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National Lampoon's European Vacation

this week's lecture
recreational geography
european vacation
Recreational Geography 207 isn't offered at Harvard or Yale, so when you want a real education you gotta come to TNT's Summer School. No "Deconstruction and Diderot" or "Medieval Estate Law" here; we have useful subjects for your edification. So if you're traipsing around the country on Labor Day, be sure to take time and plop yourself and a gaggle of loved ones in front of TNT -- if you want those course credits from Professor Joe Bob Briggs.

Our first object of study in Recreational Geography 207 is a trip with America's favorite family. Nope, not the Cleavers or the Hardys or the Kennedys or even the Simpsons. You clever souls have guessed it (or read ahead): The Griswolds! Those almost lovable, laugh-a-minute folks with disastrous recreational outings are back for National Lampoon's European Vacation, the second in the popular series. (One source of unknown veracity tells us that the German title for the film translates as Help, the Americans Are Coming!)

After their trip to Wallyworld (in National Lampoon's Vacation), the Griswolds thought life held few surprises -- but that was before they won a free trip on a gameshow. Their eyes were then turned toward different shores, new ideas and old civilizations. Their tourist stops are England, France, Germany and Italy (with Luxembourg apparently saved for a yet-unmade European Vacation II), as the Griswolds' whirlwind journey takes them through Ye Olde Countries. Along the way they encounter French girls, the Eiffel Tower, confused Germans, Stonehenge (which they manage to topple) and the Queen of England.

The origins of National Lampoon's European Vacation are lost in the mists of time in a shrouded pre-history when primordial fish discovered their mutant legs had unexpected advantages, which of course was long before Mankind blew itself up and the apes took over. But we'll fast-forward a bit to the sharply satirical magazine National Lampoon, an offshoot of the venerable Harvard Lampoon. At some point, it occurred to Lampoon folk that movies can earn money and since they had a recognizable brand name and flocks of talented writers, it was time to get in on the action.
Thus we were graced in 1978 with National Lampoon's Animal House, and it was good. (1978 also saw the infamously unwatchable National Lampoon's Disco Beaver from Outer Space, which has apparently only been seen on a few cable outlets.) But more importantly, Animal House was a smash hit, making more Lampoon-titled films practically inevitable. And there've been a ton, mostly forgettable (know anybody who's seen National Lampoon's Class Reunion?), some heading direct for the video racks.

But at some point, a genius sifting through back issues of the magazine stumbled across a snarling little black comic story by an unknown writer named John Hughes about an average American family trying, through numerous disasters, to reach an amusement park for their vacation. Perhaps not natural material for a film, but it became one anyway. The resulting National Lampoon's Vacation (scripted by the soon-to-be-famous Hughes from his short story) was another hit, resulting in three sequels so far. National Lampoon's European Vacation came out the same year as his The Breakfast Club and Weird Science.

Of course it just wouldn't be the Griswolds without Chevy Chase returning as Clark Griswold (we learn his middle name this time: Wilhelm) and Beverly D'Angelo as his lovely wife Ellen. (D'Angelo once noted that they've been together longer than many real-life couples.) The Griswold offspring, however, won't look quite as you remembered them. This time, Rusty and Audrey are played by Jason Lively (Night of the Creeps) and the ill-fated Dana Hill (voices for Rugrats and Duckman; she died later at age 32).

The career of European Vacation director and Bronx native Amy Heckerling certainly had its ups and downs. She blasted off big time in 1982 with Fast Times at Ridgemont High before slipping on the misguided gangster spoof Johnny Dangerously. Since then there have been such commercial successes as the two Look Who's Talking films and the wonderfully substantial Clueless.

Since you're here to learn, we won't tell you about any trivia that might clog the clean flow of your notes. We won't tell you that the game show host is John Astin of Addams Family fame, which you probably already know anyway. We won't tell you about Eric Idle of Monty Python fame popping up on a bicycle. It's certainly not worth going on about Paul Bartel of Eating Raoul fame playing Mr. Froeger or Moon Unit Zappa of "Valley Girl" fame as Rusty's girlfriend. So, students, you'll just have to glean these tidbits by watching the film yourselves.

TNT's Summer School wants you to be prepared for any life experiences in Europe (unless of course you live there) by careful viewing of National Lampoon's European Vacation. Now here's Joe Bob with those Drive In totals:
Ten dead bodies. No breasts. Five jet collisions. Two plane crashes. One barroom brawl. Horse gymnastics. Motorcycle gymnastics. Chihuahua squishing. Electrocution. Head slamming. Funeral combat. Kung fu. Three and a half stars.
National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)
Rating: TV-14.

Monstervision Host Segments

Oh, my goodness -- is this really the last night of Joe Bob's Summer School? Well, hack off my leg and call me Peggy. I'm Professor Joe Bob, and tonight's class is Recreational Geography 207, where we find out whether our first movie, "National Lampoon's European Vacation," was just a good excuse for the stars to go to Europe -- and we can DO that, because we have not only the producer, Matty Simmons, as one of our guest lecturers, but we have the world's most famous expert on travelling all over the world without paying anybody for anything, the one and only Robin Leach. He'll stay with us for this movie and maybe our second one, too, Dan Aykroyd and John Candy in "The Great Outdoors."

Now. Speaking of vacations, I want you to remember the one cardinal rule of all professional vacation-goers. [writes on blackboard] "Do Not Structure Your Damn Time." Do you understand what I'm saying here? For example, I have this friend Larry who's as rich as a sitcom star, and so every year at this time he takes one of those European cruises where you drink champagne every night and listen to bad cabaret acts and occasionally get off the boat to look at some Madonnas or sit at a seaside cafe with red-checkered tablecloths where you can guzzle the local vino for thirty bucks a pop. And they have all kinds of "programs" and "seminars" and "athletic activities" on board, so you can learn how to be a real-estate agent or a professional shuffleboard coach or find out who Marcel Proust was.

Now here's the interesting part. On his daily schedule of all the "programs" and "seminars" and "cultural activities," there's always a place marked "Free Time." Like there's time that costs money, and then there's FREE TIME. But, no, that can't be what it means, because it ALL costs money on a cruise, whether you CALL it free or not. So what they mean is, there's PRISON time and then there's FREE time. This is when the guy's ON VACATION! This is when he's in the one place in the world where ALL the time is supposed to be free!

What's wrong here? When I was a kid, I'd go to these science fairs where they had "labor-saving inventions of the future," and we were all supposed to be working twenty-hour weeks by now. But what happened? We invented all these labor-saving devices, everything got faster, and we have two-thirds LESS "Free Time" than we had twenty years ago.

You know why? Because of guys like Larry who CAN'T STAND IT. They go on vacation and they're faced with this endless stretch of "Free Time," and they start to go crazy with guilt and nervousness. There's some great Yuppie Devil God in their gut crying out, "You could have done SEVENTY HOURS of work in the time you spent hanging around the Parthenon and chucking rocks in the Aegean. Your life is MEANINGLESS." And so they have "Free Time." They work just as much as they do when they're back home -- they're getting an education, or they're becoming culturally enlightened, or they're IMPROVING themselves -- and then, after they've done that, they can just barely face that agonizing hour of "Free Time." They can suck down a couple martinis without guilt, though, because they've just read part of a book about Giotto. They can USE that Giotto someday. They'll be talking to that West Coast sales rep who's into European art, and they can just casually mention that magic word -- "Giotto" -- and pretty soon they'll be bosom buddies for life.

But tonight we're gonna teach you how to vacation right, by watching "National Lampoon's European Vacation," the follow-up to the comedy classic "National Lampoon's Vacation." "European Vacation" picks up as the Griswalds accidentally win a gameshow and embark on their first trip overseas, where they run people over, trash national monuments and make a general nuisance of themselves. Check it out, and we'll have Robin Leach popping out here to join us.

[fading] Robin's gonna be slumming. Instead of doing "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," he'll be doing "Lifestyles of the Hard-Up and Obscure."


See, isn't this movie helpful as a travel tool? When planning your European vacation, just beat Paul Bartel and his family on "Pig in the Poke"! You know what's NOT a good sign, though? FOUR dream sequences, and the movie's barely 20 minutes old.

Okay, let's not dwell on that, because it's time to welcome our first guest-lecturer of the evening, world-traveler extraordinaire, a guy who has been every place via every mode of transportation. The one and only Robin Leach. njbs2

LEACH: How're you doing?

Welcome to Joe Bob's Summer School. And all right, so here we are.

LEACH: Only two places in the world I haven't been to.

Really. What are they?

LEACH: I haven't been to Burma, which is now called Myanmar and I haven't been to Papua New Guinea, where in some parts there's still cannibalism practiced.


LEACH: I don't want to wind up . . .

You won't go there even to sample the cuisine? (LAUGHTER) All right, so here we are watching a movie about a European vacation. I would suppose that you have taken a vacation in Europe so many times that, well, let me ask it this way. The Griswalds -- they just checked into this worst hotel in London.

LEACH: The worst.

The worst. Have you ever gone out to do like a journalistic piece as part of one of your shows and ended up in some roach-infested nightmare?


It never happens.

LEACH: I tell you the only thing that was really surprising to me in all my travels was in Cuba, where I went into a bedroom and I was the only person in the bedroom. But there were eight single beds in the bedroom. I wondered who the other seven friends (LAUGHTER) were going to be for the night.

And who showed up?

LEACH: No, fortunately nobody. Not even cigar farmers. So that was all right.

Or unfortunate. All right. Have you ever . . .

LEACH:. . . And the bed I was given was the furthest from the phone. That I never understood. (LAUGHTER)

What, you couldn't switch beds? That was against the rules?

LEACH: No they wouldnt let me switch beds. Against the rules.

Have you ever paid for anything Robin? (LAUGHTER)

LEACH: Is that the traditional Joe Freeload question? (LAUGHTER) Of course we've paid as we've gone around the world. Weve done it at a travel agent discount but no, we pay. We have to -- that's the law.

Oh, even at the hotels . . .


that you're featuring in a show.

LEACH: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

You have to pay. Favorite destination in Europe?

LEACH: In Europe, again it would be Italy.


LEACH: Just like the Griswalds wind up there, the most spectacular country is Italy.

And so after all your travels, its still good ol' Italy -- probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

LEACH: Because they know how to live, those people. They have such a great lust for life. You know, they drink wine. They smoke cigars. They eat pasta. They don't care about anything other than...

DCP00840 No smoking sections in a restaurant. (LAUGHTER)


None of that stuff.

LEACH: This is the la bon vie, as they say in France.

Of course most of our audience can only dream about places like that 'cause right now they're planning their trips to Six Flags over Bakersfield. (LAUGHTER) But you probably do those kinds of trips too. Ever do, like, low budget trips? Have you ever done that?


Never. (LAUGHTER) You've never been.

LEACH: I dont, I dont . . .

You've probably never been to Six Flags have you?

LEACH: Yes, in Dallas.

You were there? Okay, the original Six Flags over Texas in Arlington. You went there?


How did you like it?

LEACH: The roller coaster was great. And I went to the Six Flags in New Jersey with Bob Pittman, who used to run it, and on the Batman and Robin ride. What else would I go on?

You've experienced it. But I doubt if you stayed at the Six Flags Inn across the street, did you?

LEACH: No. And Motel Six is a strange name to me. (LAUGHTER)

All right. Let's return to National Lampoons European Vacation and -- roll the film -- and then we'll talk some more at the next break. By the way, Robin. My eagle eye picked up Playboy Playmate of the Month for 1984 Tricia Lang as the game show hostess at the beginning of the movie. Now, did you ever do any Playmates on Lifestyles? That didn't come out right. Did you ever have any Playmates as Lifestyles guests?

LEACH: I want you to try that even one more time. (LAUGHTER) No, but we did feature Hugh Heffner up at The Mansion, so a lot of the attractive, ah, decorations were hanging around. (LAUGHTER)

So you went to the king?

LEACH: Well, yeah, or the king came to the mountain. I don't know what that is but yeah, it was -- that's a palace. Palace of pleasure.

Okay. I can imagine. (LAUGHTER)


I don't mean any disrespect to the late Dana Hill, but she doesn't really seem right for this part. I think it would've worked better with that kinda laid-back prettiness of the original Audrey, Dana Barron. Hey, Robin, did I tell you I'm moving to El Lay? njbs6


You like El Lay don't you?

LEACH: Yeah.

It's one of your favorite places. Can you introduce me to some girls?

LEACH: Ah, probably.

Okay Robin.

LEACH: You won't have a tough time handsome, tall, talented host. (LAUGHTER)

Don't bet on that, Robin. Okay, let's get down to the nitty gritty all right? What are the best party towns in the world? Where can you go if you just really want to tear it up?

LEACH: New York is the greatest party town in the world.

Really? Right here in the USA.

LEACH: Then the nightlife of Paris.

Okay. Paris. That's a big one.

LEACH: It used to be a great nightlife in Rome, but not so much any more since La Dolce Vita quieted down. Monte Carlo is also good during the summertime in San Tropez. And of course, in America, we have Las Vegas, which is the party city of the entire world.

I need to start writing these down. Where can you go if you just want to tear it up and you don't want anybody in your immediate family to know what you did while you were there?

LEACH: About four thousand miles away.

Four thousand miles away . . .

LEACH: Get four thousand away from the nearest family member. (LAUGHING)

Yeah. And what, you findwhat city would that be?

LEACH: It could be any city. You can have fun and games in any city of the world.

Okay. But you know are there some that are kind of like special in, you know, special cities for like that dark, naughty side?

LEACH: Paris.

Paris is the best?

LEACH: I would think so.


LEACH: As you see in this movie when the Griswalds go off to the nightclub, they even find their own child in the Crazy Horse.

Right. Well now, see, one reason I trust you, Robin -- even before you were world famous, I would have trusted you because you're English. And I trust the English guys on any kind of issue like this about nightlife, because, well But one thing I do, I make it a rule to never drink with English guys or at least try to drink as much as they drink. (LAUGHTER) Because now we -- now listen, hear me out. Wouldn't you agree, Robin, your countrymen do know how to put away cocktails? (LAUGHTER). And you will drink 37 different kinds of cocktails at dinner and sweet ones and everything and then at two in the morning somebody'll say, But we haven't had an after-dinner liqueur yet! The English like many many, many different kinds. Would you say this is true?

LEACH: I would say that's true.

Okay. (LAUGHTER) Well, all right, all right. Well keep working on that party list as we return to National Lampoon's European Vacation. Roll it. You know, the trouble with going to those kinds of places is that you can't remember 'em when you get home 'cause somebody told me that. . .

LEACH:. . . they don't wish to remember them.

Well maybe that's good 'cause . . .

ROBIN:. . . explains why there is heavy drinking.

I know, I know, 'cause somebody told me one time that they spent three days with me at Mardi Gras in 1985. I don't even remember even going there. (LAUGHTER)

LEACH: We've forgot New Orleans.

Yeah. Oh.

LEACH: The greatest of them all.

That's on the list. And it's naughty isn't it?

LEACH: I don't how you define that.

Oh, ho. Come on, okay?

LEACH: There's no such thing as naughty.

Oh, okay then I do understand you. (LAUGHTER) The whole list was naughty.


And Chevy Chase takes his famous pratfalls to the extreme and knocks down Stonehenge. Ha ha ha. Lot of the gags in this movie don't really work, do they?

njbs7 LEACH: No, it was the model that didn't work in the movie.

That's true. It was kind of cheesy wasn't it?

LEACH: Did you notice that as well?

Yes, I. . .

LEACH: That's a lot of damage for a small English car to do that hardly backed up in reverse.

Yes. Okay, Robin, now we're in Paris. First thing . . .

LEACH:. . . ooo la la . . .

Yes, we were just talking about Paris. Now, first thing that comes to your mind well, first of all, best hotel in Paris?

LEACH: Oh, the Ritz.

Best restaurant in Paris?

LEACH: Um, boy. Well, Taurus would say Maxims, but it would be the new Alain Ducasse restaurant in Paris.

Alain Ducasse. Alain Ducasse. Okay. Best place to see naked French girls?

LEACH: Ah I would say, go to the Crazy Horse.

Really? Still, after all these years . . .

LEACH: They change the show every three months so . . .


LEACH: They change the girls every three years.

All right. I want to talk about Thailand.

LEACH: My favorite country in all the world.


LEACH: Yeah. I love Thailand.

Is Thailand really all its cracked up to be? You hear so many people . . .

LEACH: Nicest people in the world.


LEACH: The most incredible food.


LEACH: Wonderful countryside. Wonderful Asian culture.

How much does it cost?

LEACH: You can get there quite inexpensively.


LEACH: Depends how you want to do it. If you want to go on a private, you know, G-5, it'll cost a lot of money. But if you want to go as baggage on a boat, it'll cost very little.

Yeah (LAUGHTER) but you would never go as baggage on a boat, I mean

LEACH: . . . I've only heard about doing those things. (LAUGHTER)

The typical trip for you, though, I mean what would it cost for a week? Bangkok?

njbs8 LEACH: It makes a hard man humble. You could do Bangkok on a very, you know, on a grandiose scale of under five thousand for a week.

And what does that include? Hotel? Meals?

LEACH: Yeah.


LEACH: Not the . . .

. . . Okay.

LEACH: Not the air transportation. Then Bangkok you could also do much more inexpensively because they have very, very small hotels. And then, of course, if you wanted to go to any of special places that Bangkok is somewhat known for (LAUGHTER).

Well that's kind of what I was gettin' at.

LEACH: You were getting to the Thai massage.

Uh huh.

LEACH: Was that what you were getting to?

Uh huh. Yeah.

LEACH: The two or three girls on a rubber raft.


LEACH: And the swimming pool?

Yeah. I go with that. (LAUGHTER)

You can actually stay overnight there.

LEACH: I'm told its quite reasonable . . .

I would assume. (LAUGHTER) Well, and you could probably stay overnight at those places.

LEACH: You can stay for as long as you wish.

Oh, so like you just spend seven days there -- you don't even need a hotel room. (LAUGHTER)

LEACH: That's one way to look at it. (LAUGHTER)

All right. I'm gonna need your home phone number, Robin (LAUGHTER), after this is over. Okay. That was an awfully short segment, so let's get back to the movie. You ever need somebody to do, like, script continuity on your crew or something?

LEACH: Are you offering?

Location scout. I'll be your (LAUGHTER) location scout. Yes, Im offering.

LEACH: You're too tall to go to some of the places we go to.

Too tall.


Too tall to go to Bangkok?

LEACH: No. Not too tall to go there, but there are other places where only the short make it.

Really? (LAUGHTER) I don't even want to think about what you're talking about.

LEACH: I don't want you to think about what I'm talking about. (LAUGHTER)


Well, that's a first. TNT is famous for holes in the dialogue where the cuss words should go, but I've never seen em bleep the subtitles before. And that scene where the dog jumps off the Eiffel Tower --that's obviously a reference back to the scene in the ORIGINAL "National Lampoon's Vacation" where they forget the dog is tied to the back of the station wagon and they kill the little guy. So this time you THINK the dog is gonna die, but then they go out of their way to show the dog swimming to safety in the river. I mean, why is everything so much SOFTER in this movie?

Yeah, it's really not very good, and it was written by John Hughes, the guy who did "Breakfast Club" and all those famous movies in the eighties.


So we KNOW that Audrey misses Jack. We got that. But you probly DON'T know that the guy who just played Fritz, the Bavarian relative, is the German comedy legend "Willy Millowitsch." And you know what cut-ups the Germans are. "Nehmen Sie meine Frau, bitte!" [Naymen-Zee miyna frow, bitta] You know what that means? "Take my wife, please." See, wasn't funny. Anyhow, it's getting crowded here at "Joe Bob's Summer School," we've got so many experts hanging out with us. Robin Leach, the world's most experienced tourist and traveller and . . . could I call you a libertine?

AND Matty Simmons, producer of the National Lampoon movies, who for many years published and edited the funniest magazine in American history. Brian McConnachie--funny writer. That sequence where they rush through the Louvre. And then, of course, drinking out of the bedpan --that's always GREAT for laughs. You know what's different about this movie, Matty? There's no goal. In the first one, they had to get to Wally World, but in this one, they're just kinda . . . travelling. I'm sure Robin would agree with me. It's two against one. Did you tell John Hughes his script sucked for that reason?

Okay, let's get back to the brilliantly conceived, but less than brilliantly executed, neverthless financially successful, "National Lampoon's European Vacation." Roll it.


Okay, Matty, what's with the extended SHOPPING MONTAGE? The movie's almost OVER. And you're starting a Mafia subplot. What do you have to say for yourself?

You know I'm moving to El Lay next week, Matty? I might be able to get you hooked up. As you may know, all our guest-lecturers get a book as a parting gift. We got you this one: it's called "Matador." I figured you could maybe make "National Lampoon's Spanish Vacation."

Okay, we're gonna watch the conclusion to "National Lampoon's European Vacation," where we're finally gonna get some plot, believe it or not. So, roll it, and then we'll come back and talk some more to Robin Leach.

[fading] Do you think of Chevy Chase as living out YOU on the screen, Matty?


We just had the entire plot of the movie in the last ten minutes, didn't we? Accompanied by a little late-movie cameo by Moon Unit Zappa as Rusty's girlfriend. I should point out that there was some in-fighting of how they were gonna end that flick. Chevy Chase wanted it to be him sitting in front of the fireplace saying, "It's good to be home." But Matty Simmons pointed out that they were making a COMEDY, and then HE came up with what I think is a pretty funny ending, which is that they're all relieved to be home, and a guy with a camera crew knocks on the door, saying, "You've just won a trip to the Great Wall of China!" And Chevy's really happy, and he turns to the rest of the family, and they're all glaring at him, so he says meekly to the guy, "What's second prize?" But Chevy Chase was so p.o.ed at Matty that he'd ix-nayed HIS idea, that Chevy then ix-nayed Matty's idea, and they had to go with Amy Heckerling, the director's idea, which was the Statue of Liberty thing we just saw. And what do you expect from the director of Look Who's Talking Too, the only flick we've ever given ZERO stars?

on the set with Joe Bob
robin leach

Since the age of ten, Robin Leach knew what he wanted to be when he grew up - a journalist. He loved writing and telling stories and by age 15 he was working as a general news reporter for The Harrow Observer in England. He moved on to the prestigious Daily Mail at the age of 18 to become Britain's youngest Page One reporter. In 1963 he emigrated to America where he eventually became the show business editor of The Star for ten years. He began reporting for morning shows on KABC-TV in Los Angeles and WABC-TV in New York and in 1980 joined CNN's People Tonight.
leach He also reported for Entertainment Tonight for its first three years and in 1983, Leach launched his most popular television venture, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, which ran for an unprecedented 13 seasons in over 30 countries around the world. Other notable accomplishments include his cookbook, Entertaining With the Rich and Famous and the cable-tv series, Gourmet Kitchen and Travel Secrets. Leach is currently working on a new series, Heroes America, for the USA Network and he has made cameo movie appearances in such films as The Last Horror Film, Troop Beverly Hills and She-Devil.

matty simmons

The publisher and one of the original founding fathers of National Lampoon magazine, Matty Simmons has kept busy for the last two decades as a movie producer, creating boxoffice blockbusters like National Lampoon's Animal House and National Lampoon's Vacation. He is also the author of If You Don't Buy This Book, We'll Kill This Dog! Life, Laughs, Love & Death at National Lampoon which is probably the most complete history of the infamous magazine, describing in detail the ill-fated take-over of the Lampoon by actor Tim Matheson and Dan Grodnik and their subsequent sale of the magazine to J2 Communications. Simmons also served as producer on the television series, Delta House (which actually predated the movie Animal House, but the network geniuses left the pilot script on the shelf until the hit movie suddenly renewed their interest). Other notable films include National Lampoon Goes to the Movies, National Lampoon's Class Reunion, National Lampoon's European Vacation, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (see below) and National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation.

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