AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF
On the moors, we were
attacked by a lycanthrope, a werewolf.
Life mocks me, even in death!
A naked American man stole my balloons.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON ($27) is one of the modern classics of the horror genre. This breakthrough horror film revived the classic movie monster back in 1981, a time when the horror genre was skewed almost exclusively towards the slice ‘em dice ‘em teen slasher motif. Written and directed by John Landis (at the time famous for ANIMAL HOUSE), AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON plays as both a graphic horror movie outing, as well a decidedly disturbing black comedy that is intent on tearing out your throat.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON David Naughton stars as David Kessler, a young American college student backpacking his way across Europe with his best friend Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne). One evening, while traveling across the Yorkshire moors, a large animal savagely attacks both David and Jack. While poor Jack is literally torn to shreds by the creature, David manages to survive… thanks to the locals, who shoot down the beast before it can finish him off. After the attack, David awakens three weeks later in a London hospital to discover what has happened to Jack and himself. After a series of vivid and horrifying nightmares, David finds himself visited by his dead friend Jack, who warns David that he will turn into a werewolf at the next full moon. Thinking that Jack’s visit is just another one of his nightmares, David ignores the warnings. However, when the next full moon finally does rise, David begins to see the wisdom in his undead best friend’s words…
As I stated above, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON mixes disturbing black comedy with the horror, which is best evidenced through Jack’s postmortem visits to David. Jack’s visits are definitely amongst the film’s highlights, thanks to Griffin Dunne’s terrific performance. Dunne supplies much of the film’s dark, tension-relieving humor, with his pitch perfect delivery of Jack’s laundry list of complaints about being un-dead. Another highlight of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is Rick Baker’s Academy Award winning special effects. Baker’s groundbreaking werewolf transformations set a new standard for special effects work, so much so, that The Motion Picture Academy created a new category based upon what Baker created for this film. In addition to Naughton and Dunne, the cast of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON also features Jenny Agutter, John Woodvine, Lila Kaye, David Schofield, Brian Glover, Don McKillop, Paul Kember and Frank Oz.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. For someone who has loved this film for nearly thirty years, I have to say that I was mighty impressed with the 1080p presentation delivered on this Blu-ray. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is highly film-like on Blu-ray, with the presentation looking exactly how a modestly budgeted horror movie from 1981 ought to look… down to the abundant amounts of grain that is present in the image. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON appears crisper and better defined here than it ever has outside of theatrical projection. Many sequences pop on Blu-ray, plus the improved definition brings out the beauty of Rick Baker’s effects work. Everything that appeared murky and obscured previously, now stands out from the darkness, without the image appearing over brightened. Still, dimensionality is a bit hit or miss, depending upon how any given sequence was lit and shot. Colors are fairly impressive, appearing vivid without being over-saturated. Additionally, flesh tones are attractive. Blacks are deep and the whites are crisp. Contrast is pretty smooth, while shadow detail is generally more than adequate. The elements from which AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON has been transferred appear very clean for their age. As I stated above, grain is fairly abundant, but is appropriate to how film stocks appeared in the early 1980s and I am glad Universal has left the grain in tact.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is a very nice upgrade to film’s sonics, but there is no denying that this track originated in the pre-digital era. Directional elements are present during key sequences, but much of the track is localized front and center. Music is given something of a spread through the soundstage, which helps draw one into the mood Landis is trying to convey. The lossless encode improves upon the presentation of the numerous moon themed pop songs appearing on the track, as well as Elmer Bernstein’s score. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. Not much happening on the bass front, other than preventing the sound from becoming anemic. A Spanish DTS 5.1 channel track has also been encoded onto the disc, as have French German and Italian DTS 2.0 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Mandarin and Greek.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne. The most significant supplement is Beware The Moon a feature length retrospective on the film, which features interviews with numerous members of the cast & crew, including John Landis, David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter, John Woodvine and David Schofield. Featurettes and other programs include the following: I Walked With A Werewolf (eight minutes), Making An American Werewolf In London (five minutes), An Interview With Director John Landis (eighteen minutes), Make-Up Artist Rick Baker On An American Werewolf In London (eleven minutes) and Casting Of The Hand (eleven minutes). Outtakes, Storyboards and a Photograph Montage, close out the standard supplements. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).
As a fan of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON since the first time I saw it up on the big screen, nearly thirty years ago, I have to say I am pleased and tickled by its presentation of Blu-ray. The picture looks tremendous in comparison to every previous home presentation, and the sound holds up pretty well too. Recommended.
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