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"An American Werewolf in London" is a 1981 horror film which was directed by John Landis, who has also directed such films as "The Blues Brothers" (1980), "Animal House" (1978) and "Trading Places" (1983).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 97 minutes in length and stars David Naughton ("Midnight Madness", "Not For Publication", "Desert Steel") as David Kessler, Jenny Agutter ("Logan's Run", "The Railway Children", "The Avengers") as Alex Price, and Griffin Dunne ("My Girl", "Quiz Show", "After Hours") as Jack Goodman.
The plot for the film reads as follows: Two American tourists in Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.
Most people would associate John Landis with sitting in the big chair for comedies like "The Blues Brothers" and "National Lampoon's Animal House", but there was also a touch of the horror genre to the man who also directed the video to Michael Jackson's "Thriller". Landis wrote and directed "An American Werewolf in London", which became one of my favourite horror films of all time. It had a budget of just $10m and raked in over $61m at the Box Office. The film also won an Academy Award for Best Makeup in 1982. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film starts with Bobby Vinton's rendition of "Blue Moon" as the hills of the Yorkshire moors are shown in different shots with the credits rolling. As the song fades to close, a sheep herder is seen pulling up and the two American tourists get out of the back. He tells them to keep off the moors and stick to the roads, and bids Jack and David farewell. As the guys are walking along the path, they keep themselves entertained by talking about the trip and telling jokes. It is here where they come across a village and entered the Slaughtered Lamb - a pub for locals. In the pub are a few famous faces of British film and TV, including Rik Mayall and Brian Glover.
The best scene in the film comes early on when Jack and David forget to 'stick to the roads and beware of the moors'. The werewolf is on their trail, and it is here were you really appreciate John Landis' brilliant direction. The sound effects for the beast are very good and completely believable, but it is the way Jack's death is shot that really stands out. I don't want to give the game away, but the brutality is excellent and the gore factor is immense. The thirst for horror in the early 1980s was huge, and this scene in particular is one of those that remains one of the bloodiest in horror film history.
The special effects and make up are two things which make this film even better, and it is no surprise that Rick Baker won an Academy Award for his work. The image of Jack throughout the film is extremely graphic, and during his first incarnation you can even see little flaps of skin rattling as he talks and if you look closely, you can see a piece of toast slide down as he eats it. As the film progresses, his appearance begins to get more gruesome as his body starts to decay. Of course the imagery is not all exclusive to Jack. The transformation of David to werewolf is brilliant, and it still stands out as one of the most iconic of all horror films. I enjoy how his hands and feet are shown to grow into wolf-shaped claws and hoofs, and his face becomes more pointed as the completion takes full effect. I especially like the way his voice deepens from his normal pitch to a more distinctive wolf sound and finally to a werewolf.
The main part of the film focuses on David's spree as a werewolf and the killings he does while on the rampage in London and his subsequent journey home to Nurse Alex Price's flat the day after. I did feel as though it could have been stretched out a little but as I understand it, the studio wanted bits cut out of it for being a little over the top. When you consider that films such as "The Exorcist" had already been released without studio interference, you have to wonder why they would leave in some brilliantly wonderful macabre but ditch some lesser scenes.
I did especially enjoy one scene where David is enticed in to a seedy movie theatre in Piccadilly Circus which is showing an adult film. He is introduced to his victims, and some are not very pleased to see him for obvious reasons, but one couple are very cheerful which lightens the mood a little. I think the point of him meeting all these people in an adult film cinema is supposed to be comical, and it is here where it changes for the last time before the end. It seems a little rushed if I'm honest but there again, it could be that some scenes were chopped making it appear to be over too fast as before you knew it, the film was over. Those final moments were pretty good, though, especially the werewolf walking through London on the rampage.
It is reported that the movie studio executives had wanted Landis to work again with Jake and Elwood Blues, aka John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, but Landis refused to cast the pair as David and Jack, and I can't help but agree with him here. Both films left a great legacy and I feel that if Belushi and Aykroyd had been given the nod, "An American Werewolf in London" would not have been the success that it was.
You obviously have the cameo roles of Frank Oz, Rik Mayall and Brian Glover in the film, but there are also appearances by "EastEnders" actor John Altman, and "The Bill" stars, John Salthouse and Peter Ellis. Perhaps the best bit of casting from a male point of view is in the form of Jenny Agutter as Nurse Alex Price. The stunning actress plays her role with ease without really doing much, but she could just stand there for all I cared, and she'd still win me over! David Naughton and Griffin Dunne were relatively unknown before "An American Werewolf in London" was released and to be fair, neither did much after it to capitalise on its success. However, both played their parts as well as could be expected and I would have put money on them making it big afterwards.
"An American Werewolf in London" is a great film and one could say it's a cult classic, though don't let John Landis hear that. If I had to name my top 10 horror films of all time, this would probably be in it. Not because it is a gripping film, but because of those scenes which I have previously mentioned that were groundbreaking in the horror film genre. Landis would go on to direct the likes of Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase and Simon Pegg in comedy films, while "An American Werewolf in Paris" - which had nothing to do with Landis - was released in 1997. It wasn't anywhere near the success as its predecessor and it was largely slated by critics and fans alike.
What the Critics Say
Empire: "Carnivorous lunar activities rarely come any more entertaining than this."
Variety: "A clever mixture of comedy and horror which succeeds in being both funny and scary, An American Werewolf in London possesses an overriding eagerness to please that prevents it from becoming off-putting, and special effects freaks get more than their money's worth."
Chicago Sun-Times: "Seems curiously unfinished, as if director John Landis spent all his energy on spectacular set pieces and then didn't want to bother with things like transitions, character development, or an ending."
Austin Chronicle: "This movie presented a radical melange of genuine horror and self-aware comic touches, not to mention the fabulous Rick Baker special effects."
Chicago Reader: "It's a failure, less because the odd stylistic mix doesn't take (it does from time to time, and to striking effect) than because Landis hasn't bothered to put his story into any kind of satisfying shape."
My rating: 8/10
To see proclaimed director John Landis at the helm of a horror movie from the 80s may seem a bit weird to many who are more familiar with some of his more recognisable roles as director, such as the string of (successful!) Eddie Murphy comedies, The Blues Brothers and other comedy offerings. Comedy is certainly a genre he is most famed for, the sharp eye for a witty scene never really escaping him. It's perhaps why this early career offering of his is a horror with a bit of tongue in cheek humour occasionally thrown in for good measure.
While I wouldn't describe An American Werewolf in London as a comedy per se, as the horror and special effects do take over, the comedic elements are vitalising and refreshing in a film which is quite dark and jumpy. We start off with two young hitchhikers who encounter hostility and terror on the moors one night, Landis destroying the cross-Atlantic hiking trade with one short string of introductory scenes. Hunky hiker Peter Naughton then scarpers, taking up lodgings with pretty nurse Jenny Agutter, hoping that the scare they have had which is unsurprisingly werewolf related is now far behind him. Oh I bet he wishes that!
The film is full of surprises, and while I don't mean this in terms of the plot and where it takes us, it certainly has surprises in terms of how much you may well jump at certain points. Landis employs his cast to excellent effect at setting the scene, providing thoughtful calm and then rendering this obselete with some fast action and penetrating music. Werewolf relevant music is prevalent throughout, most notably Moon Dance as you may expect, and the high tension moments of lycanthropy are balanced well by the slightly comedic and romantic elements that threaten to peep through but actually know their place in what is essentially a horror film.
Agutter received an Oscar for her performance in this film, while Naughton missed out. I found this quite surprising, as although she displays the emotions required for the role quite well, the performance Naughton gave as a hitchhiker out of his depth on so many levels and the consistency he displays right through were of a higher level to hers. Both performances were impressive, although Agutter has that 'proper' British air about her that was prevalent in the era and the couple of decades leading up to it. Naughton shines though, for me. Physically impressive and dominant yet somehow psychologically needy and the lesser part of the relationship, his dominance and the way he lulls us into a sense of calm before the occasional lycanthropic explosion are marvellous.
Of course, it appears as if Landis had a whale of a time making this. The sets and backdrops are so dated, moreso than films earlier than it, but it's a prime example of how 80s films are in general. The attempts at 'cool' change are dated but then it's acceptable as the era. I liked the way the filming and the music at the beginning are typically rural England, while the streets of London give a sort of depressing and foggy view to everything. Coupled with all of this though are the special effects. I've seen a number of films with supposedly 'groundbreaking' special effects, and I suppose this is because technology was advancing so much throughout the history of film in the last Century that films probably were groundbreaking in one way or another. The use here though of quite open effects where the werewolf scenes come into it make you wonder how they did it, in between fighting the urges to hide behind the sofa, albeit with a smirky grin appearing at the corners of your mouth.
It's a switch of genres, but rpedominantly horror. Clever use of all parts of film making, Landis, his cast and his crew have all excelled themselves in the overall presentation, and this is one film definitely worth watching time and time again. Highly recommended.
RELEASED: 1981, Cert.18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 98mins
DIRECTOR/WRITER: John Landis
PRODUCERS: George Folsey Jr., Jon Peters & Peter Guber
David Kessler (played by David Naughton)
Nurse Alex Price (played by Jenny Agutter)
Jack Goodman (played by Griffin Dunne)
FILM ONLY REVIEW:
Back in 1981, film director released his self-penned tongue-in-cheek comedy/horror film, An American Werewolf In London.
The story centres around three main characters. At the time and for some years afterwards, the movie was probably best known for its by 1981's standards use of some pretty astonishing special effects - and, that still might be the case today. I remember seeing the movie for the first time when it did the cinema rounds and it has since entered high on my list of all-time favourites.
Whilst on a walking holiday in the UK, two young American men (David and Jack) take a trek across the Yorkshire Moors. Bad weather renders it so that they seek hot food and shelter at a small pub called The Slaughtered Lamb in a tiny remote village. Once inside the pub, the handful of locals treat David and Jack with a disdain bordering upon rudeness. Feeling not just unwelcome, but wary too - on the wall of the pub is painted a witchcraft pentogram - David and Jack decide to leave, with the intention of finding somewhere more welcoming. As they leave The Slaughtered Lamb, one of the locals warns them not to stray off the road, but will give no reason as to why.
David and Jack walk out into the night, bantering with one another and without initially realising it, they gradually stray off the road and onto the moors. They hear an eerie, inhuman sound...which gets closer and closer and they try to make a run for it, but too late. Jack is savagely mutilated and killed by what appears to be a wolf-like creature, and David is injured as the creature then turns on him - a shot rings out (some of the villagers had armed themselves with guns and tracked the boys down)...the creature falls dead just as David loses consciousness.
The next thing David becomes aware of is waking up three weeks later in a London hospital. During his stay in hospital, as well as becoming close to Alex, his personal nurse, he also has disturbing nightmares, plus is paid a visit by the ghost of his dead friend Jack. Jack warns David that the pair of them had been attacked by a werewolf, and at the time of the next full moon, David will turn into one. David is both spooked and worried about Jack's ghostly warning, and on his release from hospital, Alex invites him to stay at her flat as he has nowhere else to go.
During the next few days, Jack "visits" David a couple more times - each time urging David to end his own life, as once he (David) becomes a werewolf at the next full moon, nobody will be safe. Jack goes on to explain that if David were to kill himself, it would end the werewolf bloodline. Although there is a modicum of scepticism emanating from David about what Jack is warning, he is still very nervous about the forthcoming new moon.
That sets the basic storyline, and to find out where the film goes from there, you'll have to watch it yourself if you haven't already done so.
An American Werewolf In London is one of these films that whenever I watch it, I can sometimes find it amusing and sometimes very sad. I also love to ogle the gorgeous David Naughton (he's still gorgeous!!!), especially during one scene where he tears his clothes off!
Some of the humour contained within is a bit naff, especially by today's standards, but all the same it still now can provide a sprinkling of laughs. The film nowadays does come across as a little dated, and is solid proof that more recent old movies can actually look more dated than something from as long ago as the 1940s or 1950s. The two things which really age the film are the style of cars on the streets of London and the sound of the police car sirens which have long since 1981 changed.
I normally hate films where other people's music is used, but in the case of An American Werewolf In London, I find it perfectly acceptable as it's done tongue-in-cheek. The songs featured are Blue Moon (a different version to that of The Marcels), Van Morrison's Moon Dance and Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising. The placing of these songs within the film is rather clever, in that as well as the tongue-in-cheek quality, they also project a quite sinister mood of expectancy.
As far as the acting is concerned, I take my hat off to David Naughton for playing the lead role. He comes across as an extremely endearing character, and for me it's him who really carries the film from start to finish. I found Griffin Dunne reasonable as Jack, although I personally don't feel that his part would have been too demanding, despite him making a lot of appearances in the film and being one of the main characters. Jenny Agutter was okay as Alex, but I do find she comes across pretty much the same in everything she's in. There was something a little stilted about her overall performance in this film, although she did come into her own towards the end.
The special effects in the film are truly superb, and there are a couple of points where no matter how much I watch the movie and I know what's coming, I will still jump out of my skin.
Although the basic idea for the storyline is one which as far as subject matter is concerned has been done many times before (e.g. werewolves), this movie updates the old Lon Chaney et al sombre black & white offerings with the addition of humour and taking the concept of werewolves into ordinary, everyday life.
I can't really say that the film is realistic, as it certainly isn't - but then it's not supposed to be, but there was one scene that I felt could have been handled better from the point of view of realism. I can't go into too much detail as it would be classed as a spoiler, suffice to say that this scene was shot late at night down Tottenham Court Road tube station. In reality, there would have been a lot more people milling around than there were in this scene on the film.
As far as awards are concerned, in 1982 An American Werewolf In London won an Oscar for best makeup (makeup artist was Rick Baker) and four Saturn awards...one for best horror film, one for best makeup, another went to Jenny Agutter for best actress and the last to John Landis for best writing. Why on earth didn't David Naughton receive any awards?
It's my opinion that despite some of the humour being rather corny and the film not having aged too well, it's an all-time classic which provides some laughs, some shocks and some sadness. If you want to watch a horror film which in overall mood is light-hearted (there is some melodrama in it too) and is at times amusing, then you can't go far wrong with An American Werewolf In London and if you've not seen it, I heartily recommend it. Whatever it is or isn't as a film, it certainly is a damned good piece of entertainment. Rik Mayall fans may find it interesting that he has a small part at the beginning of the film and is one of the villagers drinking in The Slaughtered Lamb pub.
Some years later there was what I believe may have been a far less successful follow-up called An American Werewolf In Paris. I am unable to comment on that film, as I have never seen it.
At the time of writing, An American Werewolf In London can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: From £1.84 to £19.99
Used: From 84p to £9.99
Collectible: Two copies available at £7.00 and £9.99
A delivery charge of £1.26 must be added to the above figures.
As far as I can determine, the film doesn't appear in full on YouTube, although there are many clips available to view if you want to get a basic idea of the feel of it. I would urge caution in that some of these clips may spoil it for you if you haven't yet seen the movie in full, but intend to.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Hollywood has long been fascinated by werewolves, but in recent years a decent one has been as scarce as a silver bullet. Its latest attempt - The Wolfman - was OK, but nothing great, so I decided to turn the clock back almost 30 years to see how it should be done.
Like so many John Landis films, American Werewolf incorporates several different film genres. On the face of it, it appears to be a horror story which sees two young Americans attacked by a mysterious creature on the Yorkshire moors. One is killed; he gets off lightly. The second survives and every full moon is transformed into a werewolf.
In reality, tagging this as "horror" does it a great disservice. Yes, there are odd moments of tension which generate mild scares and a few sequences where people are attacked by the titular creature. Yet, if you go into it expecting full-blown horror, you will be curiously disappointed. American Werewolf is, for the most part, a curiously bloodless affair with only occasional glimpses of the red stuff and scares limited to somewhat a few pretty predictable ones. There's enough to just about justify a tag of "mild horror", but it won't cause sleepless nights.
Indeed, expecting American Werewolf to scare you is like expecting a dog to bring you breakfast in bed. That's not what it was made to do. Rather, it's a black comedy, taking the basic ideas of werewolf mythology and injecting some very dark humour. It's clear throughout that Landis is having fun playing with the idea of werewolves, taking well-known elements of werewolf lore and turning them on their head or giving them a fresh angle. The humour is not silly - American Werewolf is not a spoof or a satire - but there are moments which will make you laugh.
For film buffs, there are plenty of in-jokes to spot. A clip of The Muppet Show is an in-reference to the fact that Frank Oz (the voice of Kermit) appears in the film; a porn film "See You Next Wednesday" is a long-standing Landis gag on one of the best-forgotten entries on his CV. Yet, you don't need to be a film buff to appreciate many of the references, as there are also plenty which deal with werewolf mythology, which are equally fun to spot (including the use of lots of songs with "moon" in the title)
Importantly, none of the humour or references ever feels forced or self-important. They all arise naturally out of the situations in which the characters find themselves. The plot progresses in a natural fashion and always hangs together as a "proper" story. If you want to, you can just watch American Werewolf as a straightforward film. You'll miss a lot if you do, but would still be a fun watch.
It's also very much a character-driven piece and this is what makes it strongest. Like all good werewolf stories, it is a slightly tragic tale; one of friendship, doomed love and the human struggle with the "inner beast". There's a genuine sense of friendship and regret between David and his dead friend Jack, a real air of tragedy around David's romance with nurse Alex and these relationships give the film some heart and emotion, adding weight to the traditional werewolf story.
It's through these characters that the film is really brought to life. David and Jack act like you might expect real friends to do: there is an easy-going sense of fun and friendship, they insult each other and bicker, they talk about girls and they display a touchingly innocent side. Similarly, whilst David's relationship with Alex happens rather quickly, it is well-written enough, so that the inevitable outcome of their doomed love affair still has plenty of time to register and make an impact.
It's true that the acting is not the greatest in the world. David Naughton in particular (as David) is rather wooden and whilst Griffin Dunne (Jack) shows a little bit more life, he's still not great. Jenny Agutter's Alex is all plumy-mouthed vowels and sexy-nurse cliché. Yet, the genuine sense of friendship and the unexpected emotion which this generates overcomes any potential weaknesses caused by sub-standard thespianism.
Back in 1981, American Werewolf really wowed audiences with some stunning special effects, particularly the scene in which we first see David transform into a werewolf. Surprisingly, many of these effects still stand up really well. The transformation scene still looks pretty good, even now considering the tools which were at the film-makers' disposal back in 1981. Arguably, this sequence is all the better because it relies on prosthetics, rather than CGI. Since it is David who is transforming (rather than a bunch of computer pixels), it feels more realistic, regardless of the fact that it has a slightly primitive DIY look. The transformation looks agonisingly painful and the presence of an actor (even if not the greatest) reinforces the human aspect of the film. Similarly, Griffin Dunne's slowly decomposing Jack provides some genuinely impressive visual effects which once again benefit from having real people slathered in prosthetics rather than relaying on a computer to do the hard work, which too often removes the human element.
True, some of the other effects have dated badly. The werewolf itself is seen only fleetingly (the result of a fairly low budget) and on the occasions when it is seen properly, is laughably poor. If you want to re-create the look and feel of it in your own home to amuse and terrify your family here's how:
Step One: Buy a large stuffed bear (under no circumstances, no matter how low your budget, should you use a teddy bear, as these are not remotely scary)
Step Two: Stick the stuffed bear onto a trolley or a chair with wheels
Step Three: Waggle the trolley from side to side to give the impression of movement.
Hey presto! You have your own werewolf special effect!
Even so, it somehow works. In a serious monster film, it would be disastrous, destroying any sense of tension or excitement. Here, it's somehow endearing and anyway, because the rest of the film is so good, you're more than prepared to forgive it the odd shonky special effect.
2010's The Wolfman may have been a bit of disposable fun, but An American Werewolf is still leader of the pack as far as I am concerned. An effortless blend of comedy, drama and mild horror, it's a film which is great fun on first watch and gets even better every time you see it again.
An American Werewolf in London
Director: John Landis
Running time: approx. 97 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2010
An American Werewolf in London is one of those classic horror movies that everyone has either seen or heard of. Released originally in 1981 and directed by John Landis, this is an imaginative and witty horror-comedy that I really enjoyed when watching it recently.
The movie itself reveals a darker, more sinister side to London in the same year this was made. It was of course the year when the eyes of the world's media were focused on events such as the wedding of Charles and Diana.
The story centres around two young American backpackers played by David Naughton and Griffin Dunne. They venture on to the Yorkshire moors one night despite being warned by pub regulars not to go there. They realise soon enough they should have taken heed of that warning, as they are pursued by a hungry werewolf. Unfortunately Dunne doesn't survive the attack and is slaughtered, while Naughton receives a nasty bite before escpaing.
He soon discovers that the bit he has received has turned him into a half-wolf, half-man creature and he wakes one morning naked in London's Regents Park Zoo with the distinct taste of human flesh in his mouth.
The movie was pretty scary in parts I thought and filled with some pretty gruesome scenes. One of the most memorable scenes for me and fantastically directed, was the werewolf chase through and underground station. There are some extraordinary effects in the film too and the cast do a great job in convincing us that this story is believable and real.
Worth watching but some parts will make your stomach turn somewhat..
An American Werewolf in London is a pretty good horror film, not really good enough to be considered a clssic in the genre but good entertainment value and some neat special effects in places even if it does look a little dated which you might expect given that it is almost 30 years old. The film has a good mix of straight up horror with some very funny scenes as well and it is that combination combined with the suspense that is built up that makes it a fun film to watch.
David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are backpacking their way around the north of England when one night while walking on the Moors at night they are attacked by some sort of wild animal and Jack is killed while David suffers a bite wound and after passing out he next wakes up in a London hospital bed. while there he has visions which involve Jack who tells him that unless he commits suicide before the next full moon he will turn into a werewolf however he pays no heed to these warnings with rather serious consequences. Jenny Agutter provides some romantic interest as Alex a nurse who helps with his care.
The film boasts an intelligent and quite funny script and combined with some clever directing does a good job of combining the humour that runs throughout the film and the moments of drama and suspense that you get at various stages in the film. The special effects are pretty good especially when he transforms into the werewolf and it is a graphic and very visual experience that will probably have you wincing and reeling with horror.
Set in London there are some cool locations used and the city is used to great effect, there are some scary moments in the film and it does a good job of building up the suspense to produce and enjoyable horror film.
**Film only review**
Regular readers of my reviews will have noticed a theme that runs through a lot of my reviews: Horror films, specifically ones that were considered 'nasties' and others that are considered 'classics' 'An American Werewolf in London' was never considered a nasty, but for when it was released (1981) it was groundbreaking in its visual effects and was in a different league to the horror films that had preceded it, 'classic' is a subjective term that does get overused in cinema but in the case of 'American Werewolf' the term fits perfectly and is well deserved.
If you haven't seen the film the plot follows two American guys (David and Jack) who are out backpacking in the English countryside. During a brief stop off in a Northern pub (The Slaughtered Lamb) the pair meets with the locals who are frosty and unwelcoming. Clearly uncomfortable they hurriedly finish their drinks and get up to go but before they manage to leave they are warned to "Keep to the road and stay off the Moors" and ominously; "Beware of the Moon"
Assuming that the locals were just not keen on strangers the pair laugh the experience off and continue on with their adventure, losing track of time and where they are they realise that they have strayed off the path and are in the middle of the countryside. Suddenly they are attacked by a wild beast, Jack is killed, and as the animal attacks David he passes out whilst hearing the sound of gun fire...
When David wakes up he finds that he is in a hospital bed in London and starts to receive visits from his dead friend who warns him that unless he kills himself before the next full moon he will turn into a werewolf and will kill people himself. Putting these visits down to hallucinations and trauma from the attack David with the help of his female nurse - Alex attempts to rebuild his life and begins a new relationship with her. But as the eve of the full moon approaches changes are going to happen to David and there really will be a 'bad moon rising'...
I saw this film for the first time at a friend's birthday party when I was about 14 years of age and we all sat in silence whilst watching the action take place in front of our eyes. To say we were blown away would be an understatement as this was unlike anything else we had seen before. All of the elements required to make a brilliant film are there; a clever and witty script, great acting by the lead cast, wonderful direction by John Landis and jaw-dropping special effects that were unlike anything we had seen before.
Famous for the transformation scene from human to Werewolf, the camera stays on David throughout the scene rather than cutting away like we had seen in the Wolfman films from Hammer. The pain of the transformation from man to beast is graphically shown, bones break and re-shape, fingernails are split and replaced with claws and the human face and mouth distorted, stretched and transformed into that of a wolf. Pre-CGI or green screen technology, all of the transformation is either make up or body casts and the film went on to win a hugely deserved Oscar for Rick Baker for Best Makeup.
As well as the effects and make up that went into transforming David to the werewolf I have to mention the same amount of effort that went into the gradual decomposure and disintegration of Jack, when he first comes back from the dead he looks a bit green and generally messed up but by the time he meets David for the last time he is basically just blood, gore and bones, again all this was achieved with makeup and physical effects rather than computer trickery and even now these scenes are particularly well done and manage to gross out the viewer.
There are many iconic scenes in the film that will be familiar even if you haven't seen the film; the rampaging werewolf on the London Underground and later face off in the middle of streets at Piccadilly Circus have been used in many compilation or 'Top 10 horror film' rundowns that you may have seen on the television and, of course the transformation scene itself is often used in those type of shows.
The film is an 18 certificate and does feature very strong scenes of horror and violence, even for its age it is still an effective film at making you jump and some of the gore scenes are quite disgusting. It is a great film though and along with Poltergeist and A Nightmare on Elm Street ranks in my own top 5 horror films ever.
It is a faultless Classic in my opinion and ranks a perfect 5/5 Dooyoo star rating with me, I thoroughly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys horror films. Available on a Special Edition DVD set from Amazon priced at £5.98 and an absolute bargain at this price, add it to your collection - you won't be disappointed!
This film has been there in my top ten of horror films for a long time, and will probably remain there for a long time to come. You see,in terms of visual creation, and of story, this has everything you would want...
Horror, comedy, love, something shocking, something exciting...
American college students David Kessler and Jack Goodman are backpacking across Europe and find themselves inside the unfriendly 'Slaughtered Lamb' pub somewhere in Yorkshire. Not feeling too welcome, they go out only to get lost on the moors, where one is tore to pieces by a big dog and the other is bitten.
David wakes up in a London hospital to learn his friend Jack is dead. However, his account of what happened to him and his friend is quite different to the one the locals give. They claim to have shot the 'escaped lunatic' who attacked him and his friend. David is adamant that they were attacked by something big, a wolf even. His ideas are laughed off.
Meanwhile he is being treated in hospital by the delectable Jenny Agutter. They form a relationship and when he is released from hospital he goes to stay with her. As this goes on, his dead friend starts to pay him a visit from time to time, telling him that he was bitten by a lycanthrope, a werewolf, and when the full moon comes, he will change, he will kill people. Jacks tell him to kill himself to sever the bloodline.
And when the full moon does arrive... boy, he does change and with some startling effects...
Cast and credits...
This 1981 film was written and directed by John Landis, the man who later brought us Michael Jackson's Thriller video.
David Naugthon is David Kessler, who went on to do very little.
Griffin Dunne plays his pal Jack, who later starred in Amazon Women on the Moon.
Jenny Agutter is Nurse Alex Price. Ah, what more can one say about this fine actress? Star of Walk About, Logan's Run, and of many a fantasy through out my teenage years... But enough of that...
Look out for bit parts from Brian Glover and Rik Mayall, as two of the Yorkshire locals, and Frank Oz as Mr Collins from the American Embassy.
To sum up...
I live this movie!There are many great moments in this film. I must have watched it about twenty times over the years. My family used to recite words and phrases from the movie ('The dogs are fine,' or 'Keep off the moors and stick to the roads.') The changes from man to wolf are legendary, each hair sprouting with delicate precision, nose growth, fingers stretching and changing.
It spawned several imitations, but remains a classic...
You will also find this review by me as Borg at CIao UK...
American tourists David and Jack are backpacking in Northern England when they stumble across a local pub called The Slaughtered Lamb. Entering the premises, they receive a distinctly frosty reception and soon make their excuses and leave to the joint warnings of "Stay off the moor" and "Beware the moon!" Not long later, the pair find out just why they were warned when they are attacked by a wild wolf. Jack is killed and David mauled shortly before the local villagers arrive just in time to kill the ferocious animal; at which point the body changes into that of a young man. David is escorted to a London hospital whilst Jack's body is transported back to the States. Meanwhile, a story begins to circulate that both American boys were attacked by an escaped lunatic. But David thinks he knows better......
Lying in his hospital bed, David is visited by ghastly and horrible dreams which include visions of him running through the woods and feasting on deer. But that is not the end of it. His best friend Jack returns from death to tell him that he has been bitten by a were-wolf, that Jack will be forced to walk the Earth in limbo until the were-wolf's blood-line is severed and that David should kill himself before the next full moon rises. David begins to wonder if he is going insane but is comforted by his nurse, played by Jenny Agutter, who offers him a place to stay when he is eventually discharged. But even outside the hospital, he is visited again by a rapidly more and more decomposing Jack who repeats the warning that David should die before the next full moon lest he begin to kill more innocent victims. Again David ignores what he has been told. Then two days later, the full moon rises and the cycle begins anew with one of the most shocking transformations ever shown on film!
FX specialist Rick Baker quite understandably recieved an award for his part in creating the special effects of this film pre-CGI, it was filmed over twenty years ago way back in 1981, and though the transformation sequence does look a little dated now, still it was highly impressive for its time! John Landis too helped with his efforts to create one of the most memorable horror films of that era with his own unique take on the were-wolf legend in a film that far surpassed anything else he would do in later years such as the vampire flick, Innocent Blood, which failed to suitably impress. The vastly under-rated actor, Griffin Dunne, stars as the undead Jack and brings his usual dry wit to the role that he would likewise exhibit in films such as Who's That Girl?, After Hours and Amazon Women On The Moon and there are also cameos from English veteran actor, Brian Gover and comedian, Rik Mayall. Right from the beginning, this is a very surreal film with some very comic moments that also manages at times to be likewise very dark and menacing!
Has there ever been a better were-wolf movie? My money is on no, there hasn't. This is about as good as it gets and the only other lycanthrope film that ever came close was probably the first Ginger Snaps! One of my favourite and most surreal moments is when David is sitting in a porno theatre and is visited by a now very decomposed Jack and some of David's victims. At which point, his guests begin to discuss amongst themselves the best way David should probably kill himself! Likewise a dream sequence at the beginning is equally bizarre, those who have seen American Were-wolf will no doubt be aware of what I am referring to, and all lends towards the film not taking itself too seriously. A dramatic and spetacular finale filmed in a busy Piccadilly Circus setting merely serves to complete what is an excellent entry in the field of horror and no other film since or before this comes close to surpassing it for its excellance!
This is a genuine classic that deserves to be watched again in a time when too many horror films have begun to rely on generic frights and scares in order to pull in their audiences. A sequel, American Were-wolf In Paris, would come later to very mixed reviews (I have not ever bothered to see it but maybe one day will) but this remains, alongside other classic horror films such as Scanners and Videodrome, an iconic movie of the eighties. And one that if you have not seen, you really need to watch!
An American Werewolf In London is a 1981 horror comedy written and directed by John Landis.
David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are two American students who are backpacking across Yorkshire whilst on holiday before starting university. After finding the reception to them at the first pub they stop at less than welcoming they decide to find another, whereupon they are attacked by an animal on the moors. After being (inexplicably) transferred to a London hospital, David awakes to find that Jack was killed in the attack. He then begins having vivid nightmares, but upon waking he has a vision of his dead friend telling him he is now a werewolf. Is David going mad, or should he "beware the moon"?
My first viewing of this film was when I was far too young to be watching it and at the time it terrified me, particularly the dream sequences that David has. Watching again recently as an adult, it's obviously not quite the frightening experience it once was, but is still very unsettling at times (those dream sequences still give me the creeps). As well as handling the bloody horror well, Landis also provides some effective comedy particularly with a group of undead people discussing how David should die. There is also the good use of moon related songs on the soundtrack. The finale of the film manages to mix the horror with the humour at the same time, because the carnage becomes that OTT as to be hilarious. The love story angle involving David and Jenny Agutter's nurse Alex Price falls down for me, with the relationship developing far too quickly and deeply to be realistic. But I suppose realism goes out of the window when we're talking about werewolves and the undead!
The performances of the actors are serviceable - McNaughton's David has a likable charm but his acting skills aren't great. Agutter seems to be there simply to be the love interest and as a result has little to do. Dunne as the undead Jack is funny, but again it's hardly stretching his skills.
The practical effects provided by Rick Baker for the transformation sequence of David into the werewolf is brilliant considering it was 28 years ago (this shows in the fact the transformation is more convincing than those is the sequel An American Werewolf In Paris, that was made in 1997).
Rightly considered a horror comedy classic, despite the less than convincing acting!
Given how derivative and simply idiotic the horror genre can be, it's nice every once and a while to get the classics out and see just how great the genre can be when approached by a director like John Landis. The film won an Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup, and is frequently cited as a cult classic.
The film revolves around two American students, David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne), who are attacked by a werewolf whilst out on the Yorkshire moors. Jack is quickly murdered, and David wakes up in a London hospital some time later, having visions of the attack, and also being told by a departed Jack that he will turn into a werewolf himself if he doesn't commit suicide. Also, whilst David is alive, the werewolf bloodline continues, meaning that Jack is left in a sort of waking death state.
The werewolf tale is so old and worn that it's refreshing to see Landis give it a new treatment - the genre has perhaps not seen any film as good as this, and the dodgy sequel - An American Werewolf in Paris - was almost universally panned. It also has a solid dark sense of humour that compliments the tension and atmosphere of dread, as well as plenty of intense action as the police attempt to close in on David and put him to rest.
It's also aged incredibly well - the special effects in particular hold up fairly well with similar works of the period, and it's still a fun staple that I like to watch around Halloween. It's one of the less insulting entries into the series that tries things a little differently, and hits with almost every attempt. This film puts most modern horror to shame.
This film came out in 1981 and was directed by John Landis. It is due to be re mastered to come out on Blu Ray and I saw it for the first time at the weekend.
The story begins with two American backpackers - David, played by David Naughton, and Jack, played by Griffin Dunne, who are set to explore England. They start on the moors and stumble across a pub called the Slaughtered Lamb. As they walk into the pub everyone stops what they are doing and stares. They notice a pentacle (five pointed star) on the wall of the pub and Jack asks why it is there. The locals don't want to answer and suggest they leave the pub, giving them one warning - beware the moon and stick to the path. The pair leave the pub and wander over the moors, finding that they have strayed from the path. Jack is then attacked by a beast and is left to die.
David then wakes up in hospital, only to find Jack next to his bed warning him that he is now a werewolf and that he needs to kill himself before he harms people. David, not quite believing that his dead friend is next to him, chooses to ignore his warning and goes home to stay at the young nurse who looked after him, Alex Price, played by Jenny Agutter.
The story then carries on showing you what happens to David when he turns into a werewolf the following night, killing several people and then waking up naked in London Zoo.
There has been quite a lot of debate around this film as to whether it is a horror film or a comedy. There are several bits that made me laugh out loud, including the end bit where Jack, now looking very decayed, appears to David in a cinema and introduces him to the people he killed the night before - the 'un dead'. But there is still plenty on blood and gore to keep the avid horror fan happy.
One scene that I liked was where David turns into the werewolf for the first time. It is screaming and it looks like it would have been so painful. The next shots show his hands and feet expanding into claws and practically doubling in size, the hair growing all over his body, and then his face changing shape so dramatically it is hard to believe it is real. Seeing as it was made in 1981 the special effects and make up are very advanced for the time.
It also has quite a sad ending. The story develops a love story between David and Nurse Price, but David knows that he has to die in order to save everyone else. At the end you see a very sad looking wolf staring into the eyes of Alex. It is quite funny to see Alex say that she loves a wolf, but it really quite tears at the heart strings.
This film has it all really, horror, comedy and romance and suits everyone. It is not the best film and could have been developed a bit more, but considering it was made 28 years ago it is quite advanced, and I love a film that makes me laugh as much as this one did.
This is a great, jovial horror film directed by the jovial John Landis. I loved the fact that it was a hollywood horror set in recognisable areas of London, I loved the jokey relationship between the two horny young American backpackers (played by the lovely David Naughton and Griffin Dunne), the eerie hike across the dark Yorkshire moors (actually filmed in Wales), the Slaughtered Lamb Public House (where everyone goes quiet when they walk in), the way they just start to win the locals over until one of them asks about the five-pointed star etched on the wall and then it suddenly goes quiet again. (Rik Mayall playing one of the said locals as an extra is also fun to see). Predictably, they forget to heed the warning of the people in the pub that they should stick to the path, ooops! This film was famous for the amazing transformation of man to werewolf which was groundbreaking at the time and I still think it is better than the computer animation effects of today's films. Michael Jackson was so impressed that he commissioned John Landis to create his fantastic Thriller video. A fun horror for everyone.
Two young Americans, David and Jack, are touring around Europe and end up in a remote part of England. Entering a pub called The Slaughtered Lamb, they are made so unwelcome by the villagers that they make a quick exit...only to be attacked by a werewolf. The villagers, who prefer to keep the existence of the werewolf a secret, arrive in time to save David, but Jack dies. David wakes up some time later in hospital, only to find that his ordeal is not yet over - he has strange nightmares and sometimes sees his dead friend, who tells him that he ought to kill himself before he turns into a werewolf. With the help of beautiful nurse, Alex Price, can David work out what is happening and how to save himself, and others, from a fate worse than death?
The character of David is played by David Naughton, and a very fine-looking young man he is too. This is just as well, as we get to see rather a lot of him - and not always clothed. He doesn't give the most talented performance I have ever seen; it is slightly wooden at times. However, this film is part comedy and therefore isn't meant to be taken too seriously, so Naughton just about manages to pull it off. And his character is very likeable, so that the viewer actually hopes things work out for him - quite unusual for a horror film. His chemistry with Jenny Agutter is well done too. Griffin Dunne, who plays Jack, also deserves a mention - although he is usually plastered in make-up and other special effects gunge - it can't have been easy to play the role and keep a straight face at the same time!
The lovely Jenny Agutter, the schoolboy crush of many of my contemporaries, plays Alex Price. To a certain extent, she is wasted here - I think she is a very talented actress that is able to work far beyond the parameters of this film. Then again, she does add a touch of class, and gives a great performance as an independent nurse with a heart of gold. I thought she worked really well with David - their on-screen chemistry seemed really natural, despite the odd situation that they find themselves in.
Made back in 1981, I don't think anyone could expect the special effects to be as good as they are today. However, bearing that in mind, they are actually quite good. They really come into play when Jack reappears as a corpse - his initial appearance with skin hanging off his face where the werewolf tore into it is really well done. It becomes markedly less natural as the film progresses, but it's still good enough to be effective, and in any case, it fits in with the comedy. David's turning into a werewolf is excellent - we see his whole body growing and changing, and it really is well done. Once he is a werewolf, unfortunately, it is less convincing, but heck, it is a comedy.
The laughs come about because of the situations that David finds himself in. For me, the best part of the film is when he wakes up, naked, in a very public part of London. His attempts to return to Nurse Price's flat are really well done, and Naughton shows that he does have some comic timing. I'm always slightly dubious about comedy horrors, just because blood and gore really isn't that funny. However, this film just about manages to keep the horror and the comedy separate, so that the audience doesn't have to laugh at anyone having their head ripped off or their throat slit. There are occasional moments when things are a bit close to the bone, but they are well managed and, for me at least, acceptable.
The film has a rating of 18, which is fair enough. Much of the violence that takes place in the film isn't actually shown on screen - we just get to see the aftermath. However, some of this could be uncomfortable for some - Jack's skin hanging off his face is just one example. There is also a fair amount of sex and nudity. Alex and David get it on at one point, although there isn't very much that is graphic. Then there is a scene in a cinema where a porn film is showing on screen - jiggling breasts and all. We do also get to see David's dangly bits at one point, albeit from quite a distance (darn it).
I don't really have all that much in the way of criticism. Because it is billed as a comedy horror, it is hard to take it seriously, and so it gets away with a lot of flaws. I suppose the ending is a bit abrupt and could disappoint some. The only other thing that really bothered me was that the 'villagers' that have been keeping the werewolf secret sound like Northerners to me; yet Alex wakes up in a London hospital. Apparently, it was filmed in Wales, although it was supposed to be somewhere in England - a bit of geographical confusion there. Ultimately though, it isn't all that important and certainly didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the film.
There seem to be different versions of the DVD and so special features will vary. My copy of the disc has an audio commentary by the actors. I don't like audio commentaries - I don't see the point of watching a film again with annoying people talking over the top of it - so didn't watch very much of it. However, fans may want to make more of an effort.
This isn't a brilliant film. It has plenty of flaws; the acting isn't always top notch, the story is silly and the script isn't fantastic. However, it is highly entertaining, and deserves its status as a cult movie - in my opinion at least. Of course, if you don't like horror, or only like horror with modern special effects, this might not float your boat. Otherwise, I think it is well worth a watch. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £7.99, including a number of features.
Running time: 97 minutes
I recently watched this film with a friend, a person whom had never seen it! Quite shocking! They must have been living under a rock in the 80's. Anyway I digress.
This is quite simply a horror classic, one with a comic twist, and in my opinion a real alternative to the Sam Raimi directed gore horrors of the same era and a great addition to a movie collection.
A tale of two young travelling buddies from across the pond, backpacking around the Yorkshire moors (like there is much to see there anyway) and ones whom are unfortunate enough to happen upon a dark secret!! (and no nothing to do with incest or sheep).
An if you haven't guessed from the film title, the dark secret is a moroading teeth gnashing Werewolf! A Yorkshire accented one at that!
Rather conveniently, the travelling buddies happen to be in the area during a full moon, and also conveniently they choose to ignore the locals advice, and stray from the path.
A couple of bites later, a trip to a London hospital, a few visatations from a now dead buddy, and we have a (long story short, and without ruining the plot to anyone else who may not have seen this classic), an "American" Werewolf running around in the streets of London biting, gnashing, and generally chomping on unsuspecting members of the public.
Aside from the great scripted humour, suspense, and one of the best ever werewolf transformation scenes ever created (in the pre CGI era). This movie has strong characters, excellent direction, and even a shower "love making" scene.
In my opinion and as ive said, this is a great addition to a film collection, and worthwhile spending a few hours wathching this one again (I recommend being hidden safely behind your sofa and not during a full moon).
With an ingenious script, engaging characters, nerve-shredding suspense, genuinely frightening set-pieces and laugh-out-loud funny bits An American Werewolf in London is a prime candidate for the finest horror-comedy ever made. Americans David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are backpacking in northern England when Jack is killed by a wild beast and David is bitten. Back in London David finds himself falling in love with a nurse, Alex (played with winning charm by Jenny Agutter), and turning into a werewolf. Adding to his problems, an increasingly decomposed Jack keeps coming back from the dead, and he is not a happy corpse. The Oscar winning make-up and transformation scenes still look good and rather than send itself up Werewolf plays its horror seriously, the laughs coming naturally from the surreal situation. Naughton is engagingly confused and disbelieving, desperately coping with the ever more nightmarish world, while Landis delivers one absolutely stunning dream sequence, an unbearably tense hunt on the London Underground and a breathtaking finale. Gory, erotic, shocking and romantic, this unforgettable horror classic has it all. Tom Holland's Fright Night (1985) remixed the formula with vampires, as did Landis himself in Innocent Blood (1992). A disappointing sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, followed in 1997. --Gary S Dalkin