'An American Werewolf In London: Special Edition'
(David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1981) 2019 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: American tourists David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are savaged by an unidentified vicious animal whilst hiking on the Yorkshire Moors.
David awakes in a London hospital to find his friend dead and his life in disarray. Retiring to the home of a beautiful nurse (Jenny Agutter, Walkabout) to recuperate, he soon experiences disturbing changes to his mind and body, undergoing a full-moon transformation that will unleash terror on the streets of the capital.
Blu-ray Verdict: I first saw this movie as, well, probably TOO young of a child. What can I say? My parents didn't baby me as far as film went.
I've since re-watched it maybe three times now and it just gets better every viewing. This movie is a goddamn CLASSIC and if you haven't seen it yet, go do so RIGHT NOW (it's on Amazon Prime!).
As soon as it started up and 'Blue Moon' came belting out (the first of a ridiculous number of moon-centric pop songs), I felt all nostalgic - and seeing David (played by David Naughton) and Jack (played by Griffin Dunne) in their matching puffy coats just drove it home!
Ultimately it's just impressive how well this movie balances comedy and horror. The scary scenes can be downright terrifying — the sounds of the werewolf howling in the distance are some of the most chilling I've heard in ANY movie — and the comedy is clever and sharp.
From the very first few scenes, we go from hilarious banter between the two to a truly haunting trek through the foggy British moors. It's a damn shame when Jack gets mauled by an unidentified wild beast, but thankfully we still see him later on, as witty as ever even with flaps of skin dangling from his torn open neck.
You never know what emotion you're going to feel next, whether it's sharing in David's frustration over the law enforcement not believing his story or being surprised by how sexy it is to see his nurse, Alex (played by Jenny Agutter), feeding him while he gazes at her with those big brown doe eyes.
The standout scene of the movie though is, by far, his transformation scene, thanks to Rick Baker. Set in a fully lit living room, you sit through almost THREE painfully uncomfortable minutes of his bones breaking and snapping into place, his hands and feet extending to a freakish length, and lots of sweating and body hair!
Definitely one of my most vivid memories of watching the movie as a child (I'm surprised it didn't give me more nightmares), and just another example of how brilliantly the horrifying and hilarious are merged — he even manages to sneak in a joke in between pained screams, "I didn't mean to call you meatloaf, Jack"!
I mean, truthfully everything in the film builds up to this shock and awe moment, but sure, up until then it's a fairly low key, atmospheric affair in which you never quite see the beast that kicks off the inciting incident.
Griffin Dunne and David Naughton play the two American backpackers who find themselves wandering the moors of northern England, positive there is some kind of creature hunting them.
The crusty locals avidly deny any such presence, but aren't convincing and furtively shift their gaze, clearly not being honest. Sure enough, Naughton is attacked and bit one night, and he begins to exhibit those good old symptoms!
Even the ending manages to be perfect. I won't spoil it for you, but it's great. Just a joy from top to bottom! I mean, this is a film full of memorable moments that gel superbly; the dream sequence is fantastic, the subway murder suspenseful and engrossing, and the aforementioned transformation is, as I truly hope I expressed to you earlier, rather quite astonishing for its time (it still holds up today.)
But the film is always laced with dark humor and thusly, even the final tragedy of David's fate does not over shadow things too much.
The 1980's did not produce many good horror films, but this is certainly one of them. Superb. Simply superb!
Supposedly the director, John Landis's, son, Max, is slated to do a remake. That is a high bar, though, even for a blood relative of the director! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs via a brand new Blu-ray (1080p) HD presentation and comes with the Special Features of:
New 2018 4K restoration from the original camera negative supervised by John Landis
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed 1.0 mono and optional 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Optional subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by Beware the Moon filmmaker Paul Davis
Audio commentary by actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne
Mark of The Beast: The Legacy of the Universal Werewolf, newly produced, feature-length documentary by filmmaker Daniel Griffith, featuring interviews with John Landis, David Naughton, Joe Dante and more
An American Filmmaker in London, a newly filmed interview with John Landis in which he reflects on British cinema and his time working in Britain
I Think He's a Jew: The Werewolf's Secret, new video essay by filmmaker Jon Spira (Elstree 1976) about how Landis film explores Jewish identity
The Werewolf's Call, Corin Hardy, director of The Nun, chats with writer Simon Ward about their formative experiences with Landis film
Wares of the Wolf, new featurette in which SFX artist Dan Martin and Tim Lawes of The Prop Store look at some of the original costumes and special effects artefacts from the film
Beware the Moon, Paul Davis acclaimed, feature-length exploration of Landis film which boasts extensive cast and crew interviews
Making An American Werewolf in London, a short archival featurette on the film's production
An Interview with John Landis, a lengthy archival interview with the director about the film
Makeup Artist Rick Baker on An American Werewolf in London, the legendary make-up artist discusses his work on the film
I Walked with a Werewolf, an archival interview with the make-up artist about Universal horror and its legacy of Wolfman films
Casting of the Hand, archival footage from Rick Baker's workshop as they cast David Naughton's hand
Original trailers, teasers and radio spots
Extensive image gallery featuring over 200 stills, posters and other ephemera
Reversible sleeve featuring original poster art and artwork by Graham Humphreys
Double-sided fold-out poster
Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions
Limited 60-page booklet featuring new writing by Travis Crawford and more!
'An American Werewolf In London' Original Movie Trailer