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DVD Review: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

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An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Directed by John Landis

DVD Review: An American Werewolf in London Starring David Naughton and Jenny AgutterAn American Werewolf in London is a cult classic comedy horror movie from 1981. At the time of its release the movie broke new ground by showing the viewer a detailed transformation of man into werewolf (the scene took a week to film). There had never been a werewolf movie quite like it. In fact when Michael Jackson saw the movie he was so impressed he hired the same director for his 1983 Thriller video.

At the beginning of An American Werewolf in London two American students are backpacking through the Yorkshire Dales. It is bleak, miserable weather and although David is enjoying himself, his friend Jack is not having a good time at all. Jack is looking forward to exploring Italy later on in their trip: Northern England first, Italy later; and some sheep have just shit on Jack's pack. He is less than impressed

When they arrive at the small village of East Proctor, the boys decide to go into the local pub and warm themselves for a while. It is a charming little place called The Slaughtered Lamb, where the locals are less than friendly and there is a pentangle painted on the wall. Jack is quick to point out to David that a pentangle is the mark of the wolfman, and he suggests David ask someone about it. David is not keen and the locals are just beginning to show signs of warming to the two boys when Jack makes the mistake of asking the question himself. Silence falls over the room and a man who was playing darts gets particularly angry: "You made me miss," he says, pointing a finger at the Americans. Apparently he has never missed the board before and David and Jack decide it might be prudent for them to leave.

"You can't let them go," the landlady says.

"God be with you," says one of the locals who is playing chess.

"Stay on the road, and keep clear of the moors," the man at the dartboard tells them. "Beware the moon lads," the chess player adds.

On that cheery note David and Jack make a quick exit into the cold night air and the landlady, shaking her head, repeats: "You can't let them go." But they have let them go and, as the chess player says, "It's in God's hands now."

When they hear the sound of howling coming from across the moor, the lads get worried. To make matters worse they notice there is a full moon and they have left the road: "Oops!" Suddenly The Slaughtered Lamb doesn't seem so bad after all and the boys decide to head back. Maybe it would have been better if they had never left there in the first place because seconds later they are attacked. Jack is ripped apart and then the monster decides it wants a piece of David too. Fortunately for David, the guys from the pub have had an attack of conscience and come rushing to the rescue, bearing guns. They shoot the beast before it can do much more than inflict a few nasty scratches on David, but perhaps that is more damage than anyone realizes and the American passes out.

David wakes up in a hospital bed and finds himself under the gentle administrations of Nurse Alex Price (Jenny Agutter), who is rather easy on the eye to say the least, and is quite taken with the injured American. David might have survived the attack, but he is not out of the woods yet because he is having bad dreams. In one of his dreams he is running, naked, through the woods and snacking on live deer. Some of his other dreams are more unusual still and David begins to fear for his sanity. Of course, it doesn't help matters when his dead friend, Jack, visits him—looking red and runny and with his windpipe displayed—yuk! Jack warns David he will change into a werewolf at the next full moon. "Kill yourself," he tells him, "before you kill others."  And they used to be such good friends!

Things are not all doom and gloom for David because when he is released Alex invites him to stay at her apartment. Being neither blind nor stupid he accepts her invitation and waves a glad goodbye to any chance of further bedrest. The full moon is not far away though, David is still having bad dreams, Jack keeps on visiting, and he looks a little more decomposed on each visit.

Then when the full moon rises David's problems really begin.

An American Werewolf in London is a great movie. The script is good, the cast are excellent, and—for a dead guy—Jack is particularly amusing: "The undead surround me. Have you ever talked to a corpse? It's Boring!" And he delivers the word 'boring' like the punchline of a joke. The movie does contain a fair amount of blood and gore. At one point a rather annoying police detective's head is removed from his shoulders with one snap of the werewolf's powerful fangs. The head then proceeds to in an un-orderly fashion to bounce off the bonnet of a police car, where it leaves rather a nasty red stain. Horror and humour run hand-in-hand throughout An American Werewolf in an even mix. There are plenty of shocks, but just as many laughs and the movie is a particularly fine example of how horror and humour can work very well together.

An American Werewolf in London (1981) 25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD

Buying & Rental Options


The movie also boasts an excellent soundtrack and the song "Bad Moon Rising", sung by Credance Clearwater Survival, will always be one of my favourites. It rocks!

So, with a great soundtrack, an excellent cast, script and special effects, and—let's not forget, a great, big hairy werewolf—what's not to love about this movie? It's fantastic.

The twenty-first anniversary edition DVD is a two disc set and the extras include: 

Actors Commentary
Behind the Scenes
Outtakes
An Interview with John Landis
An Interview with Rick Baker
Focus on Special Effects
Storyboard to film comparison
Stills Gallery

And a four page booklet containing production notes.

    CAST

 David Naughton ...  David Kessler
 Jenny Agutter ...  Nurse Alex Price
 Griffin Dunne ...  Jack Goodman
 
 John Woodvine ...  Dr. J. S. Hirsch
 Lila Kaye ...  Barmaid
 Joe Belcher ...  Truck Driver
 David Schofield ...  Dart Player
 Brian Glover ...  Chess Player
 Rik Mayall ...  2nd Chess Player
 Sean Baker ...  2nd Dart Player
 Paddy Ryan ...  First Werewolf
 Anne-Marie Davies ...  Nurse Susan Gallagher
 Frank Oz ...  Mr. Collins / Miss Piggy
 
 Don McKillop ...  Inspector Villiers
 Paul Kember ...  Sergeant McManus
 Colin Fernandes ...  Benjamin - Boy in Hospital
 Albert Moses ...  Hospital Porter
 Michele Brisigotti ...  Rachel Kessler
 Mark Fisher ...  Max Kessler
 Gordon Sterne ...  Mr. Kessler
 Paula Jacobs ...  Mrs. Kessler
 Claudine Bowyer ...  Creepy Little Girl
 Johanna Crayden ...  Creepy Little Girl
 
 Nina Carter ...  Naughty Nina
 Geoffrey Burridge ...  Harry Berman
 Brenda Cavendish ...  Judith Browns
 Christopher Scoular ...  Sean
 Mary Tempest ...  Sean's Wife
 Cynthia Powell ...  Sister Hobbs
 Sydney Bromley ...  Alf
 Frank Singuineau ...  Ted
 Will Leighton ...  Joseph
 Michael Carter ...  Gerald Bringsley
 
 Elizabeth Bradley ...  Woman in Zoo
 Rufus Deakin ...  Little Boy with Balloons
 Lesley Ward ...  Little Boy's Mother
 George Hilsdon ...  News-Vendor
 Gerry Lewis ...  Man in Bus Queue
 Dennis Fraser ...  2nd Man in Bus Queue
 Alan Ford ...  Taxi Driver
 Peter Ellis ...  Bobby in Trafalgar Square
 Denise Stephens ...  Girl in Trafalgar Square
 Christine Hargreaves ...  Ticket Lady
 
 Bob Babenia ...  Usher
 Ken Sicklen ...  Bobby at Cinema
 John Salthouse ...  Bobby at Cinema
 John Altman ...  Assorted Police
 Keith Hodiak ...  Assorted Police
 John Owens ...  Assorted Police
 Roger Rowland ...  Assorted Police


 See You Next Wednesday (Adult film shown in cinema):

 Linzi Drew ...  Brenda Bristols 
 Lucien Morgan ...  Lance Boyle 
 Gypsy Dave Cooper ...  Chris Bailey 
 Susan Spencer ...  Georgia Bailey 

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