Toga! Toga! Toga! Animal House turns 40 Saturday

Forty years since its release on July 28, 1978, the iconic comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House continues to endure.

Set in the 1960s, the film follows the escalating rivalry between the down-and-dirty Delta Tau Chi fraternity and the spoiled, stuck-up Omega Theta Pi fraternity at fictional Faber College.

The cast was made up of little-known actors like Tim Matheson, who played smooth-talking Eric “Otter” Stratton, a role originally written for then-Saturday Night Live star Chevy Chase.

Animal House also starred then-unknowns Tom Hulce, who went on to play Mozart in AmadeusKaren Allen, who would later co-star in Raiders of the Lost Ark; and marked the film debut of Kevin Bacon.

Though Animal House was an ensemble comedy, it had one undeniable breakout star: 29-year-old Saturday Night Live star John Belushi, who played the manic John “Bluto” Blutarsky.  Animal House made Belushi a worldwide comedy star and launched his film career, though sadly he died less than four years after the film’s release.

Animal House was the first major film directed by John Landis, and was co-written by Harold Ramis and produced by Ivan Reitman, the latter two of whom went on to collaborate on hit comedies including MeatballsCaddyshackStripes and Ghostbusters.

Shot for just $2.8 million in 32 days at the University of Oregon’s Eugene campus, Animal House opened to mixed reviews but was an instant hit with young fans.  It made $120 million at the U.S. box office, plus another $21.5 million when it was re-released a year later, for a total domestic gross of $141.6 million.

In 2001, Animal House was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

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