An American Werewolf in London (1981)
“An American Werewolf in London” could very well be the first true horror film I watched. I’m sure there were a few before it I can’t recall, but it was this horror flick that really caught my attention.
The mix of humor and horror was something I would never forget. I watch the John Landis classic at least three to four times a year and the bad jokes, and at-the-time hokey effects, still thrill me to this day.
This was Landis’ fifth studio feature, following hot on the heels of comedic successes “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers.” It was the success of those comedies that helped Landis make the 1981 horror classic for a budget around $10 million.
What struck a chord with me, beyond the amazing werewolf transformation and the hotness of Nurse Price (Jenny Agutter), was the way Landis infused so many corny lines into the film and still made the horror work.
Most would look at the box-office success of the film and quickly dismiss as being cut from the same Schlock cloth as other flicks such as “Hell Night” and “The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant.” But in truth, the film has every element of Schlock there is.
‘An American Werewolf in London” has it all. Whether you like loads of blood and ripped-up flesh, a snarling werewolf puppet or bug-eyed beast-Nazis dream invaders — it’s all there.
Plus for me there’s the cautionary tale: Listen to what the natives tell you. They’re the best at steering you to the greatest beer, the coziest beds and, in this case, mythological creatures intent on taking you down.
If I’m not mistaken, this whole “turning into a werewolf” thing could have been avoided if David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) would have just listened to the locals in the Slaughtered Lamb pub and stayed on the road and off the moors. Pretty simple to me.
Another aspect of the film that lends itself to being completely Schlocktastic is the fact that while they are trying to flee to the moors with a werewolf hot on their trail, they both crack up when David tumbles and falls. And just like sex, drugs and drinking, nothing brings the bad guys clawing for your neck quicker than some inappropriate laughter in the middle of the night.
Another highlight of the film is its soundtrack. It features songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sam Cooke and Van Morrison. The only thing that could have made it better was having Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” but I guess we can’t have it all.
Plus we have a little Florence Nightingale action going on when Nurse Price falls in love with the injured David. In the end, it truly turns out to be a case of “Beauty and the Beast.”
“An American Werewolf in London” was one of three werewolf flicks to be released in 1981, along with “The Howling” and “Wolfen.” But in my opinion, “An American Werewolf in London” is the crème de la crème of this hairy trio of films.
Blood-and-guts horror, a budding romance, wonderfully cheesy lines and all of it tied up in nice werewolf packaging. When it comes to a good night of hairy Schlock action, one would be hard-pressed to find a better time than “An American Werewolf in London.”
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