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An American Werewolf in London


Back in 1981, Writer/Director John Landis followed up "Animal House" and "The Blues Brothers" by scaring the hell out of us with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

I remember going to see it in theatres thinking it was going to be a horror comedy. Joke was on me. Landis crafts a full on, graphic scary horror film sprinkled with character driven laughs.

David (David Naughton, great here, why didn't he become a bigger star?) and his best friend Jack (Griffin Dunne, genuinely funny) are backpacking across Europe

When they hit the foggy rural country,locals tell them to stay off the moors and stick to the road. When they fail to follow that advice, they are attacked by a massive and vicious creature.

David wakes up in a London hospital to find that Jack is dead and that he's been badly bitten and carved up himself. Luckily, he's got beautiful young nurse Alex (Jenny Agutter from Walkabout, Logan's Run) to tend his wounds.

While he insists they were attacked by creature, witnesses and the police insist it was a psychotic madman.

When the full moon rises in London, I think we all know which way this goes.

Landis is a great director and sets up the near perfect transformation scene, with "Bad Moon Rising" blaring on the soundtrack, Rick Baker's killer physical transformation effects (No CGI here kids) and Naughton's great performance, its one of the best man to wolf scenes in the history of movies and still packs a hell of a punch.

As a writer, Landis sets up plenty of clever characters and plot twists, including an ever decaying Jack coming back to visit David and warn him on what's going to happen when the full moon hits.

I love the scene after David's first transition when he is after a lone commuter in a London train station. You see almost the entire scene as a side shot of the man running, but at the last moment when he collapses on an escalator, the camera positions to look down from his view to the base of the moving stairs, where you get a great view of a very freaky creature walking right into frame. Visually, it packs a punch because you don't expect to see it.

Likewise the carnage of the Piccadilly Square conclusion or the leisurely pace of David and Alex's romance.

Look for a great performance by John Woodvine as Dr. Hirsch, the genuinely caring doctor who doesn't think the towns people's account jives with David's wounds. Frank Oz (Yoda) also delivers a funny performance as an American embassy man with a very bad bedside manner.

Landis throws it all at you here, horrifying and bloody nightmares, dreams within dreams to keep you off balance, massive gore, nudity, great humor, romance and some serious tragedy, all sprinkled with classic rock and roll to accompany key moments. "Blue Moon" will never seem quite the same....

A huge hit and an all-time fave that holds up really well today. WEREWOLF has some serious bite and gets a perfect A+.

David after hearing a loud howl on the moors:

"Maybe it's a sheep dog, let's keep going...."

Oops. Fasten your backpacks kids, this one's a wild ride.

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