AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine, Lila Kaye, David Schofield, Brian Glover. Directed by John Landis. (97 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM ARROW VIDEO
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀
Revisiting An American Werewolf in London for first time in at-least 30 years, my biggest takeaway was that it has aged remarkably well from a technical standpoint, better than most other horror movies released in the 1980s. The spectacular werewolf transformation sequence halfway through remains a make-up effects milestone, forever changing the way creature features would be made. As practical effects go, only John Carpenter’s The Thing ever topped it. More importantly, those effects are still convincing.
Additionally, the gradual decomposition of Griffin Dunne’s character is just as impressive. Perhaps even more so, being that each time he shows up in the story – looking increasingly hideous – Rick Baker’s work is onscreen for long, unbroken stretches, yet the illusion of a dead man talking is never broken. The special effects alone make An American Werewolf in London deserving of a spot on any horror lover’s shelf.
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However, my other major takeaway was that the groundbreaking imagery tends to overshadow some of the film’s shortcomings, such as a protagonist who’s pretty-much devoid of any real personality, a fairly standard plot and a maddeningly abrupt conclusion that suggests writer-director John Landis couldn’t figure out how to end it. Maybe because he’s always been a better director than a screenwriter. His penchant for in-jokes, self-conscious quirkiness and gratuitous sex is certainly here in abundance. But comparatively speaking, Joe Dante’s The Howling, released around the same time, was a more creative – and funnier – homage to werewolf lore.
Still, An American Werewolf in London remains an entertaining horror-comedy. Considering Landis’ wildly inconsistent career, it arguably ranks among his better films, though much of that is due to Rick Baker’s still jawdropping make-up effects. One thing is certain, fans of the movie will love this Blu-ray release from Arrow Video, which is loaded with an abundance of new and vintage bonus features (outlined below).
NEW: “MARK OF THE BEAST: THE LEGACY OF THE UNIVERSAL WEREWOLF” - Easily the best of the bonus features, this 77 minute retrospective documentary on the history of Universal monsters (not just werewolves) is a must-see. Includes numerous interviews Landis & Naughton, as well as directors Joe Dante, Daniel Griffith and a host of others.
NEW: “AN AMERICAN FILMMAKER IN LONDON” - An entertaining interview with Landis, though it sometimes covers the same ground as the above-mentioned doc.
NEW: “WARES OF THE WOLF” - A short look at some of the props and masks.
NEW: “I THINK HE’S A JEW: THE WEREWOLF’S SECRET” - Video essay by filmmaker Jon Spira, discussing the film’s depiction of Jewish characters.
"BEWARE THE MOON” - Vintage documentary, running 97 minutes, that covers quite a bit of the same ground as “Mark of the Beast.”
AUDIO COMMENTARIES - #1: Paul Davis, director of “Beware the Moon”; #2: David Naughton & Griffin Dunne
VINTAGE FEATURETTES - “The Werewolf’s Call” - Director Corin Hardy & writer Simon Ward discuss first seeing the film; “Making An American Werewolf in London” - Short, promotional making-of featurette; “I Walked with a Werewolf” - Interview with make-up artist Rick Baker; John Landis Interview; “Casting of the Hand” - designing Naughton’s ‘stretching’ hand (from 1980)
OUTTAKES – 3 minutes, no sound.
GALLERIES – Stills, promotional material, storyboards and even the shooting schedule.
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET (not reviewed)
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET (not reviewed)
REVERSIBLE COVER (not reviewed)
PURR-R-R...THE FILM ITSELF IS A TAD OVERPRAISED, BUT FANS ARE GONNA LOVE THIS.