Thursday, June 20, 2013

Oil Can What?

My mother's favorite movie (as of 1981, and I doubt it's changed since then) is The Wizard Of Oz. I'm sure she grew up watching its annual network telecast during the 1960's, and the tradition carried on through my youth in the 70's.

The film made its TV debut on CBS November 3rd, 1956, and was an annual staple on that network every winter from 1959 through 1967 (apart from 1963, possibly due to the Kennedy assassination wreaking havoc with the schedules). From 1968-1975, The Wizard Of Oz aired around Easter on NBC before returning to CBS from 1976-1998. Wikipedia has a very detailed page about the film's TV history.

Our first chance to tape it was February 27th, 1981, and of course we had VHS tape A1 ready to roll.

All I can find on YouTube relating to this broadcast is a commercial which aired two nights previously, just prior to the Grammy Awards (which must have bummed out all the Enos fans):

Unfortunately, we used the remote to pause during commercial breaks, but the ads preceding the film did survive. So here is the end of a California Federal Savings spot with Bob Hope, followed by ads for the Stanley garage door opener and GE Spacemaker microwave oven, and the start of a Hubba Bubba commercial touting their new fruit flavor. To this day, all I can think of when I hear "Hubba Bubba" is the original "There's gonna be a gumfight" ad.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Otis! My Man!

Rewinding a couple of years to December of 1978: I'm seven years old and looking forward to seeing the latest blockbuster movie, Superman. I've read all my father's back issues of Superman, Action, and Adventure comics so I'm a fan of the Man of Steel. My father takes me to the big theater in San Francisco on opening night. The lines snake around the block, and much to my disappointment, tickets are sold out for the next showing.

Rather than wait in line for a screening that might be past my bedtime, my father decides to cheer me up by taking me to a comedy instead. We drive to a second-run theater which is showing the R-rated Animal House, one of the year's biggest hits since its July premiere. Going in, I remember only being vaguely aware of who John Belushi was (I hadn't yet started staying up to watch SNL), and I'm not sure if my dad was aware how much "inappropriate" content he was exposing me to at a young age.

All I know is that I loved it enough to recommend it to my best buddy Gil, and we roped his father into taking us again. He had been tipped off as to the nude scenes, and made us turn our heads and face the projection booth when the first one came on-screen. Once he saw how harmless it was, he let us face forward for the rest of the film.

Watching SNL reruns over the next year and a half made me a bigger Belushi fan, capped off by a summer 1980 viewing (with Gil and his mom) of The Blues Brothers, still my favorite movie of all time. So it was inevitable that when Animal House made its network television debut on NBC February 15th, 1981, we had the VCR ready to roll:

Of course, much of the salty language in Animal House was unsuitable for network television, but luckily director John Landis had thought ahead. He shot alternate takes of several scenes, substituting in cleaner dialogue for the words that would have required cutting (or bleeping).

This makes the film run much smoother than most R-rated films seen in prime time. Only a couple of scenes were excised entirely (Boon and Otter talking in Delta House near the start, and the visit to Professor Jennings's pad to smoke joints), and of course any nudity was trimmed away. In shots where the characters' mouths were far away or not visible, simple ADR was used to replace cursing.

That leaves about six minutes of specially-shot footage, which aren't found on the DVD (I'm not sure if they're used in current airings on cable TV). Fans of the movie will spot the differences right away, but here's a quick summary:

- Dean Wormer's "grab the bull by the balls" and "sneaky little shit" in the first clip become "grab the bull by the horns" and "sneaky little jerk"
- John Belushi's hilarious escalating trilogy of "Holy Shit!"s become "Oh my God!', "I don't believe it!", and "Yaaaaargh!"
- The topless pillow fight is replaced by a take where the sorority sisters all keep their bras on
- Boon's "Those assholes must have stolen the wrong exam" and Wormer's "like shit through a goose" are altered to "those jerks" and "so fast, your head'll spin"
- The start of Otter's grocery conversation with Mrs. Wormer about the size of his cucumber has been shortened and replaced with a different take
- Wormer's phone conversation with the mayor originally included 5 or 6 extra swear words ("balls" become "ears")
- In my memory, the trial scene had "cough cough" dubbed over the Deltas' interjections of "blow job" and "eat me", but re-listening, they're still surprisingly audible. Boon does tell those "jerks" to shut up rather than those "assholes" in this version
- The scene at Katy's house originally ended with a pantsless Donald Sutherland reaching for something in the cupboard, revealing his bare bottom. In this take, he's fully clothed
- Belushi shot more alternate lines to replace "join the fuckin' Peace Corps" and "lyin' around shit" 
- Wormer originally asks Marmalard "what the fuck's going on down there?"
- Mrs. Wormer's final line is changed from "You can take your thumb out of my ass anytime now, Carmine" to "You can let go of me anytime now, Carmine"

Here are the alternate scenes, from the end of tape A3, plus Casey Kasem yet again delivering NBC promos over the credits (sorry I didn't tape the tantalizing special that followed, The Women Who Rate a 10):