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American Werewolf in London
DVD disk
09.27.2004 By: Doctor Proctor
American Werewolf in London order
Director:
John Landis

Actors:
David Naughton
Griffin Dunne
Jenny Agutter

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Two American students, David Kessler (Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Dunne) vacation in Europe, doing the infamous "Travel Europe On One Dollar A Day" thing. One ghastly night, after receiving a bit of unheeded advice, one of them meets their doom and the other is marked by the beast, due to turn into a werewolf by the next full moon...
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Absolutely! Having never seen this film before I was taken by surprise how good it really was. John Landis, who has helmed such classic comedies like THE BLUES BROTHERS and ANIMAL HOUSE, puts his comic twist on this dark story, adding humor and scares all rolled up into one solid package. A classic in the making, it features some fantastic effects by guru Rick Baker, lots (I mean LOTS) of blood and guts, a well-paced story that keeps you guessing and jumping the whole way through, and some great laughs. This one's a true classic and it's got the edition it deserves!
THE EXTRAS
As a part of Universal's Collector's Edition banner, this one doesn't let down in the Special Features category. First up, the original 1981 EPK is included, a 5-minute fluff-fest that has some cool behind the scenes footage and make-up shots, but still can't outgrow its Press Kit origins. A once-but-never-again viewing. "The Casting Of The Hand" is next, a 13-minute romp through the making of the werewolf hand. Narration isn't here, but effects man Rick Baker, actor David Naughton and Director John Landis' joking and jovial mood make this a cool little feature. New "Interviews" were also made for this disc, an 18-minute John Landis interview and a 10-minute Baker Q&A. While Baker is humble and his comments informative, the set piece from that interview is the awesome transformation scene and the behind the scenes footage to go along with it. Landis also turns out to be a great storyteller, remembering wonderful stories and details from a film he made two decades ago. Both are recommended viewings, with some great unexpected facts thrown in.

"Outtakes" are next, 4 silent minutes of hi-jinks and mess-ups from the cast and crew. Funny, but would've been even better with audio. "A Storyboard To Film" comparison is included for the films climactic scene, featuring the boards and the video on the same screen for comparison (no Angle button necessary). What is destined to become a fan fave is the "Photograph Montage", but not for the photographs. Elmer Bernstein's score, composed for the film but never used, is played over the production stills and is a real surprise. A nice addition and a great little fan bonus. Rounding out the disc, we have the "Cast and Crew Filmographies", and no trailers for the film. None. No teaser, no theatrical, no trailers for this film of any kind. What's up with that? The DVD-ROM features include the entire script with direct scene access and a link to the film's website. Some production notes are included on the 4-page insert.

Finally, some interesting facts I dug up: When preparing the soundtrack, John Landis had wanted both Cat Stevens' "Moonshadow" and Bob Dylan's warbling rendition of "Blue Moon". Both men rejected the offer because they had both recently found God and thought the subject was inappropriate. Rick Baker won a (deserved) Oscar for Best Makeup. In the closing credits it reads, "All characters and events in this film are fictitious. Any similarity to actual events or persons, living, dead, or undead is purely coincidental." The film was released August 21st, 1981 in the U.S.

Commentary: The two leads, David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, truly take the cake here. I've heard a lot of commentaries, a lot of bad commentaries to boot, but this is a revelation for actor yack-tracks. While most actors can barely do more than tell you what you're watching (are you listening, Schwarzenegger?), these two quickly get into a real quirky mode and begin telling one great story after another, keeping you entertained the whole time. A must for fans, and recommended for the casual viewer as well.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
A classic horror comedy with great effects and a chilling resonance after the film is over. While the DVD may be jam-packed with great audio and supplements, I was hoping for a better transfer, a documentary and possibly a John Landis/Rick Baker commentary track. But alas, we always yearn for what we don't have though what is here is great and the supplements go beyond the call of duty. Any fan of horror must pick this one up, and for the regular movie goer who has never heard of this one, read no more and rent it today!
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