Contents

Reviews
How Discs Are Rated
#
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z

News Archives

DVD Guide

Contest

Video Game Reviews

About DVDlaunch

Meet The Staff

Contact


Click above to purchase "An American Werewolf In London: Collector's Edition" at amazon.com

 

An American Werewolf In London
Collector's Edition

review by Zach B. and Anthony D.

 

Rated R

Running Time: 98 minutes

Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne and John Woodvine

Written and Directed by John Landis

Studio: Universal

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 suicide.

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 shown.

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 final score)

(3/5)

(3.5/5)

(3/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

DVDlaunch.com, reviews and everything on this site © 2000, 2001
All rights reserved.
Nothing may be reprinted without permission.