With Hollywood determined to bring back the Universal Monsters, I find it funny that the definitive versions of these very creatures have already been presented on e silver screen. From Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and even the 1999 The Mummy, all of the core classics have been represented in only the finest fashions. That brings us to today’s Key Movie, An American Werewolf in London.
If you have been following my blogs, you would know that Horror was a big part of my life growing up. Stephen King was a household name and the Universal Monsters of old were more iconic than Babe Ruth. One creature that found popularity in the 80’s was the Lycanthrope (or werewolf). This mythological creature would have many movies that broached the subject and one Werewolf film that certainly stands out to me is An American Werewolf in London.
Today’s Key Movie:
An American Werewolf in London was written and directed by John Landis and starred David Naughton as David Kessler, a young man who ends up cursed with the affliction of lycanthrope due to a freak attack on the moors of England.
As he learns about his plight he becomes involved with a Nurse (played by Jenny Agutter) and is soon haunted by the corpse of his dead best friend Jack (played by Griffin Dunne) who begs him to commit suicide in order to free his soul of the curse.
Of course, he doesn’t listen…
Why this movie?
This movie is the definitive Werewolf movie. It set the bar for any and all that came after it. From the treatment of the myth to the transformation itself, this movie has it all. The production value is still top notch as all of the special effects were practical as there was no CG involved. Famous monster creator Rick Baker designed and created the werewolf and it was so well done, in fact, that it won an Academy Award for Best Makeup the year of its release.
The transformation itself looks painful and is possibly the most realistic one done to date. I honestly haven’t seen a better depiction yet even with the use of computer graphics. Nothing can beat solid practical effects.
Everyone in this film is at the top of their game, the script is top notch and the plot is perfectly paced.
To me, one of the most impactful scenes in this film is a nightmare sequence that David has before his first transformation. In the dream people burst into David’s home with faces of wolf like beasts and dressed in Nazi uniforms. They then proceed to kill everyone in the house. This sequence scared me as a child, even with all of the werewolf activity and David’s best friend slowly decaying as he visits him, that scene was intense.
One thing that also stands out is the music. Starting with the classic song ‘Blue Moon’ to ‘Bad Moon Rising’ every song chosen has the theme of either the moon or wolves in general. Even the score, composed by the incomparable Elmer Bernstein, is perfect.
How did this translate to real life?
It doesn’t, its just a really cool film that would lead me to love horror all the more. I vividly remember watching this film in our living room on VHS with my Father and I knew that I would watch it again and again. Many more werewolf films would come after this one and I would watch them all, but this one will forever be the best in my opinion.
Fun trivia, look for John Landis’ signature Easter egg can be seen in this film, look for the name of the adult movie that David attends and then be sure to look for that reference in all of Landis’ films from here on out. Here’s a hint, ‘ See you next Wednesday’ Also, an actor with a fairly famous voice makes an appearance as he is known to do in all of John Landis’ films as well!
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. If you like werewolves or horror in general, you must see this film. It is everything you could want in a monster flick. I would even venture to say it was a masterpiece.
Be warned however, there is a sequel…its not good. at all. So when you look for this be sure to NOT buy An American Werewolf in Paris by accident.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This one is available in nearly every format. From streaming to bluray, you can get it.
Grab yourself a high def copy for sure as the transfer is amazingly done.
you can get it HERE at a reasonable price.
as always, here is the Trailer:
Thank you for reading today. I hope you enjoyed the review. If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday. We also have a fun Retro TV Review series in which we are currently reviewing the entire Star Trek The Next Generation Series, episode by episode.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these movies as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!
Late To The Game 8/27/2020
2 thoughts on “Key Movies Of My Life: An American Werewolf In London (1981)”
I completely agree with you: this IS a masterpiece. It’s a truly terrific and horrifying film, that still to this day holds up very well. It’s been ages since I’ve last seen it, so it’s long overdue for a rewatch. Love these posts man, so many great movies and not to mention great memories😊
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