American Werewolf in London (1981)
Director: John Landis
Jenny Agutter/Nurse Price
John Woodvine/Dr. Hirsh
David’s (Naughton) England trip goes to the dogs when a big wolf kills his best friend and wounds him. The weird dreams that plague him afterwards point to his own transformation into a wolf but he just won’t believe it. So he gets some play with a hot nurse (Agutter), the moon goes full and then…well…aaahooooo (wolf howl) he visits the zoo.
A simple story gets an eccentric approach…and aren’t we all thankful? Guy gets bit by a wolf, has weird dreams, receives visits from the undead, falls in love, turns into a wolf and kills people. Sounds pretty simple, no? What makes Landis’ werewolf classic stand out is the seemingly effortless blend of humor and scares. Both ingredients gel together so well. One second you're sitting in your couch horrified as a horde of werewolf “Nazis” break into a house and murder a family and the next moment, you're smiling or laughing at Naughton’s naked antics (the scene with the little boy and the balloons cracked me up).
Landis plays by his own rules and manages to make a love story, crazy dream sequences, a living dead friend, funny situations, an astounding werewolf transformation sequence (one of the most effective I’ve ever seen), violent werewolf attacks and a smashing car pile-up all stick together…wow! The dialogue is also very witty and rings true (especially Dunne and Naughton’s opening scene), the love story aspect is treated in an honest and non-manipulative fashion (helped by Agutter’s captivating turn), the mood is at times very scary (the opening in the hills) and funny at the same time (the transformation sequence is gruesome but the light tune playing in the background gives it a humorous touch) and sometimes just plain funny (anytime decomposing Dunne shows up).
How Landis pulled this off is beyond me but in the hands of a lesser director this flick could’ve felt very disjointed. I do have two minor qualms about the film though. For one, the ending caps off way too abruptly. For an hour and a half, I invested myself into these characters and to see it all end in the blink of an eye pissed me off a bit. Also Naughton isn’t always up to the challenge. Some of his most hysterical moments didn’t feel real enough. But all in all, “American Werewolf In London” is one of a kind and in my opinion, probably the best werewolf movie to ever hit the screen. I know "The Howling" was also the shite but Landis’ flick beats it by a snout. Now let's bed some nurses…
Lots to like here: Naughton eating a deer head, a slit throat, bloody wolf attacks, a bloody stabbing, a severed hand, a machine gun rampage, a bit-off head and some guy getting run over by a car. Add to that the amazing wolf transformation and you've got one hell of a heavy dish.
David Naughton (David) is sometimes a tad off but he still pulls through. His sympathetic aura, his smug smile and the well-written script back him up perfectly. Griffin Dunne (Jack) is hilarious, he’s very natural and his scenes with Naughton ooze of wit and realism. Jenny Agutter (Nurse Price) set my pants (and my whole house) on fire. Only the British can glow with such sexual energy and appear so restraint about it. She’s very charming and I appreciated her subtlety. John Woodvine (Dr. Hirsh) is convincing as the no-bull doctor. I bought it.
T & A
There’s a steamy love scene between David Naughton and Jenny Agutter but we don’t see much…lots of teasing…but it still worked on me! What a hot love scene! The consolation prize is Naughton’s butt and his little wolf…urgh. I almost forgot: we get to see a huge pair of tits courtesy of the porno movie playing in the theatre (too big for my taste since I’m more of a B-cup kinda guy).
Landis delivers here, giving a haunting feel to the scary scenes (the hill and pub sequences), slapping in some fun wolf POV shots (love the subway sequence) and managing to always border the line of "camp" while never crossing it. A perfect blend of comedy and horror. Take a bow, big guy!
All the songs in this flick have the word “moon” in their titles. We get "Blue Moon" by Bobby Vinton, "Moon Dance" by Van Morrison and a couple more. The songs give the flick an interesting atmosphere…no Bush (the band) here. The piano score is touching and moody.
"American Werewolf In London" manages to juggle comedy and scares without ever dropping a ball and that’s what makes it so unique. The script is tight, the gore plentiful and the effects dead-on. It is to werewolf movies what "Halloween" is to slasher flicks: a vintage offering that only gets better with age…wanna sip?
Did you know that John Landis wrote this screenplay when he was only 19 years old (I feel like a chump)?
When the man is killed in the underground halls, you can spot a poster of this movie.
In 1982, Rick Baker won the Oscar for “Best Makeup” and was also special effect consultant on "The Howling".
Jenny Agutter’s other genre credits include: "Child’s Play 2" (she played the foster mother Joanne) and an uncredited turn in “Darkman” as a burn doctor.