Way back in about 1982/83 my parents rented this film from the local video shop Telebond. Released on the old Spectrum label (the one with the flashy colourful logo) no one in the family really had any idea what the film was about apart from the rather striking cover.
Looking back I shouldn’t have been watching an X (18) film but Mum and Dad knew I could handle it. Of course some of the humour I didn’t really get and I certainly wasn’t interested in the ‘lovey dovey’ bits. What I loved was the special effects (still unsurpassed) and the fact you could relate to it as it was entirely set in England.
In all honesty recapping the story of AWIL is a tad pointless but here goes. Two American backpackers are travelling across Europe and reach Northern England. They are attacked by a werewolf, one dies and the other becomes one. Oh yes and we must not forget the survivor falls in love with a nurse.
I mentioned the effects above and they are truly faultless even to this day. The film is bloody and weirdly now rated a ’15’ but the crowning achievement is Rick Baker’s transformation sequence. Shot entirely in the light it is simply one of cinema’s greatest achievements in all genres considering it’s age. Give me proper prosthetics done well over CGI anyday.
The film is stacked with familiar British character actors (then and now) including the great Brian Glover, David Schofield, John (Nick Cotton) Altman, a couple of future actors who would go on to be in ‘The Bill’ and even Rik Mayall pops up as a chess player sharing a scene with Glover. Years later Glover would appear along with Rik as Mr. Rottweiler in Bottom. Also the poor guy attacked in the tube station is played by Michael Carter who as well the man “whose wife was left a widow and his children Fatherless” played Jabba the Hutt’s lackey Bib Fortuna in Return of the Jedi. Must not forget the appearance of Fozzie Bear (Frank Oz) as an American Embassy official either.
Arrow’s 4K remastering is pretty damn good and as I am a very sad man I spent a fair bit of time putting the disc in slow motion and identifying the film posters and advertisements in the underground. I spotted amongst others, Flash Gordon, Airplane!, Battle Beyond the Stars and the SKA film Dance Craze. I recognised that one as I have the record for it bought back in the day. The soundtrack comprises of a couple of commentaries and the original mono soundtrack and a 5.1 DTS mix. The 5.1 soundtrack isn’t that mind-blowing (no complaints though) as it is fairly front heavy but opens up with sound effects and music.
Extras wise, Arrow have gone to town with the release with a book, postcards and poster in a sexy rigid box. In terms of what is on the disc, it’s probably the last word in supplementary material for the film (although missing the soundtrack CD in the German release). We have the excellent full length documentary from Paul Davis about the film, various interviews and outtakes. An amazing film should have amazing extras and they certainly do here.
An American Werewolf in London is without a doubt one of the classics of cinema regardless of genre. It’s incredibly funny, scary, well acted, superbly written and features set pieces which will probably never be bettered. Director John Landis has never topped this film although he comes close with The Blues Brothers but what a legacy you have when you are responsible for one of the greatest horror films (and musical) ever made. I do have a real fondness for “Kentucky Fried Movie’ as well.
As you can tell I adore this film (no. 3 on my all-time greatest list) recommending it is a no brainer and now it looks even better especially when compared to my old videos (remember the cheapo label 4-Front?).
Truly magnificent and only a cinematic illiterate twit wouldn’t appreciate it.