Discs Are Rated
Click above to purchase "An American Werewolf In London:
Collector's Edition" at amazon.com
An American Werewolf In London
review by Zach B. and Anthony D.
Running Time: 98 minutes
Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne
and John Woodvine
Written and Directed by John Landis
Retail Price: $26.95
Features: Audio Commentary with David Naughton and
Griffin Dunne, Making "An American Werewolf In London"
featurette, John Landis Interview, Rick Baker Interview,
Casting of the Hand, Outtakes, Storyboards, Photograph
Montage, Production Notes, Cast and Filmmakers,
Recommendations. DVD-ROM: Weblinks, DVD Newsletter
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby
Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1,
English Captions, Scenes (20 Scenes)
John Landis may have made his share of mistakes in his
film career, but combining comedy with horror gore in "An
American Werewolf in London" is not one of those missteps.
Borrowing heavily from Curt Siodmak's 1930's classic "The
Wolf Man;" where a majority of lyncothrapic lore was born,
Landis builds suspense while adding to the legends, creating
a brand-new werewolf, without losing track of the
mythological roots. Even Landis' casting is downright
original: he uses preppy-faced, and Dr. Pepper songmeister
("I'm a pepper, he's a pepper, wouldn't you like to be a
pepper, too?") David Naughton as his heroic victim.
Peppering his nearly all-British cast (you knew that I
couldn't resist THAT pun) with veteran character players as
well as theatre-rooted stars such as Jenny Agutter (whose
career I've tracked carefully since she played Julie
Andrews' teenage daughter in 1968's STAR!), Landis
effectively creates a world alien to his youthful Americans.
Griffin Dunne is Naughton's sidekick, as Jack and David
do a hitchhiking tour of Europe after graduation from high
school. Their thumbs have brought the to the lovely, gloomy
moors of England, where they seek comfort and food in the
impressively named tavern, The Slaughtered Lamb. As in
1930's films, the regulars in this pub have no need for
outsiders, and with little protest, send the hapless heroes
out the door, on a full-mooned night, with the warnings to
"Stay to the road" and "Beware of the moors." Solid advice
to be sure, as Jack is suddenly, and gruesomely attacked by
what on first appearance is a wolf, which also attacks David
as he tries to pull the beast from Jack's throat, but as the
villagers shoot the beast, Jack sees that a handsome, young
naked man has been the recipient of the vigilant villagers'
bullets. The violence here is startling, as if to give the
audience a wake-up call for what it to follow; for up until
this moment, there has been laughing, and teen-age hormones
on the rise banter between Jack and David, and the warnings
of the villagers in the inn could easily be taken for
English eccentricies. As the life's blood flows from the
nude body, David drifts into a delirious sleep, only to
awaken in even stranger surroundings: a London hospital.
David's rest and recuperation is interrupted by the
attentions of a shapely nurse, the aforementioned,
startlingly beautiful Jenny Agutter, vivid, violent dreams
and the apparent resurrection of the newly decomposing Jack.
Jack has returned from limbo it would seem, and will
continue to appear in various stages of decomposition
throughout the remainder of the film, to act as a sort of
un-dead Jimminy Cricket. His conscientious advice to David
is, "Kill yourself." Since David has been attacked by a
werewolf, once the moon turns full, he is fated to go out
and kill; Jack doesn't want his friend to be out committing
random acts of violence, and firmly believes that the only
way to stop a violent eruption is for David to commit
Well, the full moon appears in the sky, and against the
musical strains of Van Morrison's "Moondance" and Rodgers
& Hart's "Blue Moon," David's transformation takes shape
courtesy of the Academy Award winning make-up effects of
Rick Baker (the first ever award for Makeup). This is not
the easy, time-lapsed photography, lap dissolved
transformation of yore; this is a bone-cracking,
skin-stretching, hair-raising transformation from two-legged
vertical creature into monstrous four-legged beast - - all
semblance of "man" is eradicated, and the American werewolf
is born. And this werewolf is born to be bad, bad to the
bone and born to kill. In the following sequences, we see
the werewolf's towering achievements as through the
moon-besotted streets of London it prowls. A definite
highlight is the nearly silent sequence of the werewolf
stalking a commuter through London's Underground (side
thought: John Landis would certainly be the best director
working now to bring Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" to the
screen; for those not in the know, Gaiman's novel uses
London's Underground in a sort of "Alice In Wonderland" gone
wrong way). This is of course, only the first night of the
full moon, and following a rude, nude awaking in the wolf
cage of the London Zoo, David knows what path to chart: go
to the police, tell them everything, and go to jail. But it
is not to be. London bobbies think that he's just another
looney. Agutter thinks he needs more rest. Only the skeletal
remains of Jack, lingering outside of a porno theater, can
tell Jack what really needs to be done. Jack must introduce
David to the nameless victims of his killing spree, thus
personifying the violence, and creating the only possible
solution to sooth David's savage beast.
No spoilers here, suffice it to say that the scene in the
porno theater with the victims and Jack, is but the
beginning of the end. Landis' style of comedic horror, black
as ebony humor as well as slapstick comedy takes "An
American Werewolf in London" to new horror heights. It's a
gripping ride for those willing to take it as it is. As far
as this viewer is concerned, it's the best piece of
filmmaking ever put forth from Landis, and with hits like
"The Blues Brothers" and "Animal House" to his credit,
that's saying quite a lot. It is a very violent look at the
lyncanthropic legend, and a bold, brave way of turning that
legend on its ear.
Presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, the
film looks pretty good. It shows age and has a gritty look
when you get down to it, as that can be a good thing or a
bad thing. There are blemishes, pieces of dirt and little
annoyances all over the print. Black levels and detail are
pretty good too. The film has a look that is somewhat soft
to it, but the constant amount of grain on the print that is
so visible really annoyed me. I guess the gritty look can go
with the film, but if the picture was sharper and was more
cleaned up, it would have been a lot better.
"An American Werewolf In London" features newly remixed
5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS tracks in English. For what they
are and considering the source material, they are pretty
impressive. .1 LFE is rather good and strong, while the
subtle use of surrounds make for a rather pleasant
experience. Other sound use, such as wolf howls, the wind
blowing and the score from Elmer Bernstein make good use of
the channels. There's not much overpowerment between sounds,
and dialogue seems to be cleaned up nicely and has a nice
crispness to it. The DTS gets the slightest edge. As they
are mostly identical, I feel the DTS has a more full
experience to it. Still, each track does not disappoint!
Also included are English subtitles, English closed captions
and French and Spanish subtitles.
This collector's edition features a decent deal of stuff.
The Audio Commentary with David Naughton and Griffin
Dunne is a fun treat for fans of the movie and is rather
enjoyable. It's not technical by any means, but just a fun
look back as the two appear to be friends, share some
stories and laughs. Too bad there's too much silence for my
tastes. Still, it's worth a listen.
Making "An American Werewolf In London" is a
decent featurette that seems to be part of the original EPK
during the movie's original fun. It's not all promo fluff!
John Landis talks about his inspiration and making the film,
while there's other behind the scenes footage and snippets
in this five minute featurette.
Even though I would have loved a Landis commentary, the
newly filmed John Landis Interview is a fine look
back with Landis on making the film. He talks about writing
the film, inspirations, creating the film, production things
and a lot more. It's well done and entertaining, and there
is a good amount to absorb here. Film clips and various
stills help out this interview too.
Makeup Artist Rick Baker On "An American Werewolf In
London" is shorter than the Landis interview, but just
as superb. Baker talks about taking the job, his own ideas
and how he truly envisioned what the werewolf should have
been originally. Movie clips and unused footage are also
Casting of the Hand is archival footage from
October 1980, where Landis and Baker go out to create the
mold of Dave Naughton's hand. It's just fun footage to watch
that lasts a decent amount of time.
There are some fun Outtakes, some Storyboard To
Film comparisons (they are a bit small), a Photograph
Montage set to music, Production Notes, bios and
filmographies of the Cast and Filmmakers plus some
cheap plugs, err Reccomendations. DVD-ROM side?
Weblinks and the usual DVD Newsletter.
An entertaining delight from John Landis, his
comedy/horror classic has been given some fine treatment by
Universal. With good audio and video, and decent extras,
fans of the film should pick this one up.
(4.5/5 - NOT included in
(3.5/5, NOT an average)