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Default An American Werewolf in London




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: January 15, 2000

Released by: Live Entertainment
Release date: 12/9/1997
MSRP: $24.98 (OOP)
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No



An American Werewolf in London was released in 1981 and still continues to have a strong cult following today. This isn't much of a surprise to anyone who has seen the movie, given how terrific of a film it is. Released shortly after The Howling (1980), An American Werewolf in London does a terrific job standing on it's own ground with its unique humor that is absent from The Howling. Lets take a close look at the bare bones DVD release of An American Werewolf in London from Live Entertainment.


The Story

inline Image David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are two American student spending their summer backpacking across England. One night as they're walking through a small town they come across a small bar called "The Slaughtered Lamb". Being both hungry and cold they go in for a warm drink and some hot food. After a not so warm greeting from the locals they quickly leave the bar after they upset the locals by asking why the have a pentagram on their wall. As they continue their hike they realize they are being circled by an animal of some sort. This animal turns out to be a werewolf, which ends up killing Jack and mauling David. Before the werewolf is able to kill David, the locals shoot and kill it.

inline Image David is brought to a local hospital in London, England. The doctors are told that he was attacked by a madman, who was killed before he had the chance to kill David. As David struggles to come to acceptable with what his happened, he begins to question his sanity even further when he begins to see his dead friend Jack. Jacks tells David that he was bitten by a werewolf, and that he must kill himself in order for Jack's spirit to be free. David, not believing that he is really seeing his dead friend, calls the nurse for comfort. A relationship begins to develop between David and the nurse, Alex Price (Jenny Agutter), and once David is released from the hospital he stays at Alex's apartment where they develop a love relationship.

inline Image One night at Alex's, David gets another visit from his dead friend Jack. This time he is warned that a full moon is coming, and when it does David will turn into a werewolf and kill others. David ignores the warnings, but sure enough the next day the full moon appears and David has his first transformation into a werewolf. As a werewolf, David goes out and kills numerous people throughout the night. He awakens the next morning, naked in a zoo.

inline Image Dr. Hirsch (John Woodvine), the doctor who treated David at the hospital, visits the town in which David was attacked. He realizes that something is being covered up when the locals will not let him see the autopsy report of Jack. One local warns the doctor that something is wrong with David, and that a full moon is coming soon. Dr. Hirsh and Alex team up to help David before all is too late and more lives are lost. The only question is: Will they be able to stop David before more are killed, or he himself decides to take his own life?

inline Image I've loved this movie for as long as I can remember. The storyline is great; it has a unique twist of humor to it that you won't see in any other werewolf movies. The acting is top notch with superb performances by David Naughton (playing David), Jenny Agutter (playing Alex) and Griffin Dunne (playing David's dead friend, Jack). The effects are top notch and certainly rival the effects from The Howling. One thing I do prefer about this film is that they do NOT use any stop motion effects, which were briefly used towards the end of The Howling. An American Werewolf in London allows you to see through the eyes of the werewolf, instead of actually showing you the werewolf moving. I think this is much more effective; it keeps the realism of the werewolf effects that are seen in other areas of the movie. On that note, it is worthy to mention the actual werewolf transformation scene as well. The effects are simply incredible. Not having the luxury of CGI in 1981, the filmmakers had to rely on strictly makeup and tricky camera techniques in order to convince the audience that an actual transformation is occuring. The film accomplishes this dead-on, and it puts to shame some of the more recent werewolf movies that rely on strictly CGI to do a transformation (e.g. An American Werewolf in Paris).

One other aspect to the film that I love is the soundtrack. The music in the film is absolutely perfect. Each song is so perfect for the scene it is used in; I was very impressed how the music blended in so perfectly.

If you haven't seen this movie, I strongly encourage you to go rent it today. The DVD has just gone out of print and if you can manage to find a copy I'd recommend snagging it. If you've seen the mediocre sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, don't let that give you any bad expectations to the first film. An American Werewolf in London has unique humor, great effects (including some gore shots for you fanatics out there) and terrific story are sure to please all horror fans.

Image Quality

inline Image Live presents An American Werewolf in London in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and is NOT enhanced for 16:9 TVs. An American Werewolf in London looks very good. The transfer is mostly clean but I did notice numerous scenes where grain appeared. This was mainly during the night scenes and it's very slight, so I suspect you'll either have to be sitting close to the TV or have a big screen TV to notice it at all. I can certainly say this grain does not appear on the most recent laserdisc version of An American Werewolf in London, so I am a bit surprised to see it on the DVD.

The colors appear well balanced and accurate throughout the film. Some of the night scenes appear to be a bit on the dark side when compared to the laserdisc. Nicks and other print blemishes were minimal throughout the DVD. Overall I'm happy with the transfer, but there is certainly some room for improvement.

Sound

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound leaves a bit to be desired. I didn't hear one single sound come out of the rear speakers. I had to do a receiver test afterwards just to make sure my speakers were working. Well, they were and I even went as far to put The Matrix in and sure enough the rear speakers were firing away. The sound that does come from the front 3 speakers is clear and well produced. I heard no dropouts or hisses of any sorts.

Supplemental Material

Unfortunately all we get on the disc is a teaser trailer. I sure wish they put the full theatrical trailer because the teaser trailer really sucks.

Final Thoughts

Great movie, okay DVD. Yes, it could absolutely be better in terms of picture quality, sound and supplements. However, since this is all DVD owners have an option of getting I'd still recommend buying the DVD. You get A) a superb movie, B) a fairly good transfer and C) a reasonable sound mix (minus rear speaker activity). No doubt any fan of the film dreams of a special edition, and hopefully someday someone like Anchor Bay or Elite will come to the rescue. For now, however, this DVD should satisfy most werewolf fans!

Rating

Movie - A
Image Quality - B
Sound - B
Supplements - C-

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • 24 Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1

Supplements
  • Teaser Trailer


 

 

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