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Douglas Tirola
Henry Beard, Matty Simmons, Chevy Chase, John Landis, Ivan Reitman
Writing Credits:
Douglas Tirola, Mark Monroe

A look at the history of the American comedy publication and production company, National Lampoon, from its beginning in the 1970s to 2010, featuring rare and never-before-seen footage.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $29.97
Release Date: 4/19/2016

• Additional Interview Footage
• “John Goodman Reads Doug Kinney”
• “Thoughts on Animal House
• “Drugs in the Office”
• “Jaws 3 People 0”
• “Working in NYC”
• “Thoughts on SNL
• “Favorite National Lampoon Pieces”
• “Reading John Hughes”
• “Artists of the National Lampoon”
• “Chevy Chase ‘Seeds’ Story”
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon [Blu-Ray] (2015)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 24, 2016)

Without National Lampoon, the comedic landscape of the last 40 years would look remarkably different. For a view of its origins, we go to a new documentary called Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.

The program offers the standard format, as it mixes archival elements and modern interviews. In the latter category, we hear from founder Henry Beard, chairman Matty Simmons, filmmakers John Landis, Ivan Reitman and Judd Apatow, contributor/musician Meat Loaf, editors Tony Hendra, Bruce McCall, PJ O’Rourke, Michael Simmons and Sean Kelly, writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss, contributors John Weidman, Ellis Weiner, Ed Bluestein, Danny Abelson, Anne Beatts, Brian McConnachie, Sam Gross, Ed Subitzky, Rick Meyerowitz, Chris Miller and Chris Cerf, staff member Janis Hirsch, Cloud Studios’ Michael Sullivan and Bill Skurski, art directors Peter Kleinman and Michael C. Gross, ad salesman Bill Lippe, publisher Jerry Taylor, Thank You For Smoking author Christopher Buckley, staff member Judith Jacklin Belushi, artist Shary Flenniken, Universal Pictures’ Sean Daniel, and actors Chevy Chase, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Billy Bob Thornton, Tim Matheson and Beverly D’Angelo.

Drunk offers a basic history of the Lampoon as well as thoughts about early important figures. From there we learn of the magazine’s formative years as well as its growing success and changes along the way. Drunk also looks at the magazine’s spinoffs into albums, live performances, radio, TV and movies. Eventually we see the magazine’s decline as well.

Don’t expect much about the magazine’s gradual march to the grave, though. While Drunk doesn’t shy away from controversies and problems, it doesn’t invest much time in the period during which Lampoon slowly went defunct. Indeed, we don’t actually learn anything about its death in 1998, as the movie essentially wraps up in the early 80s.

Which is fine, as Drunk cares more about a discussion of Lampoon as a cultural force than anything else. We get a good investigation of its main participants, with an emphasis on the late Doug Kenney.

Indeed, the movie really finishes up around the time of Kenney’s mysterious death in 1980. Sure, it indulges a few post-1980 subjects – especially the release of 1983’s Vacation - but once Kenney passes, the film largely loses interest in the subject matter.

That makes sense, as we can see how important Kenney was to the magazine. Drunk offers a nice exploration of Kenney’s genius and demons, especially when it explores his relationships with others. Most of us know a little about Kenney – primarily due to his small role in Animal House as Stork – but the documentary adds a lot to our understanding.

The same goes for the Lampoon as a whole. At 95 minutes, Drunk understandably rushes through a lot of subjects – ones I suspect will be fleshed out by the Blu-ray’s extras. Nonetheless, the show hits the important notes and does so in a satisfying manner.

A copious amount of source footage helps. I like the glimpses of various Lampoon enterprises as well as tons of behind the scenes photos. These contribute depth to a program that threatens to turn into a series of talking heads.

Ultimately, these factors make Drunk a compelling documentary. It investigates a fascinating subject and does so in a brisk, informative manner.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Nothing here excelled, but the visuals appeared good for a documentary.

I mostly didn’t factor the archival material not shot explicitly for Drunk into my grade. Those elements demonstrated all sorts of flaws, but it didn’t seem fair to criticize the Blu-ray for problems with that kind of stuff.

As for the new shots, they presented solid sharpness. These elements consistently looked crisp and detailed, and they betrayed few signs of softness. Those bits portrayed no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, and I saw no edge haloes or source flaws.

Not surprisingly, the disc’s palette tended toward natural tones. The movie’s hues came across with positive clarity and definition. The colors always looked vivid and concise, and I noticed no problems with them at any times. Blacks also seemed deep and firm, while the occasional low-light shots appeared well defined and clean. Overall, I found the image to seem satisfying for this sort of flick.

Given the film’s focus, I expected little from the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Drunk, and the track indeed seemed limited. Of course, the dialogue remained the focus, as the majority of the film’s information came from interviews or other conversational bits.

However, the program offered good stereo imaging for music throughout the film, as it presented near-constant use of songs. A few effects also crept in from the sides and surrounds, but not much occurred. The music spread to the back as well, but the front speakers remained the focus, and speech was firmly centered.

Audio quality seemed fine. Speech was consistently crisp and concise, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility not caused by poor source materials. Music seemed well-reproduced and clear. Effects were minor but acceptably accurate. This was a track that worked fine for the material.

The set’s extras begin with Additional Interview Footage. With a total running time of 22 minutes, 27 seconds, this area includes comments from contributors Sean Kelly, PJ O’Rourke, Michael Simmons and Tony Hendra, editor Mike Reiss, founder Henry Beard, performer Meat Loaf, art director Peter Kleinman, filmmaker Judd Apatow, and comic book writer/creator Stan Lee.

Their remarks cover movies and live performances, cultural elements, various participants, and general anecdotes. A few good beats appear here, but I must admit the collection disappoints, as it doesn’t add a lot. With so many participants and presumably so much unused information, I expected something meatier.

John Goodman Reads Doug Kenney lasts one minute, 18 seconds. Here the actor tells us part of Kenney’s story “First Blow Job”. It’s an amusing extra, though it’s not clear why we don’t get more of the tale.

During the 10-minute, 17-second Thoughts on Animal House, we hear from filmmakers John Landis and Ivan Reitman, and actors Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, Mary Louise Weller, Stephen Furst, and Tim Matheson. Like the “Additional Interviews”, this compilation tends toward random thoughts. Again, some interesting material unfolds, but the collection seems less than coherent.

Next comes Drugs in the Office. It goes for two minutes, four seconds and offers a deleted scene. As implied, the clip focuses on the use of drugs at the Lampoon. It offers a moderately informative piece.

For a look at an unmade movie, we go to Jaws 3, People 0. This deleted scene lasts one minute, 56 seconds and looks at the abandoned parody. We find intriguing thoughts, though the clip seems a little brief.

Working in NYC fills one minute, nine seconds. Another deleted scene, it gives perspectives on life in New York during the Lampoon era. Once again, it offers a good but not great sequence.

For a look at the Lampoon’s most famous “spin-off”, Thoughts on SNL goes for two minutes, 11 seconds. We get opinions on the series and its impact on Lampoon. It gives us some solid notes, though it lacks a lot of substance.

Favorite National Lampoon Pieces gives us a three-minute, two-second deleted scene. As expected, we get a few thoughts on beloved Lampoon works. It proves to be a forgettable sequence.

We hear magazine excerpts in Reading John Hughes. The seven-minute, 12-second compilation features Beverly D’Angelo, Kevin Bacon, Stephen Furst, Anthony Michael Hall and Chevy Chase. This sounds better on paper than in reality, as the readings don’t work very well. I suspect the material works better in its original printed form.

Artists of the National Lampoon fills three minutes, 39 seconds. It showcases some of the magazine’s artists and tells how they came to the Lampoon. It lacks much merit, especially since it doesn’t name the participants; we recognize some from the main program but not all of them.

Finally, the Chevy Chase “Seeds” Story goes for two minutes, 16 seconds. Chase discusses getting pot during the shoot of Caddyshack. Chase tells a fairly amusing anecdote.

The disc opens with ads for Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, Sunshine Superman, The Wrecking Crew and Best of Enemies. No trailer for Drunk shows up here.

As a look at an iconic comedic institution, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon satisfies. Of course, it needs to rush through a lot of topics, but it still delivers a compelling take on the subject matter. The Blu-ray offers more than acceptable picture and audio along with erratic supplements. This documentary works well.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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