This is a review of the movie, and the transition it is making to the Blu-ray format
There are few movies out there that had quite the effect that An American Werewolf In London had on the viewing audience upon its release back in 1981. Because the movie crossed genres of both horror and comedy, it became somewhat an outcast in many peoples eyes. What it did do however was put England back on the map (although it was an American funded movie with an American director) as far as horror movies were concerned, and had what at the time were considered to be revolutionary special effects.
Two Americans on Holiday in the UK decide to go hiking through the Yorkshire moors in the hope of seeing the England fellow American travelers of their age do not usually see. David (David Naugton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are not expecting the frosty reception they receive at The Slaughted Lamb, a very local pub in a small village. After a pin-dropping reception, finally the locals warm to them but when Jack asks about the Pentangle on the wall the same frosty reception occurs, this time however its a dismissal as they are asked to leave. While most of the locals wish for their departure the barmaid pleads for whatever reason that they are allowed to stay. Beware the moon the travelers are told as they step outside into the cold dark night. Not taking the incident to seriously David an Jack continue their journey. But as the night brings a terrible silence, with the exception of the sound of breathing, David and Jack think again about their visit to The Slaughtered Lamb, but by then its too late. On this night one of the travelers will die, and the other will be left with the oldest curse in folklore.
At this years Film Four Frightfest An American Werewolf In London was one of the most anticipated events. It’s re-showing 28 years after its first appearance in cinemas across the world was to mark two events. Firstly the world premier of young film-maker Paul Davis’ an d secondly to mark the arrival of the movie to Blu-ray. When Werewolf was released in 81′ I like many others was too young to enjoy seeing this amazing looking movie on the big screen, so it was an amazing feeling to be there and see this event.
Of the movie itself its a clever story of humour and horror combined to give the viewer a mix of emotions. Its witty, clever, well crafted and a real pleasure to watch; even f horror movies are not particularly your bag. The gore is high, but the laughs and the genuine love you have for the movies characters allow you to really enjoy the movie. Across the world millions of people who were not taken by horror movies became life long horror enthusiasts, and for some the obsession with the movie led them to follow their dreams and make movies of their own.
One of the big factors of the movie is the characters, its this fantastic love you have for practically every character that appears on screen that make you warm to the movie as much as you do. Director John Landis has a unique knack for making this the case with most of his movies; The Blues Brothers, Coming To America and Trading Places all being rime examples of this. The movies biggest draw being the character of David, with whom you feel that you share a little more than just plain old fashioned movie kinship towards. As the character of David goes on a life changing journey, you really feel like you are there with him, along for the ride. Is if one close bond were not enough, you then get to see things from a very different angle, through the eyes of young nurse Alex (Jenny Agutter) whom having struck up a unique friendship with David, then becomes his lover and sees that things with David are not all as they seem.
After the attack David becomes the latest bloodline link to the Lycanthrope AKA a werewolf. And John Landis was keen not to follow the well trodden path of other werewolf movies and more than anything else to show the transformation from man to werewolf as something fairly painful. For this he called in special effects genius Rick Baker to develop one of the most legendary transformation scenes of all time.
Humour and John Landis and seldom far apart and it was very important for the director to inject some of his unique humour into the movie. Your never too far away from a good giggle and this is all that prevents this masterpiece from being a no holds barred bloodfest, and potentially the only reason it has achieved such lasting acclaim. Scenes such as David’s introduction to oddball yuppie couple in a porn cinema after they had been killed by him still amuse today as much as they did all those years ago.
I’m always a little negative about non high definition movies being converted for Blu-ray, often and the movie Wall Street is a prime example the movies flaws become more obviou above anything else, in Wall Street you can see every pot mark and blemish on each actors face, and other than this the movie gains little. Landis explained that he did have to dim the transformation scene down because Blu-ray makes everything so much brighter, and that some aspects did not have quite the same impact. However it actually adds to the 28 year old movies transformation scene, making legend Baker look even better and trouncing on two decades of CGI effects in movies. The print itself makes the movie look just stunning.
To accompany An American Werewolf In London on its trip to Blu-ray is the Paul Davis documentary Beware The Moon – Remembering An American Werewolf In London. This 90 minute documentary begins with a look at the destinations used for the movie chiefly Windsor Safari Park and London not Yorkshire as most expect although some long shots were filmed there. But then takes us behind the locations looking at the incredibly hard work put into the movie, and how for only the second time in history Landis was allowed to close Piccadilly Circus for filming on the condition that it was for 3 minutes only. If you’ve seen the movie you’ll understand what a massive undertaking this is.