[box cover]

An American Werewolf in London: Collector's Edition

One of the best monster movies ever to come out of Hollywood, An American Werewolf in London is frightening, stylish, funny, quirky, gruesome, serious, and a milestone in makeup effects. David Naughton stars as David, an American tourist traveling the English countryside with friend Jack (Griffin Dunne) when the two are attacked by what appears to be a wild animal. Although Jack dies, David survives, wounded, and is haunted by freakish nightmares and ominous visits from his deceased, and decaying, pal. Jack's decomposing corpse informs David that the dead will not rest until the werewolf's bloodline is severed — and that means David himself has to die, or else he will transform and kill again. Director-writer John Landis, fresh off of two comic successes in Animal House and The Blues Brothers, does a wonderful job of fleshing out every small character with a strong comic personality while also maintaining the credibility of the main characters, despite their fantastic and very grim circumstances. The action scenes are impeccably executed, most particularly the famous scenes in the London Underground and Piccadilly Circus, and Landis' contemporary spin on lycanthrope lore affectionately references and debunks old werewolf movies. Personable Naughton, who never appeared in another decent film, is perfect in his role as a bewildered innocent. The big star, however, is make-up effects artist Rick Baker, whose work on David's on-screen transformation from man to animal is flawless, even 20 years later, and he more than any other deserved to win the first ever Academy Award in the category of Best Make-up (although 1980's The Elephant Man won a special award for its effects a year earlier, and is credited with the category becoming an annual event). Also starring empathetic Jenny Agutter as David's nurse and lover, John Woodvine as a doctor interested in the odd circumstances of David's situation, and an amusingly lunar-themed song score. Universal has come out with an excellent Collector's Edition of this worthy film, with a top-notch anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), although the source print has moments of slight wear; audio comes in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes. The supplements are numerous, including an affectionate and nostalgic commentary track by actors Naughton and Dunne, which is disappointing only in that it does not include insights from director Landis, although he does offer his funny and interesting observations in a 20-minute interview segment. Also interviewed is Baker, who elaborates for ten minutes on the tricks behind his effects, including excellent behind-the-scenes footage of his goop at work. Also focused on Baker's work is the 10-minute featurette "Casting of the Hand," which details the tedious process during which a rubber cast was made of Naughton's hand. The three-minute reel of soundtrack-free outtakes is amusing and surreal, and the final 45-second segment, billed as "Mysterious Footage," is pretty funny. Also included is a two-and-a-half-minute split-screen storyboard-to-action comparison of the Piccadilly Circus sequence, and a five-minute "making-of" segment produced before the film's 1981 release. Also here are a photo montage and DVD-ROM script-to-scene comparison. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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