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Default An American Werewolf in London: Collector's Edition




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: August 16, 2001

Released by: Universal
Release date: 9/18/2001
MSRP: $26.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



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.

In 1997 Live Entertainment released a bare bones DVD release of An American Werewolf in London . Shortly after that the DVD went out of print and prices for it soared to the $50-$100 range on Ebay. Thankfully, Universal Studios stepped up to the plate and announced a collector's edition DVD of An American Werewolf in London that's loaded with some seemingly nice extras. Lets take a look at the Universal DVD.

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 calling Jack and mauling David. Fortunately, before the werewolf can 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. Soon 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 begin to 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. Not believing what is happening David ignores the warnings, but sure enough the next day the full moon does come along while Alex is at work David has his first transformation into a werewolf. As a werewolf David goes out and kills numerous people throughout the night and in the morning awakens naked in a zoo.

inline Image Soon not only does David realize he is a werewolf but also Dr. Hirsch (John Woodvine), the doctor who treated David at the hospital. Dr. Hirsch visited the town in which David was attacked, and begins to realize 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 and 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 and I thought they really ruined the realism of the werewolves. 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 and it allows you keep the realism of the werewolf effects that are seen in other areas of the movie. On that note, it is worthy to mention that actual werewolf transformation scene as well. The effects are simply incredible during the transformation scene and they're quite believable as well. 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).

inline Image 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 Universal Studios presents An American Werewolf in London in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The transfer is excellent over all, with just a few minor problems. The transfer is sharp and clean with only a few small blemishes appearing. There are several scenes with light grain, as well as some scenes in the beginning where the background is soft and lacking in detail - it almost looks like artifacts. Colors are beautiful; they're extremely vibrant and nicely saturated. In comparison with the past Live DVD, this Universal DVD has the benefit of 16x9 enhancement, boasts a sharper image, greater detail overall, and a cleaner image.

Sound

Universal has included both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 track. For this review, we're taking a looking at the Dolby Digital track. Surround activity is minor, but is much better than the past Live DVD, which had a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that had hardly any surround activity. LFE activity is also minor, but remains an improvement over the Live DVD. Dialogue sounds crystal clear and the track overall had no distortion. The disc had Spanish and French subtitles, and is closed captioned for the hearing impaired.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Universal has released An American Werewolf in London as a Collector's Edition DVD, which means there's bound to be some great extras. First up is a commentary track with stars David Naughton and Griffin Dunne. The two share their experiences on making the film, discuss the pains of the special effects makeup, and point out their improv material. Unfortunately, there are just way too many gaps of silence on this track. I found myself not enjoying the track very much as a result. It's obvious the two had trouble thinking of things to discuss, since at times they were obviously struggling just to come up with something at all to say. Understand that at times the two do throw out some interesting information, it's just that those times are minimal. The track would have been much better if director John Landis and special effects artist Rick Baker were on it. It's funny that Landis and Baker are do a commentary track for the Schlock DVD (a track that was quite good too), yet they don't do one for his all-time classic, An American Werewolf in London. Go figure. Still, as it stands, this track was a disappointment. I was definitely hoping for more.
Next up is the original "Making an American Werewolf in London" featurette. It's short, only 5 minutes in length, but still very enjoyable. It contains interviews with a very young John Landis and various behind-the-scenes footage. That footage consists of Rick Baker and his crew making a mold of David Naughton, and the filming of the stunt that John Landis did in the movie.



inline Image inline Image inline Image



Next is a new retrospective interview with a now much older John Landis. This interview runs about 18 minutes and length, and definitely helps make up for the lack of a Landis commentary. He discusses how he came up with the story for An American Werewolf in London, the challenges of writing a horror-comedy and then trying to get it made, special effects in the movie, the transformation scene, his stunt in the movie, and more. Certainly the greatest quote in this commentary is when Landis is discussing the transformation scene and how it related to puberty, he states "...and all of a sudden your dick's getting hard." Normally that would be an unexpected statement from a famous director, but Landis is such a unique and funny person that the statement isn't a surprise from him. He's so full of life and character; these traits of his show every time you see him being interviewed. He's always happy and always has that goofy smile on his face. Only Landis can make something like an interview, which are normally a bit dull, so hilarious.

inline Image inline Image inline Image



A new retrospective interview with makeup artist Rick Baker is also included on the DVD. This interview runs about 11 minutes and length. Of course, the focus is on effects and Baker does an excellent job discussing all of the effects in the movie. It's amazing to hear him explain that him and his crew - a group of young kids who had no experience, they were just fans of Baker's work - didn't really know what they were doing and just sort of winged it. Proof of Baker's incredible talent already lies in the final product, but stuff like this just further proves it. This is definitely an enjoyable interview and it contains some nice clips of unused footage.



inline Image inline Image inline Image



"Casting of the Hand" is next, which is archival footage of the effects crew making a cast of David Naughton's hand. Once again, something that is normally a bit dull and try becomes humorous thanks to the presence of John Landis. At one point David Naughton has trouble pulling his hand out of the cast, and immediately Landis and crew beginning busting David's chops about it. It's about 10 minutes in length and is also enjoyable to watch.

A few minutes of silent outtakes are included; nothing too funny except for a humorous "Mysterious footage" sequence with John Landis. There's a few minutes of storyboards, which show both the storyboard and the actual scenes from the film. And finally, rounding out the supplements on the DVD are a beautiful photograph montage, production notes, and cast and filmmakers bios. DVD-ROM features include a script-to-scene comparison and various Universal Internet links.
Definitely some great extras here, most of which fans are going to absolutely love. Too bad on the disappointing commentary, but the interviews and behind-the-scenes footage certainly make up for it. One other minor complaint is the lack of theatrical trailers on the DVD. Rating supplements with an A-.

Final Thoughts

An American Werewolf in London is one of the greatest werewolf movies of all time. Finally fans have a definitive special edition DVD that's packed full of great extras, minus the lackluster commentary track. The a/v quality on this Universal DVD is quite good. I highly recommend this DVD; it most definitely deserves a spot in every horror fan's library.

Rating

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

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 38 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • 20 Chapter Stops
  • Dolby Digital 5.1
  • DTS 5.1
  • English/French subtitles
  • Closed Captioned

Supplements
  • "Making An American Werewolf in London", an original featurette
  • Commentary with Cast Members David Naughton and Griffin Dunne
  • An Interview with John Landis
  • Makeup Artist Rick Baker on An American Werewolf in London
  • Casting of the Hand
  • Outtakes
  • Storyboards
  • Photograph Montage
  • Production Notes
  • Cast and Filmmakers
  • DVD-ROM Features


 

 

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