wormer (John Vernon) enlists the surreptitious assistance of Omega House, Delta House’s sworn enemies, to assist in finding a way – either fair or foul – to revoke Delta’s charter. But they didn’t count on the Deltas’ craftiness and ingenuity, nor their appetite or aptitude for revenge.

Animal House provided big career boosts for many of its young actors, including Tim Matheson, Karen Allen (her screen debut), Kevin Bacon (his screen debut), Peter Riegert (his screen debut), James Widdoes (his screen debut),

Stephen Furst, Bruce McGill, and UNCSA School of Drama graduate Tom Hulce. The more familiar faces in the cast included Verna Bloom as Dean Wormer’s randy wife, Cesar Danova as the corrupt town mayor, and Donald Sutherland as the pot-smoking English Lit professor Jennings.

Sutherland, easily the most established member of the cast at that time, was also the highest-paid … although he could have done even better. In later interviews, he stated that he could have taken a back-end percentage of the film instead of his usual daily rate – and walked away with millions.

TCM host Ben Mankiewicz will introduce the film and discuss its history and its legacy, as well as inside tidbits about the production.

Remarkably, Animal House received strong praise from critics, with Roger Ebert listing it among 1978’s 10 best films and the film winning the People Choice Award for Favorite Non-Musical Motion Picture that year.

“National Lampoon’s Animal House is one of those iconic classic comedies that is best enjoyed on the big screen with your friends,” said Tom Lucas, vice-president of studio relations for Fathom Events, in an official statement. “It remains today a box-office success replete with memorable movie quotes, inspired comedicacting, and a highenergy soundtrack. It is a great addition to our TCM Big Screen Classics series.”

National Lampoon’s Animal House is, as I mentioned before, rated R – for sexual situations, profanity, nudity, drug use, slapstick mayhem … and all sorts of things that made college life so wonderful.

As for the many memorable quotes, I have to go with the immortal question as posed by Doug Kenney’s Stork: “Well what the hell we supposed to do, you moron?!” !

WANNA go?

Showtimes are 2 pm and 7 pm Sunday, Aug. 14, with encore screenings at 2 pm and 7 pm Wednesday, Aug. 17. Tickets at Brassfield Cinema 10 are $5 (all seats) for the 2 pm Sunday and Wednesday screenings, $7 (general admission) and $5 (seniors and children) for the 7 pm Sunday and Wednesday screenings. Tickets at Greensboro Grande Stadium 16 are $13.34 (all seats, all screenings). For advance tickets or more information, check out www.FathomEvents.com.

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