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Written and directed by a young John Landis, this 1981 release was a hit and rightly so. It is a smart, sharp, scary, and ultimately satisfying horror flick with a dash of romance tossed into the brew. Boasting a young and energetic cast, it succeeds brilliantly in what it sets out to do: entertain.
David Naughton (I'm a Pepper; you're a Pepper) is terrific as a young American backpacking along the moors in Northern England with his friend, played with comic deftness by Griffin Dunne. They are advised to stay on the road and off the moors. When they come upon a strangely named roadside in, they stop in for refreshments, only to get a very odd and funny reception upon their arrival. Feeling unwelcome, they decide to move along, but not before being told once again to keep to the road and off the moors.
Though they are able to see the road, as there is a full moon, they carelessly wander off onto the moors. No sooner do they do so that they start to hear the baying and howling of some creature. Scared and realizing that they have wandered off the road, they start running for it, when suddenly "it" is upon them, killing Griffin almost instantly before attacking David. David is saved by those very folk who had made them feel unwelcome in the inn. How they do it makes for a great scene.
The unconscious David finds himself waking in a London hospital several weeks later, remembering that he and his friend had been attacked by a viscious wolflike animal, a story at odds with what the police had been told by the local villagers. David begins to have some disconcerting dreams and visits by his now dead friend, who claims to be part of the undead. David, who thinks he is going crazy, is looked after in the hospital by an interested doctor, played by John Woodvine, and a lovely and caring nurse, played by a very young Jenny Agutter. David and Jenny happens to fall in love and upon his release from the hospital, he goes and stays with Jenny in her apartment. It is there that, during a full moon, David experiences what he has become.
What happens next is both frightening and, at times, humorous, due to the wonderful script penned by Landis. The doctor, intrigued by David's claims that he was bitten by a wolf like animal, coupled with a bizarre series of murders where the victims are found half eaten, travels to where David had been attacked and discovers the same roadside inn, where he encounters a reception similar to that which David and Griffin had received. Returning to London, he sets about trying to help David. Meanwhile David is himself confronted by what has happened, though he has no recollection of having done anything. What transpires next, however, will keep the viewer riveted to the screen.
This is a great horror film, well acted by the entire cast. The special effects won make up artist, Rick Baker, the first of his six Academy Awards for special makeup effects (Star Wars, The Nutty Professor, Planet of the Apes, Men in Black, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas). This is a DVD well worth having in one's collection.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON  [Full Moon Limited Edition Iconic Art SteelBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import] From the Director of Animal House . . . Comes a Different Kind of Animal! A Full-Blooded Horror Film That Happens to have a Sharp Sense of Humour!
Re-discover one of the most gripping horror films of all-time with the cult classic ‘An American Werewolf in London.’ Blending the macabre with a wicked sense of humour, director John Landis (National Lampoon’s Animal House) delivers a contemporary take on the classic werewolf tale in this story of two American tourists who, while traveling in London, find their lives changed forever when a vicious wolf attacks them during a full moon. Featuring ground-breaking, Academy Award® winning make-up by Rick Baker [The Wolfman], this digitally re-mastered Full Moon Edition also includes the new feature-length documentary Beware the Moon.
FILM FACT: The film won the 1981 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and an Academy Award® for Outstanding Achievement in Make-up. In the Piccadilly Circus sequence, the man hit by a car and thrown through a store window is John Landis himself. The end credits, which congratulate Prince Charles and Diana Spencer on their marriage, end with a promo card for Universal Studios urging viewers to "Ask for Babs," a reference to National Lampoon's Animal House. Before David Naughton transformed into a beast, he served as the jovial pitchman for the Dr. Pepper adverts and director John Landis’ wife loved those spots, and she recommended her husband consider him for the werewolf role because of them.
Cast: David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Joe Belcher, David Schofield, Brian Glover, Lila Kaye, Rik Mayall, Sean Baker, Paddy Ryan, Jenny Agutter, Anne-Marie Davies, John Woodvine, Frank Oz, Don McKillop, Paul Kember, Colin Fernandes, Albert Moses, Jim Henson (archive footage), Michele Brisigotti, Mark Fisher, Gordon Sterne, Paula Jacobs, Claudine Bowyer, Johanna Crayden, Nina Carter, Geoffrey Burridge, Cynthia Powell, Frank Singuineau, Will Leighton, Michael Carter, Elizabeth Bradley, Rufus Deakin, Lesley Ward, Alan Ford, Peter Ellis, Denise Stephens, Christine Hargreaves, Linzi Drew, Lucien Morgan, Gypsy Dave Cooper, Susan Spencer, Bob Babenia, Ken Sicklen, John Salthouse, Vic Armstrong (uncredited), Ryan Folsey (uncredited), John Landis (uncredited), James Payne (uncredited) and Terry Walsh (uncredited)
Director: John Landis
Producers: George Folsey, Jr., Jon Peters and Peter Guber
Screenplay: John Landis
Composer: Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography: Robert Paynter
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo, French European: 2.0 DTS Digital Surround, German: 2.0 DTS Digital Surround, Italian: 2.0 DTS Digital Surround and Castilian Spanish: 5.1 DTS Digital Surround
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish [Latino American], French Canadian, Japanese, French European, German, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Norwegian, Finish, Swedish, Greek, Korean and Traditional Mandarin Chinese
Running Time: 98 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Few films had blended horror and comedy as masterfully as ‘An American Werewolf in London’ did back in 1981. London revolutionised special effects for that era. But the film works best as a study of a tortured soul. Our hero is forced to make an agonising choice, one made all the more difficult as the dead bodies pile up around him.
American pals David Kessler [David Naughton] and Jack Goodman [Griffin Dunne] are traveling through England when their vacation is cut short by a hungry wolf. The beast kills Jack Goodman and takes a bite out of David Kessler, who thinks he survived the assault with only a few scratches and one less friend. Unfortunately, nobody else does either. They think werewolves are old folk legends, and that you are merely suffering from post-traumatic stress, and they're probably right... right? For a while you think so. The doctors are probably right. There are no such things as werewolves. You're probably just going crazy. No such luck. But Jack Goodman comes back from the grave to tell him otherwise, especially as David Kessler will become a werewolf when the next full moon comes around, unless he kills himself before then. But David doesn’t like that option, particularly since falling for the Nurse Alex Price [Jenny Agutter] who treated his injuries following the attack.
While relaxing in the new girlfriend Alex Price’s apartment reading a book, you start convulsing in horrendous pain and starts morphing into a positively horrifying monster, created by make-up artist Rick Baker and others. And we see David Kessler go on a man eating rampage, terrorising the main city streets of London, and have no control over your horrendous outbursts.
‘An American Werewolf in London’ was a beneficiary of the growing trend to film in locations that might add to the experience of watching them. The chosen locale for John Landis' 1981 horror comedy was London Zoo which heralds the start of one of the film's few genuine comedy sequences as luckless student David Kessler [David Naughton] wakes up in the wolf pen and realises he needs to make it halfway across London without a thread of clothing to his name. The scene is very funny, especially seeing the character with his clothes off and especially seeing him reacting with the public, especially in the park and his journey back to Nurse Alex Price’s [Jenny Agutter] flat via public transport.
London delivered state of the art (circa 1981) make-up effects from gore maestro Rick Baker, including the iconic transformation scene that’s lost little of its visceral punch. And the film’s saucy soundtrack, every great song with the word “moon” in the title gets a showcase, heightens the mood. But it’s Jack’s occasional reappearances where the film’s black humour truly pops. Griffin Dunne’s wiseacre role makes the horror go down easier while illustrating David’s sad predicament. Writer and director John Landis, fresh from directing ‘Animal House’ and ‘The Blues Brothers,’ found just the right balance between horror and humour. ‘An American Werewolf in London’ deserves its cult status, not only for its shock sequences, but also for the tiny moments, like David Naughton calling his family back home via the public phone box for what might be the very last time. Those touches make this werewolf story so very, very human.
In the end, ‘An American Werewolf in London’ successfully attempts to update the werewolf genre; there is no such thing as silver bullets or other silly plot points from previous werewolf films. This horror cult classic attempt’s to simplify the fact that it is very funny, but does not hinder the scary elements or the impact of the creature. Because what does the werewolf represent? It represents the idea of stripping someone of their humanity and leaving them at their most primal state: something that seemingly happens in everyday society. And that is why the darker tones of ‘An American Werewolf in London’ mix perfectly with comedy and horror, that at the time the critics hated it, but luckily it has now become a cult classic, which I endorse 100%.
So grab the popcorn, turn down the lights, grab some silver bullets, especially for protection, and get ready to watch the best horror flick of the 1980's has to offer! You'll never look at a full moon the same way again! A must see for the horror buffs and lovers of scary films and werewolves. Watch this film on this stunning new Full Moon Limited Edition Iconic Art SteelBook Blu-ray disc and scare yourself silly!
Blu-ray Video Quality – This "Full Moon Edition" has been digitally re-mastered with a good 1080p encoded image, that hasn’t gone overboard with the DNR [Digital Noise Reduction] and has an impressive 1.85:1 aspect ratio. However, it does sort of show a lot of signs of age, as there is some graining throughout. Much of the film features hazy skies, which are a lot thicker thanks to all of the grain. Grainy images are throughout the film, but that sort of adds to its creepy factor. Overall, colours are dim and dark, but there is some nice detail in spots, most notably inside the Slaughtered Lamb pub. David's nightmares are a bit more vivid, as are the images. The colours get a bit more of a boost here, if you can actually see in between the hands covering your eyes. Makeup master Rick Baker's handwork is also pretty detailed, including the pieces of flesh hanging off Dunne's corpse. The colours and contrast are excellent, probably of the standard that you'd have seen in cinemas in 1981 and the blood effects are bright, as well as the night time scenes are clear with good definition.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The sound on this Blu-ray disc comes off so much better, than previous releases, thanks to this release's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. With England most of the time, especially in this film, can be very rainy, so you can expect a host of weather-related sounds, including rain, thunder, and whipping winds aplenty. The best part, of course, is the howls, growls, and feasting of the werewolf, which seem to come at you from every angle. Some of those scary moments are loud; this I suspect is just to make sure you jump. But again the audio soundtrack is beautifully balanced with clear dialogue and excellent use of the surrounds making the werewolf attacks as terrifying as they can be; especially the scene in which Jack is killed really retains its power to shock with the blood, quick cutting and Griffin Dunne's superb performance pleading for his life. The soundtrack music by Elmer Bernstein is used sparingly but effectively with Bad Moon Rising by Credence Clearwater Revival and three different versions of Blue Moon really well placed.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Cast Members David Naughton and Griffin Dunne: Here we get the introduction from David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, where they inform us that they are in a recording studio in Burbank, California, and you hear Griffin Dunne ask David Naughton when was the last time he viewed this film, but tells us he couldn’t remember when it was. They also tell us about their children and not at the time when they were younger in allowing them to see the film. They also inform us at the start of the film, that it was filmed in Wales, to represent the North of England and the Moors. An interesting fact comes to light, is that Griffin Dunne tells us that he never was asked to audition for the film, and had at the time, never done any actual film before, but when he met John Landis and spoke to him for about 10 minutes, John Landis immediately said, “oaky” and got the part in the film. We also hear David Naughton inform us that reason he got the film because John Landis via his wife saw David in the Dr. Pepper adverts and liked what they saw. They also tell us that a lot of the time they improvised things up as they went along, as most of the time they did not stick to the script, which John Landis liked very much, plus it was a 10 week shoot. When John Woodvine appears as the doctor, we find out that originally it was going to be James Fox or Robert Stevens as the doctor. Because Griffin Dunne did not do much filming, most of the time decided to visit as many London Theatres plays as possible. But what Griffin Dunne was not so keen on was the horrible special effects make-up mask he had to wear, he said after 12 hours it felt like ants were eating his skin on his face and eventually had to rip the mask off, which did not very please Rick Baker. Both Parents of David Naughton and Griffin Dunne saw the film and were totally horrified what they viewed and were truly upset. When you see David Naughton turned into a werewolf, it took 6 days to shoot. Now even thought I have given you a lot of insight into David Naughton and Griffin Dunne audio commentary, there is a lot more fascinating information you get to hear from this dynamic duo, as there is a lot more naughty funny information to be heard I have not revealed and if you want to find out what that is, then I highly recommend you make an effort, as it is a well worth listen.
Special Feature: My Scene: The “My Scene” feature is available while the film is playing. For more information, please consult the instructions in the menu.
Special Feature Documentary: Beware the Moon: This is a really informative and fascinating insight on the making of ‘An American Werewolf in London’ and what you get is 13 separate titled categories, which you can either play all of them in one go or play them separately and they are as follows: The Beginning  [1080i/p] [16:9] [14:10]; The Cast  [1080i/p] [16:9] [7:16]; Shooting in Wales  [1080i/p] [16:9] [5:38]; Murders on the Moors  [1080i/p] [16:9] [7:34]; What Bad Dreams Are Made Of  [1080i/p] [16:9] [5:28]; Bringing Jack Back  [1080i/p] [16:9] [4:24]; The Transformation of David  [1080i/p] [16:9] [12:08]; The Music of American Werewolf  [1080i/p] [16:9] [2:30]; Underground Filming  [1080i/p] [16:9] [5:26]; Porno & Puppets  [1080i/p] [16:9] [9:16]; A Four-Legged Hound from Hell  [1080i/p] [16:9] [4:28]; Causing Disturbance in Piccadilly  [1080i/p] [16:9] [7:19]; The Beast Unleashed  [1080i/p] [16:9] [12:32].
Special Feature: I Walked With A Werewolf  [1080p] [16:9] [7:30] Here we get a really personal view by Rick Baker [Monster Maker], especially on his journey to becoming a top notch professional Make-up Artist and tells how he was influenced by the old Classic Horror films from Universal Pictures, and their famous monsters, that were for him, well cool. When Rick Baker worked on the John Landis 1981 classic funny horror film, he wanted to see David Naughton transfer into a werewolf in a proper professional way, instead of the old fashioned dissolves that you use to see in the black-and-white Universal Pictures old gothic horror films. Rick Baker also informs us that he really loves his job, especially making things look realistic and would also do his job just for the love of it, even if he was not employed in the movies. This is a really nice little feature and well worth viewing.
Special Original Feature: Behind the scenes: An American Werewolf in London  [480i] [4:3] [5:15] This looks to me like an American Television “A Made For TV” type documentary and gives an in-depth look behind-the-scenes of the making of the 1981 film and we get a personal contribution from John Landis [Director] himself. But we also get lots of clips from the old black-and-white Universal Pictures horror films. Sadly, the film with John Landis was shot on 16mm film and most of the time it looked slightly out of focus. At the very end it mentions that a new film entitled ‘The Werewolf’ is coming out and obviously a film Rick Baker has worked on.
Special Feature: Universal Studios Home Video presents John Landis on: An American Werewolf in London  [480i/1080i] [4:3] [18:20] This again looks like another American Television “A Made For TV” type special and is a very nice intimate personal view from John Landis on the making of his 1981 film, and again we get lots of clips from old black-and-white Universal Pictures gothic horror films. This is a really nice presentation and well worth a view.
Special Feature: Make-up Artist Rick Baker on ‘An American Werewolf in London’  [480i] [4:3] [11:14] This is again another personal view from Rick Baker on his work with the 1981 John Landis film and a lot of his views are basically repeated on what he said in the special “I Walked with a Werewolf.” We also again get lots of repeated clips from ‘An American Werewolf in London,’ as well as unused outtake footage. We are also informed at the very end, that Rick Baker received the first Academy Award® in the category of “Best Make-up” for his work on ‘An American Werewolf in London.’
Special Feature Archival Footage: Casting of the Hand with Rick Baker and Crew, David Naughton, and John Landis in October 11th, 1980 [480i] [4:3] [10:59] What you basically get to see is the long intimate insight into the process of building up the arm and hand, for false arm and hand for the special effect when David Naughton turns into a werewolf.
Special Feature: ‘An American Werewolf in London’ Outtakes [Soundtrack Missing]  [480i] [4:3] [3:08] What you get to see in total 7 standard outtakes, but we get one extra out of the blue entitled ‘Mystery Footage’ [soundtrack missing], which is a repeat from a previous extra, where you get to see John Landis sitting front of some scenery talking to the camera and then suddenly the scenery falls over him to reveal four naked couples romping on a bed. Although it says no soundtrack, what you do get is the sound of film going through a projector.
Special Feature: Storyboards  [480i] [4:3] [2:26] Here we get to view at the top of the screen the storyboard drawings with wording underneath explaining what the scene is and below it you get to view the actual part of the film relating to the storyboard, which eventually opens up showing you the actual part of the film, but you also get lots other clips from the film.
Special Feature: Photograph Montage  [480i/1080i] [4:3] [3:45] Here you get to see lots of still photographs from the 1981 film. Some of them are in colour, but we also get to see lots of black-and-white still photographs. As you view this montage of photographs, in the background, you get the soundtrack music from the film.
Special Feature: D-BOX Motion Code: If you are equipped with a D-BOX integrated motion system, you will be able to experience a whole new dimension while watching the film.
Finally, I never get tired of watching ‘An American Werewolf in London’ and though there are some superb lycanthropic films around, this is by far my favourite comedy horror cult classic. This Full Moon Limited Edition SteelBook Blu-ray release has some really excellent Audio and Video quality presentations and a really fine and amazing array of brilliant extra features that will keep you busy for several hours. If you own the 25th Anniversary Edition, it's still worth upgrading for this improved Audio and Video package and with definitely more extras, especially the excellent “Beware the Moon” documentary, but if you don't already own this, it's as close to a 'must buy' as you can get and I doubt if there will be anymore Blu-ray releases in the near future, so grab this Blu-ray Edition, as once they have gone, that is it. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom