An American Werewolf in London (1981)
By: Craig Villinger on March 11, 2002 | Comments
Universal (Australia). Region 2 & 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhnaced). English DD 5.1. Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish subtitles. 93 Minutes
The Movie
Director: John Landis
Starring: David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter, Don McKillop, Paul Kember
Screenplay: John Landis
Country: USA
David and Jack are two American tourists backpacking their way across England on a three month hiatus. Neither seems too happy with their choice of holiday location, and things continue to go down hill for them when they stumble into "The Slaughtered Lamb", and isolated pub which features a pentangle on the wall and a group of locals who look about as cheerful as a room full of haemorrhoid sufferers. The only advice from the locals before the boys depart is "Beware of the moon, and stay off the moors". Naturally, before they know it, our two tourists find themselves smack dab in the middle of the moors and underneath a full moon, seemingly followed by a strange beast which, after taunting them with a few scary noises, makes its attack. Jack is killed, and only the intervention of the shotgun toting locals saves David from a similar fate.

After a stint in hospital, David finds himself being haunted by visions of his dead friend, who has some rather unsettling news: They were attacked by a werewolf, and the wolf's bloodline has now been passed on to Jack, who will change shape and become significantly furrier at the next full moon should he not take his own life before then. And I thought I had problems!

Director John Landis certainly hits the mark with his mix of terrifying suspense and black humour. The special effects work of Rick Baker (who received an Academy Award for his efforts) is particularly outstanding, and the films transformation sequence set new standards in live action effects. Werewolf films are unfortunately few and far between these days, and this film is arguably the best effort in a sub-genre that has sadly never reached the same level of popularity as other "creature features" such as the vampire film. An American Werewolf in London should be essential viewing for any horror film fan, and if you haven't seen it before, now is the time to take a look.
The Disc
The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 television sets. An American Werewolf in London is now twenty one years old, and right from the start the print used for this transfer shows its age, with a grainy look throughout and some noticeable print damage such as scratches and dust marks. Colours are rich and vibrant, and the image boasts a generally sharp picture quality. While there certainly isn't too much to complain about here, the transfer has some room for improvement. The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound mix is decent enough, although like the transfer, there is room for improvement. Dialogue is crisp and clean throughout, and the sound effects (particularly the various wolf noises) sound impressive. For some reason however, I was just left with a feeling that things could have been a bit better.

The disc certainly delivers the goods in the extra features department. On offer is an audio commentary from actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, a three minute collection of outtakes (without sound), a five minute behind the scenes segment, a storyboard to film comparison, a three and a half minute slideshow of still photographs and an eleven minute featurette which looks at the films transformation sequence. The most interesting of the discs features are an in-depth interview with director John Landis, who talks about the influences behind the film and shares some amusing behind the scenes stories, and an eleven minute interview with effects wiz Rick Baker which includes some interesting werewolf footage that was not used in the final cut. An audio commentary track from John Landis would have been a fantastic addition to the disc, but as it is, the special features presented here are quite impressive.
The Verdict
A thoroughly enjoyable werewolf classic that is just as entertaining now as it was twenty one years ago. While the transfer isn't the best, I've seen much worse, and the discs impressive collection of extra features should keep most fans happy. Given the all round lack of decent horror film titles currently available on Region 4 DVD, this is great release and should be snapped up by horror lovers in need of a good scare and a few laughs. Recommended!
Movie Score
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