Film: An American Werewolf in London
Beware the moon, David.An American Werewolf in London
is a 1981 Universal
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 did Kermit 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
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: