An American Werewolf in London is a 1981Universal comedy/horror film written and directed by John Landis. (It was advertised with the Tagline, "From the director of Animal House, a different sort of animal.") Starring David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter, and John Woodvine, the film featured special effects by master make-up artist Rick Baker. (Frank Oz also made a cameo appearance, as didKermit the Frog and Miss Piggy — not to mention Landis himself.) It was shot on location in the UK, with Wales standing in for the Yorkshire moors, and "The Black Swan" pub in London for "The Slaughtered Lamb." The background music consisted of a number of cannily deployed popular songs (all of which have "moon" in the title), bolstered with some eleven minutes of moodily atmospheric music by Elmer Bernstein.AWiL was not particularly successful in its initial run. Critics were reportedly confused about whether to regard it as a comedy film with horror elements or a horror film with comedy relief, though Landis himself regards it as entirely in the vein of the old Universal monster films of the Forties. (There are also striking similarities between the Landis film and a 1941 British film, The Night Has Eyes, starring James Mason.) Since the Eighties, the film has come back from the dead (so to speak) as a Cult Classic. Naughton and Dunne handled their "buddy-body" banter excellently (the film really might have been entitled Road to Lycanthropy); Jenny Agutter as sexy nurse Alex Price is supremely enticing; and the acting throughout is generally well-handled — the characters come across as both interesting and sympathetic. It is true, however, that Landis does not seem quite to know what to do with such engaging characters; the initial parts of the film are both thrilling and funny, but about two-thirds of the way through, the plot seems to lose direction, and merely piles gory scene on gory scene in massive confusion until the film abruptly — stops.AWiL has infuriated some Britons, particularly Northerners, with its somewhat cartoonish and stereotypical depictions of life in the UK; it is possible that this was a deliberate echoing on Landis's part of the sketchily researched versions of Britain found in the Universal horror cycles of the Thirties and Forties.In 1997 a sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, appeared; despite an engaging pair of leads (Tom Everett Scott and Julie Delpy), this was so fundamentally ill-conceived and executed (Landis was barely involved at all) that it was not very well received.Based largely on this film, Michael Jackson engaged Landis to direct his 1982 "Thriller" music video, and hired Rick Baker to do the make-up effects for it.There is now a Slaughtered Lamb Pub in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. Also, in a triumph for Universal Studios, the 2013 Halloween Horror Nights event at the Orlando park successfully got permission to make a haunted house based on the film. It includes virtually every horror-related scene of the film, from the attack on the moors and the demonic Nazi dream to the famous transformation and the wolf's rampage out of the porn theater into Picadilly Circus.A remake of the film is rumored to be in the works.
An American Werewolf in London provides examples of the following tropes:
Ambiguously Jewish: It's never confirmed that the two guys are Jewish, but they have Ashkenazi-sounding names and use a bit of Yiddish, and they're both from New York. A nurse suspects that David is Jewish after checking out his package, but Alex says that circumcision is no longer strictly a Jewish thing. In the dream sequence where the werewolf-Nazis kill David's family, a menorah is visible on one of the shelves in the background.
Catch Phrase: Each of Landis's films works in the phrase, "See You Next Wednesday" somewhere. In AWiL, it serves as the title of the porn film David and Jack and "friends" watch.
Cat Scare: Out on the moors, David and Jack are being stalked by the werewolf. They run away, but suddenly David falls...revealing nothing knocked him over. He'd just tripped. But when Jack moves to help him up, the werewolf attacks.
Celebrity Paradox: Frank Oz appears as an American consulate. Soon afterwards, David has a dream featuring Miss Piggy, who was puppeteered by Frank Oz.
City of Weirdos: David tries to get himself locked up so he won't kill more people at moonrise, but is merely told to move along when he starts shouting insults about the royals and Britain's cultural icons in public. This, after his running around the park naked is greeted with a mere sniff of disdain by an older lady.
Creator Cameo: John Landis is the bearded man who gets hit by a car and thrown through the plate glass window in Piccadilly Circus.
Downer Ending: David's love interest confesses her love to him while he's in wolf form. She actually seems to get to him a little, but he still dies in the end. That being said it's more of a Bittersweet Ending, albeit very bitter, but if David wasn't killed he would have murdered more people doomed to be among the undead.
The Florence Nightingale Effect: How Nurse Price falls in love with David. She finds him handsome and "sad." Another nurse admits to checking out his penis, which hints that his being a werewolf may be inspiring these feelings as well.
Ghostapo: Because he is a nice Jewish boy, David's nightmares naturally involve hideous monsters — wearing SS uniforms.
Hello, Nurse! \ Hospital Hottie: As Griffin Dunne remarks in the DVD commentary à propos Alex's treatment of David: "I want to stay in that hospital!"
Hope Spot: The three seconds where it looks like Alex is about to save the day with The Power of Love, or at least be the one to mercy kill him, as he hinted at earlier in the film. Instead, he lunges at her and gets gunned down by the police.
Knock Knock Joke: David tries to tell an inverted one to Jack on the moors, but Jack doesn't get it.
Idiot Ball: The two guys really don't have any reason to wander off the road. They're in the dark, in a strange area with no real idea of where they're going. Why would they just wander into the moors after being warned several times that it's dangerous? In fact, they quickly find themselves lost.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: During his painful transformation David looks pleadingly into the camera and reaches out as if begging the audience to help him.
Lightmare Fuel: This film is seemingly made of this trope in some parts. Griffin Dunne and David Naughton are laughing it up, joking about the superstitious villagers as they walk along the moonlit road one second, telling some authentically funny jokes that will get the audience chuckling along... and in the next second Dunne's throat is ripped out on-camera and Naughton is slowly bleeding out from a werewolf bite.
Our Ghosts Are Different: No one killed by a werewolf can pass on to the afterlife until its bloodline is cut off, leaving David haunted by The Undead forms of the people he himself has killed, and at least one of the people killed by the werewolf that bit him.
Our Werewolves Are Different: The werewolf in this film is a definitely quadrupedal, over-sized animal, looking rather like a Huskie that has swallowed a large barrel, with limbs set more like a crocodile's than a wolf's; moreover, it has a howl like a train-whistle.
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: After being attacked, the main characters are taken from the Yorkshire Moors, in the North of England, where there are any number of good hospitals, to London, which is in the South. The contrast between the Moors and a northern city wouldn't have been as severe as with metropolitan London. This may have had something to do with the locals wanting the imminent carnivorous lunar activities as far away from them as possible - the doctor mentions that David's wounds were cleaned and dressed before he arrived.
Sex Is Violence: Both Alex and David are shown biting each other repeatedly as foreplay.
Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Roughly around the middle somewhere. John Landis said it's not a comedy, but in context he seemed to have been committing an equivocation fallacy between "comedy" as opposed to "drama" and "comedy" as opposed to "tragedy".
Stylistic Suck: The porn film See You Next Wednesday that David and Jack watch features some delightfuly absurd scenes that go nowhere. In one scene, an angry man bursts in on the copulating couple to accuse his lover of cheating on him. Both the man and the woman have no idea who he is, so he apologizes and leaves. Later, the naked woman answers a phone call, but it's a wrong number, so she hangs up. David comments, "Nice movie!" leaving it unclear whether he's being sarcastic or if the film is intentionally some sort of Dada porno.
Take That: One line, "Sean, I think there are some hooligans in the park again," (spoken as a werewolf is ripping some people apart) is a parody of a remark reportedly made by Margaret Thatcher.
This Was His True Form: The monstrous werewolf that attacks David is revealed to be a small, bald old man in his true form.
To Serve Man: The werewolf cuisine of choice, though venison is apparently David's dream-food.
You Have to Believe Me: First, Jack tries to get David to believe him: "Goddammit, David, please believe me! You'll kill and make others like me! I'm not having a nice time here." Later David tries the same with Alex and others.
Your Werewolves Suck: Jack rolls his eyes and quips "Oh, be serious!" when David asks about needing silver bullets.