An American Werewolf in London, Full Moon Edition, Blu-ray (1981/2009)

by | Sep 14, 2009 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

An American Werewolf in London, Full Moon Edition, Blu-ray (1981/2009)

Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne
Director: John Landis
Studio: Universal 6110685 [Release date: Sept. 15, 09]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Castilian Spanish DTS 5.1; French European, German, Italian DTS 2.0
Extras: “I Walked with a Werewolf,” “Beware the Moon,” “Making of An American Werewolf in London,” Interview with John Landis, Featurette with make-up artist Rick Baker, Casting of the Hand, Outtakes, Storyboards, Photograph montage, Feature commentary track, D-Box motion enabled, BD Live
Length: 1 hours 38 minutes
Rating: ****1/2

I tend to avoid zombie and slasher films, and am not following the current explosion of vampire films, books and series, but with a huge new Wolfman feature hitting the theaters soon (with Anthony Hopkins), I thought it might be interesting to see a now more than a quarter-century-old take on the Wolfman theme which I missed back then.  Around 1981 there was an explosion of werewolf movies, and this one is still considered one of the best. The element that most interested me was that An American Werewolf in London is touted as mixing the usual macabre with a sense of humor (though that lured me into Shaun of the Dead – the only theatrical movie in years I‘ve walked out on).

Two young American men (this was the first feature film for both actors) are back-packing it thru a desolate moor at night, under a full moon, somewhere in the British countryside. They had just stopped at the pub called The Slaughtered Lamb in a small village, where they were not welcome and something odd was going on. Naturally, they are attacked by a werewolf and one of them is killed. The werewolf is shot by the locals, but only after he has seriously scratched the other American.

In London the young man is recovering in a hospital and starts a relationship with his nurse, who looks like a young Diana Rigg. He has hallucinations and is visited by the ghost of his friend who was killed, telling him he will turn into a werewolf soon and he should kill himself first. He is not believed until the transformation happens to the young man on two nights.  The mix of horror and humor doesn’t always work, but it makes for a more interesting and updated version of the wolfman story than we normally see. The film is definitely not a comedy – the horror scenes are played very straight and to the bone, in a manner of speaking. The physical transformation is well done and the final beast is truly fearsome. The roles of the nurse and the doctor who finally is led to believe the worst about his patient’s situation, are acted in a serious and believable manner.

The many extra features are interesting, and the first two new ones – exclusive to the Blu-ray version – are both in hi-def, which is nice. Makeup artist Baker is featured more heavily in the new featurette “I Walked with a Werewolf” than in the additional one carried over from the previous DVD release. The 18-minute interview with director Landis shows him to be a very funny person, full of interesting ideas. I can imagine those with the D-Box under their chair or sofa will get shaken up good during some of the film’s action scenes.

 — John Sunier

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