I'm so excited to do this one! This is one I've been itching to do, and lets face it, anything about An American Werewolf in London will put a big ole smile on my face.
This movie changed the face of horror cinema. It's an elite. Werewolf movies are always lagging, there's hardly ever any real good werewolf movies and this one hits it out of the park. It is amazing special effects, funny, scary, thrilling and satisfying.
This was one that was under my radar for far to long and when it surfaced I was telling friends and family about it. I was telling people to watch it and I went out and bought Innocent Blood (1992) when I found out that John Landis did that as well.
DID YOU KNOW?
An American Werewolf in London was actually filmed in sequence, the opening scenes filmed first and the closing scenes filmed last.
John Landis said that he often hears that people think it's a comedy and although the movie has alot of good humor, it isn't a comedy by far. It is however a monumental movie in the werewolf genre, it planted it's flag and claimed the territory. And it's kept it ever since.
I remember hearing "Blue Moon" playing and the overlook of some beautiful scenery. We see a old truck transporting sheep stop and open the back of the truck to let out 2 young american males. Jack and David. They're best friends touring the world together and you instantly love their characters and their friendship. It all changes however, when they enter a small pub called The Slaughtered Lamb to be greeted by a group of fishy looking rude Englishmen.
JACK: NOW, I'M REALLY SORRY TO BE UPSETTING YOU, BUT I HAVE TO WARN YOU.
DAVID: WARN ME?
JACK: WE WERE ATTACKED BY A WEREWOLF.
DAVID: [PUTTING HIS HANDS OVER HIS EARS] I'M NOT LISTENING TO THIS!
JACK: ON THE MOORS, WE WERE ATTACKED BY A LYCANTHROPE, A WEREWOLF. I WAS MURDERED, AN UNNATURAL DEATH, AND NOW I WALK THE EARTH IN LIMBO UNTIL THE WEREWOLF CURSE IS LIFTED.
DAVID: SHUT UP!
JACK: THE WOLF'S BLOODLINE MUST BE SEVERED; THE LAST REMAINING WEREWOLF MUST BE DESTROYED. IT'S YOU, DAVID.
I remember when I first heard the wolf's howl as David and Jack are leaving The Slaughter'd Lamb, I was terrified. This wolf's howl seemed so much more savage and vicious than any other howl I ever heard from a werewolf. There was some aggression and and savagery in that howl and a little bit of what sounded to be pain. The pain of having that curse, the pain of being damned.
The attack was just as horrendous. The wolf tears Jack apart, poor guy. But he makes a better zombie, and you'll find that out more as you watch the film. I thought what they did to Jack was brilliant and a perfect use for his funny and sarcastic personality.
One reason I like this scene alot is because David runs instead of helping Jack at first. He totally takes off leaving Jack to be dog food. He has a change of heart and comes back to the rescue only to be scratched by the wolf himself. The damage to Jack was already done. I like that David ran. It was a real reaction and emotion, that's why it's impactful to me.
DID YOU KNOW?
ALL SONGS IN THIS FILM HAVE THE WORD "MOON" IN THEIR TITLES.
The impact that scene had on me was severe. I was terrified of this wolf and more than anything I wanted to see what it looked like. Funny thing, John Landis said that he thinks he showed the wolf too much in the final edit of the film. He said he would have cut some of the wolf out. I however, think the wolf wasn't overused at all. I think they show the wolf enough, I wouldn't say they should cut any of the wolf's footage out.
David waking up in the hospital after a ridiculous amount of sleep and finding out that his pal Jack is dead and that the police reports say it was a "mad man" who attacked he and David. David detests this but its disregarded due to his lack of memory and state of mind.
You instantly see the attraction between David and the Nurse and the whole time thinking how bad this is going to go if he pursues her as a girlfriend. And at the same time wanting him to do it so you can see what happens when he turns into a werewolf.
JACK: HOW COULD THERE HAVE BEEN WITNESSES? IT WAS SO DARK. WE WERE RUNNING AND I FELL AND JACK WENT TO HELP ME UP, AND THIS THING CAME FROM NOWHERE. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT.
I remember seeing David going to the market with Nurse Price and seeing how "carefully" she lived on her budget and with the prices of food being outrageous. I know how she feel's I've been there. But more importantly, she's bringing a werewolf home with her...
DID YOU KNOW?
AT THE CLOSE OF THE CREDITS IS A CONGRATULATORY MESSAGE FOR THE WEDDING OF PRINCE CHARLES AND PRINCESS DIANNA (AS LADY DIANA SPENCER). IT WAS INCLUDED BECAUSE DURING THE SCENE WHEN DAVID IS TRYING TO GET ARRESTED, HE SHOUTS, "PRINCE CHARLES IS GAY!" THE FILM WAS SHOT MONTHS BEFORE THE PREPARATIONS FOR THE COUPLE'S JULY 1981 WEDDING.
After David and Miss Price make love, David gets up to take a leak and sees his good ol' pal Jack for the second time (the first being when David's in the hospital). And Jack brings doom in his words, warning david not to do anything stupid and that he's going to turn soon. A full moon is coming. David disregards Jack again and goes on about life, thinking he's going crazy for seeing such morbid visions.
What got me right away was how every time you see Jack, he is more decomposed than the last time you saw him. Becoming more rotted and weathered. I thought that was a brilliant touch.
JACK: IT'S A FULL MOON...
JACK, DAVID: [REMEMBERING THE WARING THEY RECEIVED] BEWARE THE MOON...
DAVID: AND STICK TO THE ROAD. OOPS.
JACK: I VOTE WE GO BACK TO THE SLAUGHTERED LAMB.
I remember how antsy I was to see David turn. We all knew it was coming. We the viewer knew Jack's word's were true. It was David who didn't listen.
The whole scene was suspenseful and brilliant. Even though CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" was playing as background music to David being bored all day while Miss Price was at work, I wasn't being fooled. I knew this was the calm before the storm.
Finally after finding nothing to eat (he's not hungry all day), and there's nothing on TV, David decides to read a book to pass the time. Meanwhile some clouds move revealing a full moon.
DID YOU KNOW?
JOHN LANDIS ORIGINALLY WANTED THREE OTHER SONGS ADDED TO THE SOUNDTRACK: CAT STEVENS WOULDN'T ALLOW "MOONSHADOW" TO BE USED BECAUSE HE STOPPED ALLOWING HIS SECULAR MUSIC TO BE LICENSED FOR FILMS FOLLOWING HIS CONVERSION TO ISLAM; BOB DYLAN WOULDN'T ALLOW HIS VERSION OF "BLUE MOON" TO BE USED IN AN R RATED FILM, AS HE HAD JUST BEGUN HIS BRIEF CONVERSION TO CHRISTIANITY; AND ELVIS PRESLEY'S VERSION OF " BLUE MOON" PROVED UNAVAILABLE DUE TO THE ONGOING LAWSUITS INVOLVING HIS ESTATE.
The transformation scene was incredible, I even heard that the latex used in the scene showing his muzzle grow only lasted a few minutes due to how stretched it was, but it lasted long enough to shoot the scene. And that's what counts.
It was shot so painfully, you felt for David, watching his body morph and he has no control. Just an abundance of pain and suffering. They way you hear bones cracking, popping and tendons stretching. All while he screams for mercy in the background. This reminds you that although werewolf's may be cool, it ain't easy being one and you certainly don't want to be one. If werewolf's were real there'd be no way around a painful transformation.
By far the best shot and well done transformation scene ever. As well as most painful. They nailed this scene. This scene will forever echo in the horror vault of memorable film moments.
JACK: HAVE YOU TRIED TALKING TO A CORPSE? IT'S BORING.
You still barely see the wolf at this point and after such an amazing scene you want to be satisfied with finally viewing the monstrosity. But John Landis doesn't let you in that easily. What's he do? He waits until David attacks some people to show you the wolf in it's entirety, which is ingenious. And what a way to make an impact when you show it in an attack scene.
The Kessler Wolf is the finest werewolf design ever made until recently, and I honestly think it still may be the best. It looks like a wolf, but it isn't a Twilight or True Blood wolf where they cheap out and give you basic wolves. And it wasn't a wolf-man. It doesn't stand on it's back legs and walk like a man. It doesn't movie like a man either, it's something new. It's a ferocious beast and is terribly vicious.
I was so scared for the fellow at the subway station. Putting myself in those shoes. Being chased by your lonesome by a beast of unknown origin that's growl and posture made it clear to you that you're dinner. Terrifying.
DID YOU KNOW?
JOHN LANDIS WROTE THE SCREENPLAY FOR THIS FILM WHILE HE WAS A GOFER ON THE KELLY'S HEROS SHOOT.
After he awakens the next day in a zoo naked, David feels great! He's energetic and rejuvenated. But when he finds out that there was some brutal animal attacks last night he puts 2 and 2 together and realizes that the animal who savagely murdered innocent people was him, and that Jack's words were really words he should have listened to.
David then freaks out and takes off, leaving Miss Price and goes to call home to say goodbye to his family. He's decided to end his life.
He then sees Jack walk into a porno theater viewing a film called "See You Next Tuesday" and follows Jack in. They get a seat in the back and have a talk discussion what went on last night. This is the coolest look for Jack, because at this point he's so decomposed you can see his skull through his skin. This was done by puppet because when doing make-up it's easy to add to something. But taking away and making someone look like a corpse is easier to execute with puppeteering.
LITTLE BOY: A NAKED AMERICAN MAN STOLE MY BALLOONS.
David and Jack aren't alone in the porno theater. They're joined by David's dinner from last night. All of them telling him to end his life and let them free of limbo. They aren't exactly polite but I can't say I would be either.
David then turns again when the full moon arises and he's in the middle of the theater. This is my 2ND favorite scene in the movie after the transformation scene. There's so much chaos and destruction and death. People killing other people in car crashes piling up due to the wolf prowling the streets. The body count rises.
Once Miss Price remembers a thing David said to her, "I think only someone you love can kill you", she comes to the scene to see if she can confront the beast and save David.
DID YOU KNOW?
THIS IS THE FIRST FILM TO WIN AN ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST MAKEUP. THAT CATEGORY WAS CREATED IN 1981.
The ending to this film was sad and tragic, as well as good for a laugh. With the music that plays at the end giving you a little reprieve from such a dark ending. This film truly evokes every emotion from you. It's a masterpiece for the ages and the measuring stick in which all other werewolf films are compared. And it is my favorite werewolf film of all-time.
COMING NEXT MONTH!!!
GRIMM REVIEWZ REMEMBERS: HALLOWEEN (1978)