In the years since the 1981 release of John Landis’ horror film, An American Werewolf in London, it has gone on to accumulate a cult following and is now considered one of the classics of the horror genre. A film oddly reminiscent of the B-movies of the 1940s and 50s, Landis’ film has often confounded viewers and critics alike, causing a bit of a debate over whether the film is intended to be funny, or a straight horror film. Landis, however, has gone on record as saying that the film is not intended as any sort of spoof, but is in fact meant to be scary.
The story is about two American college students, David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Grffin Dunne), traveling through the moors of Northern England when a beast of some sort attacks them. Jack is killed, but David survives only to awake three weeks later in hospital in London. Not remembering what happened to him, he’s told by his doctor (John Woodvine) and his attractive nurse, Alex (Jenny Agutter), that an escaped mental patient attacked him. Soon, however, David begins having vivid dreams and starts seeing his friend Jack appear to him as a living corpse. Jack tells David that the two of them were attacked by a werewolf, that David will turn into one as well at the next full moon and begin to kill people. Telling David that he’s been condemned to drift in purgatory as long as the last werewolf line lives, Jack begins to urge David to take his own life to stop the cycle.
Eventually David is released from hospital and moves in with Alex, but he is still tormented by his dreams and visions of his friend Jack, until finally the full moon arrives, and he goes on a rampage through London.
An American Werewolf in London is a slow-burning horror film, nothing like the horror of today. It’s almost amusing to think now that the film had problems getting past the ratings board in its original cut. More campy than gory, it was nevertheless innovative for its time and did in fact win an Oscar for make-up. It would go on to influence the long-form music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and become a perennial Halloween classic.
An American Werewolf in London was originally shot on 35mm and it is presented here in a brand new 4K restoration from 2018. This film has never exactly looked great, being a bit soft in some frames and even showing excess graininess and lens dirt. While some of that is still there, this new restoration is a vast improvement over the previous 2009 Blu-ray release from Universal. The image looks a little cleaner, a little crisper, and has better color preproduction and shadow nuance, which can really be seen in the crazed scene in Piccadilly Circus at nighttime, where the lights and phone boxes have excellent color, the black levels are superb, and the image really ‘pops.’
Arrow includes the original monaural mix in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for An American Werewolf in London on Blu-ray. Both mixes sound great. If you’re a traditionalist, you’ll get pretty clear and clean dialogue and foley effects mixed into the center channel with the 1.0 mix. The 5.1 mix, you’ll get good atmospherics with some discrete sound effects like howling off to the sides when the guys are on the moors that add to the suspense.
An American Werewolf Limited Edition from Arrow is packed to the hilt with fantastic bonus features including a few excellent, new documentaries that explore the Universal history with werewolf horror and the classic Beware the Moon documentary. Plus, we get a lot of swag, as to be expected with an Arrow release.
- Reversible sleeve featuring original poster art and artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Double-sided fold-out poster
- Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions
- Limited 60-page booklet featuring new writing by Travis Crawford and Simon Ward, archival articles and original reviews
- Audio commentary with Paul Davis
- Audio commentary with actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne
- Mark of the Beast: The Legacy of the Universal Werewolf (2.35:1; 1080p; 01:17:18) – This new feature-length documentary offers interviews with John Landis, David Naughton, Joe Dante and others. It explores werewolf lore and Universal’s influence as a studio in building the mythology around the werewolf with its classic “creature feature” horror films.
- An American Filmmaker in London (1.78:1; 1080p; 00:11:41) – A newly filmed interview with John Landis in which he reflects in British cinema and his time working in Britain.
- Wares of the Wolf (1.78:1; 1080p; 00:07:58) – A new featurette in which SFX artist Dan Martin and Tim Lawes of the Prop Store look at some of the original costumes and special effects artefacts from the film.
- I Think He’s a Jew: The Werewolf’s Secret (1.78:1; 1080p; 00:11:26) – A new video essay by filmmaker Jon Spira about how Landis’ film explores Jewish identity.
- The Werewolf’s Call (1.78:1; 1080p; 00:11:26) – Corin Hardy, director of The Hallow and The Nun, chats with writer Simon Ward about their formative experiences with Landis’ film.
- Beware the Moon (1.85:1; 1080i; 01:37:39) – Paul Davis’ acclaimed, feature-length exploration of Landis’ film, which boasts extensive cast and crew interviews.
- Making An American Werewolf in London (1.33:1; 1080p; 00:04:54) – An archival behind-the-scenes featurette on the film’s production.
- An Interview with John Landis (1.33:1; 720p; 00:18:19) – An archival interview with John Landis on the film.
- Make-up Artist Rick Baker on An American Werewolf in London (1.33:1; 720p; 00:11:13) – Archival interview with make-up artist Rick Baker on his work on the film.
- I Walked with a Werewolf (1.33:1; 720p; 00:07:30) – An archival interview with make-up artist Rick Baker about Universal horror and its legacy of Wolfman films.
- Casting of the Hand (1.33:1; 1080p; 00:10:59) – Archival footage form Rick Baker’s workshop as they cast David Naughton’s hand.
- Outtakes (1.33:1; 1080p; 00:03:07)
The Final Assessment
This camp horror classic that harkens back to the Universal horror moves of old gets a strong 4K restoration on Blu-ray and an abundance of superb bonus features and extras in this limited edition release from Arrow.
An American Werewolf in London (Limited Edition) is out on Blu-ray October 29, 2019 from Arrow Video
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