NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE  directed by John Landis (USA, 1978)

John Belushi

Bluto don’t need no education.

Gross-out is a movie genre where tastelessness, political incorrectness and bad personal hygiene are worn as badges of honour.

In other words, adding to society’s ethical and cultural wellbeing is not high on the list of priorities so adjectives like  ‘sick’ or ‘depraved’ are taken as compliments.

National Lampoon’s Animal House can justifiably lay claim to launching the genre on an unsuspecting world.

John Belushi is regarded as gross-out royalty both for his role as John ‘Bluto’ Blutarsky and for the fact that playing the part of a drunken degenerate seems to have closely resembled his off-screen lifestyle. To prove this point definitively he died of a drug overdose just four years later at the age of 33.

Delta boys Animal House

The Delta boys – good upstanding citizens, one and all!

As the lewd and lascivious Bluto, he epitomizes the party animal philosophy of the under-achieving Delta Tau Chi fraternity. By contrast the students of the Omega group are depicted as a bunch of sanctimonious, clean-living do-rights.

This polarization between the two fraternities is what drives the movie’s thin plot culminating in an anarchic finale in which a homecoming parade the celebrate the college’s achievements is sabotaged by the Deltas.

In this context it is significant that Milton’s Paradise Lost is being taught by a disillusioned English professor (Donald Sutherland). Referring to the epic poem’s themes of good versus evil, the bored students are asked to consider whether it is better to revel in evil and sin or live a good and noble life.

By the end we are left in no doubt which side the movie is on; the rebellious rock and roll lives of Belushi and crew may be crude and destructive but they are the ones having the most fun.

The Delta code is male-centric and bereft of any moral principles but their sleazy antics make for an entertaining and irreverent satire of ‘straight’ society.