AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
Review by Michael Jacobson
David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine
Director: John Landis
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: September 18, 2001
GOD!!! OH, I’M BURNING UP!!!”
Landis created the ultimate shape-shifter film with An American Werewolf in
London. Not only did it boast
the most disturbing transformation sequence ever included in a wolf movie, but
the most terrifying end result of a creature as well. Throw in for good measure a suspenseful and dynamic sense of
direction and a smart script that inspires almost as much laughter as fear, and
you also have one of the 80’s quintessential horror pictures.
American friends David Kessler (Naughton) and Jack Goodbar (Dunne), things start
out looking pretty bleak. Their
idealized European vacation has been reduced to traveling as hitchhikers and
riding in the back of a truck with sheep. The
weather is cold and unforgiving. The
famed Welsh moors stretch out for miles. The locals at a pub are quite unwelcoming, except to offer
strange warnings about staying on the road and bewaring the moon.
with a few broad strokes, sets his movie up beautifully.
For foreigners on foot at night, even a friendly country like England can
be a bit unsettling and disorienting. They
end up off the road and lost, with some horrible sounding thing seemingly
shadowy monster brutally kills Jack (stress brutally), and leaves David wounded
before some unidentified people save him. He
wakes up in a hospital three weeks later, convinced he saw a werewolf.
Neither his physician Dr. Hirsch (Woodvine) nor his pretty nurse Alex (Agutter)
can quite believe him.
situation gets better and worse simultaneously. For better, he recovers from his injuries and begins a
relationship with Alex, who invites him to stay at her flat.
For worse, he’s tormented by nightmares that culminate in a visit from
the horribly mangled corpse of Jack, who delivers awful news to his former
traveling companion: the werewolf
has passed his bloodline on to David. He
will become a beastly killer on the next full moon.
he believe Jack really spoke to him? Do
we? We’re pretty sure we know
what’s coming, but first time viewers are in for a horrifying thrill ride.
Oscar winner Rick Baker did some of his most imaginative and convincing work for
John Landis on this picture. His
creatures are terrifying, and his transformation effects and makeup will have
your jaw in your lap. American
Werewolf created a whole new vocabulary for the wolf picture, and is a movie
that has never been equaled before or since.
Landis peppers his gruesomeness with some humor as well.
One scene, that takes place in a porn movie house, really has to be seen
to be believed. It’s a bit
unsettling, yet unmistakably and absurdly funny.
people know I’m a big horror fan. And An American Werewolf in London is
one I never get tired of. The sense
of freshness it first brought to the genre twenty years ago feels just as new
and exciting today. Sure, I always
remember the details, but this is one my brain will let go of just long enough
to re-experience time and time again. That’s
a classic by any definition.
is the best home video presentation I’ve yet seen for this film, and Universal
has done a commendable job with its anamorphic widescreen transfer.
There are many night scenes, and they generally come across well
rendered, with no grain or enhancement effects to spoil the images.
Colors are generally well presented and contained, with perhaps just a
click less brightness than normal owing to the age of the picture.
The print itself is also in fairly good shape…I think most fans will be
happy with the effort here.
5.1 soundtrack remix is more than respectable.
Most of the film’s audio stays on the forward stage, but the rear
channels kick in most nicely for effects such as wolf howls or one of the best
sounding thunderstorms I can remember on DVD.
The .1 channel is inactive most of the way, until the city-in-chaos
finale, but I found the normal channels manages to carry the bass well without
it. The music is a plus, with
tongue-in-cheek song selections like “Bad Moon Rising” and both ballad and
doo-wop versions of “Blue Moon”. High
had hoped for a John Landis commentary, but the one featuring actors David
Naughton and Griffin Dunne is a good listen…both men have dry senses of humor,
and the way they discuss the film is very much in the manner their characters
banter in it. Mr. Landis should be
aware that he lost some of his dialogue credit in this commentary!
is a very short original featurette that’s not very detailed…most details
are skimmed over, including the big mega-stunt finish, where Landis says, “No
movie is worth someone getting hurt.” (Tell
that to Vic Morrow, huh, John?) Better
is the modern interview with Landis, who recalls with zeal the making of and
ideas that went into the film. There
is also a short interview with Rick Baker on his massive contributions to the
movie. There is a “casting of the
hand” makeup sequence, some outtakes, storyboards, a photo montage, production
notes, and some talent files…no trailer, though.