Movie: An American Werewolf in London
Release Date: August 21, 1981
Director: John Landis
Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine.
Tag Lines: “John Landis – the director of Animal House brings you a different kind of animal.”
“Beware the Moon.”
“From the director of Animal House — a different kind of animal.”
“A masterpiece of terror.”
“The monster movie.”
Relevance: Born in 1971, I spent my formative years in the decade of bell bottoms, polyester and disco. With that said I have always claimed and always will claim that I was a child of the 1980’s. After all, my most impressionable years from ages nine to eighteen were spent in the decade of Pac-Man, big hair and MTV. I loved everything 1980’s (I still do). For me, that was by far the greatest decade I have spent on this planet. I was all about pop culture back then (some things never change), especially movies and music. As mentioned countless times here, Madonna was my main inspiration and reason for living (again, some things never change), but there were also a few other celebrities that I considered godlike. They were David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Prince and the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.
Besides the radio, the first thing I ever listened to “my music” on was a little cassette player with a small handle that I used to carry around with me all of the time. My family had a record player and two eight-track players, one in the house and one in the car, but that was mostly for the “family music.” Although I did get a say sometime on what got played, mostly ABBA, the ‘Grease’ Soundtrack and ‘The Muppet Movie’ soundtrack, by the time the 1980’s rolled around, I needed my own jams to groove to. My sister and I joined the Columbia Record Club and we were able to pick out cassettes to our liking. My first three choices were a Motown Greatest Hits collection, The Go-Go’s “Beauty and the Beat” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
It was 1983 and Michael Jackson was blowing up everywhere thanks to songs and videos like “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” I listened to his album “Thriller” non-stop on my little cassette player and all was right with the world. At that time my family was yet to have MTV as part of our cable setup, but I would see his videos on certain music video countdown shows and I fell in love. He was a force to reckon with and an unstoppable dancing and singing machine. The song “Thriller” was one of my favorites on the album and there was so much talk about a new video that he was going to be premiering in December of that year. My first viewing of the full fifteen plus minute video was at my parent’s friends’ house. We were celebrating the holidays with them and they happened to have MTV. At the time, because of its length, the video was scheduled when it was going to air. The kids at the party, as well as the adults, sat down to watch the video. I thought I loved Michael Jackson before, but after watching “Thriller” my love skyrocketed.
As a horror fan, I absolutely loved the mini-story and special monster effects used in his video. There was a forty-five minute to an hour special documentary about the making of “Thriller” that accompanied the video. I watched that just as intently as I watched the actual video. During that video, I saw clips of a movie called ‘An American Werewolf in London.’ The director of that film, John Landis, was also the director of Michael Jackson’s video, and they showed some really gruesome scenes from the movie. My eyes widened. I knew I had to see that movie.
‘An American Werewolf in London’ was released in the summer of 1981 to wide critical praise, especially for its makeup, of which it won the first ever Academy Award in the Best Makeup category, and special effects. It was also a box office success and has since become one of the most revered horror films of all time. As soon as I watched “Thriller” and its making of documentary, I knew I had to see the movie. I had seen bits and pieces of it on HBO, but I was never allowed to watch the full movie as I was only eleven or twelve at the time. However, when 1984 rolled around and I turned thirteen, my dad and I rented the movie and we finally watched it from beginning to end.
The movie was not only a fantastically gory and scary horror film, but it was also really, really funny. My dad and I laughed a lot during the movie, especially due to the character of Jack, played by Griffin Dunne. But it was really all about the gore as well as the fantastic special makeup effects. Just like Michael Jackson’s transformation in “Thriller,” the now iconic scene of David Naughton turning from man to werewolf was a thing of glory. I was mesmerized and for about three months afterwards, my career goal was to be a makeup special effects man in Hollywood. Sadly, that dream fell to the wayside like so many others.
‘An American Werewolf in London’ remained one of my favorite horror films for years and I watched it often when it would pop up on HBO. I was excited in 1997 when they released its sequel, ‘An American Werewolf in Paris,’ but was really disappointed by the film as the story and the CGI effects did nothing for me. As I have stated on here many times before, ain’t nothing like the original. Although not my favorite horror movie as there are still a handful left on my list of most influential movies of all time, ‘An American Werewolf in London’ is a stellar addition to my top one hundred.
Today’s Thoughts: “I will not be threatened by a walking meat loaf!”
‘An American Werewolf in London’ is a classic horror film that I have not watched in its entirety in quite a few years. I have watched clips on YouTube here and there, but not a full sit down viewing. I was super excited to sit back and relax today to watch the film. It was the perfect start to the scary (and my favorite) month of October.
Going in to the film, I was thinking that since the film was produced in 1981, the scares, blood and effects would be a little milder than I remember. I was wrong. Sure, some of the visuals are a little dated, but overall this film is still scary (I jumped twice) and really, really bloody. It is also really funny which I think adds to the success of the movie. Any movie that could make me jump one minute and then laugh out loud the next is okay by me.
Another part of its charm is its cast. The friendship chemistry between David Naughton and Griffin Dunne is absolutely fantastic. You feel like they truly are best friends backpacking across Europe. Despite the different levels of decay Jack goes through, that kinship never dies. Their sparring and conversations is what triggers much of the humor in the film. If only they “kept clear the moors.”
“A naked American man stole my balloons.” Mentioning a naked man on this blog can only mean one thing, yet another film is being added to my “penis list.” Yes, ‘An American Werewolf in London’ marks the nineteenth film on this blog to show full male frontal nudity. You can check out the rest of the “penis list” here: 93. Angels in America, 105. American History X, 110. Shortbus, 112. A Clockwork Orange, 113. Weekend, 120. Sex and the City, 133. Porky’s, 139. Trainspotting, 144. Fargo, 183. Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 199. Six Degrees of Separation, 209. The Fisher King, 295. Being John Malkovich, 296. Wildcats, 332. The Crying Game, 335. Born on the Fourth of July, 343. Sideways and 357. Amadeus.
If you have not seen ‘An American Werewolf in London’, shame on you. Seriously, check it out. It is a great horror film for any fan of the genre, as it was truly groundbreaking in its time. If that weren’t enough, it spawned what most critics hail as the greatest music video of all time, “Thriller.” Can’t beat that.
Awards: Academy Award for Best Makeup, Rick Baker (winner).
Ways to Watch: Hulu, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, YouTube, YouTube TV, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, DVD Availability.