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An American Werewolf in London

A 1981 horror-comedy directed by John Landis.

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Very likely the best werewolf movie ever made

  • Nov 5, 2005
  • by
Rating:
+5
I was obsessed with werewolves when I was in second or third grade. Something about them just fascinated me. (Ironically, I was also terrified of wolves) In second grade, I was determined to see "An American Werewolf in London" as soon as possible. It sounded like a great movie. After about three years of begging, my father finally allowed me to watch it.

The film begins with two college students travelling through the English countryside. After a bizarre encounter with the locals at a pub, the boys stumble on to the British moors during the full moon, where they are attacked by a giant wolf. Three weeks later, David (Naughton) is in a London hospital and Jack (Griffin Dunne) is dead.

John Landis, who wrote and directed this film, is famous for his great comedies, such as "Animal House", "The Blues Brothers", and "Kentucky Fried Movie". People expecting the constant humor of those films may have been disappointed with this was released. This film has humor - some parts are quite funny - but it's not a huge part of the film. But the film maintains a light tone throughout most of that film, and that makes it all the more enjoyable.

David Naughton is very good; he makes many of his scenes very funny. Griffin Dunne was a great choice; he makes a very believable, cynical young man. Jenny Agutter, Naughton's love interest, is beautiful and a fitting casting decision. John Woodvine and Brian Glover are very good in their roles. Paul Kember was very likable and amusing as Sergeant McManus. "Muppets"/"Star Wars" fans will enjoy a brief appearance by Frank Oz.

The soundtrack is very good. (Trivia fact: every song in the film contains the word "moon" in the title) Elmer Bernstein's score - what little of it that there is - is excellent and at times beautiful. It's a pity that a soundtrack CD was never officially released.

Landis' direction is great, but it's Rick Baker's effects that are really spectacular. The werewolf transformation is rivaled only by that of "The Howling". "The Howling", which was released before this film, had special effects by Rob Bottin, whose mentor was Rick Baker. I think it's neat that Baker did the effects for this film and did such an outstanding job; it's almost like he was reminding Bottin who was the student and who was the mentor. The Academy Award for Best Makeup was created specially for this film, and for good reason. The transformation scene is masterfully done (Sam Cooke's "Blue Moon", which plays during the scene, was a perfect choice - it really enhances the mood).

When I first saw "An American Werewolf in London", I thought that it was very likely the best werewolf movie ever made, and I still believe that. It's a well-made, very entertaining movie with some spectacular makeup work. Beware the moon and stay off the moors, but don't worry about picking up this wolfishly good movie.

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More An American Werewolf in London reviews
review by . October 15, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Has werewolves!     Cons: The main character's sometimes inexplicable behavior     The Bottom Line: Awoo, werewolves of London!     You know, I really do wish people who create special effects in movies would harken back to the older times on occasion. Sure, with a computer you can create a whole world and scale the camera in ways unheard of in previous eras, but can you really look me in the eyes and say the computer-generated special …
review by . October 28, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
And if you love werewolves, all the better. "An American Werewolf in London" works on so many levels, that its small wonder so many regard it as a latter-day classic of the genre. A quarter of a century has passed since its original release and An American Werewolf in London still stands (hairy) head and shoulders above any other lycanthrope movie. Its perfect direction from John Landis, great black humor, groundbreaking make-up effects, and wonderful performances make the 1981 classic absolutely …
About the reviewer
Tom Benton ()
Ranked #353
Aspiring high school English teacher with dreams of filmmaking and a strong taste for music.
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About this movie

Wiki

In John Landis' (THE BLUES BROTHERS, ANIMAL HOUSE) dripping black comedy, two American students (David Naughton and Griffin Dunne) on a European vacation wander into a creepy local pub in Northern England and are quickly thrown out. Stranded and alone in the dark countryside, the pair get lost in their search for warm lodging. Little do they know that they are about to be changed forever by an ancient terror as they walk along the moors on a moonlit night. Only one of the students survives a deadly attack by a supernatural beast--at least he thinks he survived, until the next full moon rolls around. Terrific makeup effects (by Oscar winner Rick Baker), clever editing, and raunchy tongue-in-cheek humor made this suspenseful and thrilling horror effort an instant classic.
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Details

Director: John Landis
Genre: Horror
Release Date: 21 August 1981 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: John Landis
DVD Release Date: September 18, 2001
Runtime: 97 min
Studio: Universal Studios
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