AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
by Nerd in a Comfy Chair
My family has a thing about Werewolves.
Its run deep all the way back to my great-grandfather.
But…I’ll come back to that.
Around the time of this movie, my Dad did something really cool.
As you may remember, I told you that he was a very smart man…and this is one example of that.
Early on he noticed that for all “R” rated films “No Child Will be Admitted Without a Parent or Guardian.”
He knew that there were certain movies that I was dying to see that he had absolutely ZERO interest in seeing. And, with these movies, he would:
1 — Walk me right up to the ticket booth
2 — Buy a ticket for himself and for me
3– Walk into the theatre lobby
4 — Walk me through concessions
5 — Walk me to my seat
6 — Stay until the movie started
7 — Leave
8 — Come back during the Credits to escort me out
He had proven:
(a) A Parent
(b) He had accompanied me to the movie
(c) Gotten up during the movie to go out for a break (bathroom, lunch, what have you)
(d) Come back from his break before the movie was over
Thus fulfilling the requirements of the “R” Rated Film.
This was the argument that my father won over and over. Every movie theatre had to give in immediately…and, eventually, they got to know us so well that they just let Dad by me a ticket for him and myself and let me walk in alone…and, later, leave by myself after it was over.
On some occasions he stayed…with most, he had not.
For the record…this started with John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN in 1978. I was 13.
My Dad was smart…and pretty damn cool.
So…when I say I saw this one with my Dad**…you’ll know what the ** mean.
My Grandfather was a published writer. He wrote for Weird Tales Magazine along side such writers as Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson. These men were his friends and would later become “uncles” of mine at local conventions.
My grandfather wrote about four subjects: Arthurian Legend, The Roman Empire, Joan of Arc and Werewolves.
He was postive that somewhere in our family bloodline that there was a “little bit of wolf” in us. And if you ask some of the people that the males of my family get “close to”… they’ll probably agree with him.
One of my favorite stories about Grandpa was the year he was the Guest of Honor at one of the largest conventions in the world…and the Special Guest of honor was Stephen King (there’s another story about him that I’ll tell you…but that will be another blog down the line).
There was a “Writer’s Jam” that year. The idea being that all of the writers at the convention would write a book together. Each one of them would take a one hour turn…locked away in a room at the hotel…and write out a chapter of the book. The chapters would be then put out for the world to see on a hallway in the convention. I don’t know if they do this anymore, but sure was cool.
My grandfather was fourth or fifth in.
He wrote this very cool chapter that wove werewolves into the continuity of the story. He was rich…detailed…and very Grandpa.
Then next Chapter Writer immediately dismissed it one line. “But everybody knows there’s no such thing as werewolves, don’t they?”
All of Grandpa’s work, detail and mythos crushed in a second.
Just for the record: Six Chapters later, Stephen King stepped up to the plate and wrote, “But let’s get back to the werewolves. Because, believe it or not, one might be sitting next to you right now.” And he was off to the races.
Another reason that I love Stephen King.
What Is It About?
Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about it:
The film starts with two young American men, David Kessler (played by Naughton) and Jack Goodman (played by Dunne), on a backpacking holiday in England. Following an awkwardly tense visit to a village pub, the two men venture deep into the moors at night. They are attacked by a werewolf, which results in Jack’s death and David being taken to a London hospital. Through apparitions of his dead friend and disturbing dream sequences, David becomes informed that he is a werewolf and will transform at the next full moon.
Shooting took place mostly in London but also in Surrey and Wales. It was released in the United States on August 21, 1981 and grossed $30.56 million at the box office. Critics generally gave the film favourable reviews. The film won the 1981 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and an Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup. The film was one of three high-profile wolf-themed horror films released in 1981, alongside The Howling and Wolfen. Over the years, the film has accumulated a cult following and has been referred to as a cult classic.
The film was followed by a 1997 sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, which featured a completely different cast and none of the original crew, and is distributed by Disney’s Hollywood Pictures. A Hindi film Junoon was also inspired by this movie.
Empire magazine named An American Werewolf in London as the 107th greatest film of all time in September 2008.
Two American college students, David Kessler and Jack Goodman, are backpacking across the Yorkshire moors. As darkness falls, they decide to stop for the night at a pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb”. Jack notices a five-pointed star on the wall. When he asks about it, the pub becomes very quiet and the pubgoers start acting very strange and hostile. The pair decide to leave, but not before the others offer them pieces of advice such as “Beware the moon, lads” and “Keep to the road.” Whilst conversing with each other and wondering what they meant, they wander off the road, onto the moors.
Back at the pub, the owner gets very distressed and suggests that they go after the pair. As she says this, a sinister howling is heard. The rest of the pubgoers, having barricaded the door, decline. Back out on the moors, Jack and David have also heard the howls, and they seem to be steadily getting closer. They start back to the Slaughtered Lamb when they realize that they have left the road and are now lost on the moors. A full moon comes out from behind the clouds, and they remember the advice they were given earlier. The noises get steadily closer until they are stopped by a supernaturally large animal. The animal attacks both of them, and kills Jack. The animal is then shot and killed by the pubgoers, who have finally emerged. The beast changes into the dying body of a naked man. David survives the mauling and is taken to a hospital in London.
When David wakes up three weeks later, he does not remember what happened and is told of his friend’s death. At this point, the viewer learns that David is Jewish. David is questioned by the arrogant Inspector Villiers and the bumbling, but more understanding Sergeant McManus and learns that he and Jack were supposedly attacked by an escaped lunatic. David insists that they were actually attacked by a large wolf. But Villiers had already been told there were witnesses and an autopsy report of the maniac, so they deduce that David is suffering from shock.
David begins to have a series of bizarre nightmares. In the first, he runs through the woods, then decapitates and eats a deer. In the second, he is in a hospital bed with a monstrous, fanged face. In the final dream, he is at home with his family when they are attacked by Nazis with monstrous faces, wearing gas masks and wielding machine guns.
Things get stranger when Jack, now a reanimated corpse, comes to visit David and explains that they were attacked by a werewolf, stating that David himself is, in fact, now a werewolf. Jack urges David to kill himself before the next full moon, not only because Jack is cursed to exist in a state of living death for as long as the bloodline of the werewolf that attacked them survives, but also to prevent David from inflicting the same fate on his eventual victims.
Trying to see if David is indeed telling the truth, his doctor, Hirsch takes a trip to the Slaughtered Lamb. When asked about the incident, the pubgoers deny any knowledge of David, Jack or their attacker. But one distraught pubgoer speaks to Dr. Hirsch outside the pub and says that David should not have been taken away, and that he and everyone else will be in danger when he changes. He’s interrupted by another pubgoer, who remains silent. After more investigation, Dr. Hirsch finds out that the police report was “misplaced”, and that David’s wounds were cleaned and dressed before he was even looked at by the authorities. The doctor is convinced that the whole town was lying, and that David was indeed attacked by some sort of animal, though he is not convinced it was a werewolf.
Upon his release from the hospital, David moves in with Alex Price, the pretty young nurse who grew infatuated with him in the hospital. He stays in Alex’s London apartment, where they later make love for the first time. Jack (in an advanced stage of decay) suddenly appears to David again and tells him that he will turn into a werewolf the next day. Jack advises David to take his own life; otherwise he is doomed to kill innocent people who will then become the living dead.
When the full moon rises, as Jack had warned, David, who is alone in the apartment, begins to feel excruciating pain before stripping naked upon “burning up” and turning into a werewolf. He prowls the streets and the London Underground and slaughters six Londoners. When he wakes in the morning, he is naked on the floor of the wolf cage at London Zoo with no memory of his nocturnal, lupine, lycanthropic, carnivorous activities, but unharmed by the resident wolves.
Later that day, David realizes that Jack was right about everything and that he is responsible for the murders of the night before. After failing to get himself arrested and running from Alex, David calls his family in New York to basically say good-bye, though he only speaks to his little sister. Walking out of the phone booth after failing to slit his wrists with his pocket knife, David spots Jack (in a more advanced stage of decay) outside an adult cinema in Piccadilly Circus. Inside, Jack is accompanied by David’s victims from the previous night. They all insist that he must commit suicide before turning into a werewolf again. While talking with them, night falls and, consequently, David turns into a werewolf again and goes on another killing spree. After busting out of the cinema (biting off Inspector Villiers’ head in the process), a horrific melee ensues. David is ultimately cornered in an alley by the police. Alex arrives to calm him down by telling him that she loves him. Though he is apparently temporarily softened, he is shot and killed when he lunges forward, returning to human form in front of a grieving Alex as he dies.
Why Did I HAVE to Own It?
JOHN LANDIS and Werewolves!
Not only did it have the most realistic transformation of a human being into a werewolf by the genius that is RICK BAKER (which was eerily similar to my grandfather’s interpretation of it), it was,within heartbeats of each other, a terrifying film and a jet black comedy.
I WAS IN LOVE!
This movie lands squarely into MY TOP 10 FILMS of ALL TIME.
Mainly because of scenes like the one you can watch here if you follow this link (A WARNING – This is Not Safe for (some) Workplaces:
And…if anyone knows my sense of humor…they know that this hits it right smack dab in the bullseye.
How Are The Extras?
- Making Of — This is pretty creaky…I truly wish there was a lot more to this.
- Production Stills and storyboards — Nothing I hadn’t already seen or read in FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, FANGORIA or STARLOG Magazines
- Interviews with Rick Baker and John Landis — These? These are GREAT!
What Format Do I Have It In?
DVD…and, looking at the Blu-Ray to see if I should upgrade it now.
OH HECK YEAH!!!
Look at all this Stuff!
- Beware the moon
- “I Walked With A Werewolf”
- Making An American Werewolf in London, An Original Featurette
- An Interview With John Landis
- Make-up Artist Rick Baker On An American Werewolf in London
- Casting of the hand
- Photograph montage
- Feature commentary with cast members David Naughton & Griffin Dunne
- BD Live basic download center
Putting this on my AMAZON WISH LIST right now!
Click to See What’s Next in the Collection!