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28 Sep 2015

Home Video Review: The Institution That Was 'National Lampoon' Is Detailed in an Entertaining New Doc

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An image from Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon. An image from Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is a solidly entertaining documentary about the ups and downs of the National Lampoon magazine and production company.

Back in the day, National Lampoon was a humor magazine that was a triple-R alternative to the much-tamer Mad Magazine. (National Lampoon had cartoons and real boobs.) The doc chronicles the early days of the Lampoon’s inception, through its hit movies (Animal House, Vacation), to the eventual demise of the magazine in 1998.

Many stars—including Chevy Chase, Judd Apatow and Kevin Bacon—discuss their direct participation in Lampoon projects, and explain the ways in which the magazine and films influenced them. Other stars sitting down for interviews include John Landis (director of Animal House), Beverly D’Angelo (star of Vacation) and Tim Matheson (star of Animal House).

Before they went to Saturday Night Live, Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray and Gilda Radner all took part in Lampoon radio and stage productions. Belushi and Radner are featured in archive footage, including scenes from the stage production Lemmings, in which Belushi highlighted his soon-to-be-infamous Joe Cocker impersonation.

The magazine was a major influence in American comedy. It’s a shame to see the label being used on crappy movies these days. Somebody should step in with a reputable project and return some respect to a great American institution.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

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