An American Werewolf in London, blog, Brian Glover, Curse, David Naughton, David Schofield, entertainment, Fantasy, Film, Gary Pullin, Griffin Dunne, Horror, Jenny Agutter, John Landis, John Woodvine, movies, Nightmare, oscars, rants, review, Rick Baker, Rue Morgue, thoughts, werewolfs
Written and Directed by John Landis
Whenever I discuss classics, of the Horror persuasion, I’ve been somewhat contemplative on how I could do these particular reviews. Not that I even have one particular structure that I tend to go with. So what I’ve decided to do is create a list of about 5; why 5? Well because I wanted to make myself narrow it down but showcase clear enough reasons so that it’s not just me choosing every other scene that occurs. Though having already stated that I’ll usually always prefer the original. I do as well realize there are some fans of the genre who only consider the original and any such thing made after is simply a failed attempt. To each its own I say.
Brief Synopsis: Americans David and Jack are on a vacation in an unfamiliar place. First seen in a truck full of sheep they start out getting right to the nights events, murdering one of the friends soon enough and the other receiving lacerations from the encounter. Admitted into the hospital, he begins seeing Jack as an ever more rotting corpse. With each passing day succumbing to a new lifestyle; falling in love with the nurse who cared for him days prior. Everything seemed to be going great. Then things got a little hairy.
1. The Relationship Between Jack and David: This may certainly seem like a silly addition to the list but I thought the two lead actors were so well cast and able to play off of one another. Imagine if you will what the studio had envisioned; casting Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as the leads. I don’ think so. Thankfully Landis refused but I cannot even imagine how the movie would have played out if going through with such a silly request. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne both had a natural and comedic charm about themselves though we do seen Dunne rarely. Naughton what, with that face, those eyes and that smile made for a great lead role. You couldn’t help but fall for the guy. He just wanted to enjoy what was supposed to be an adventure in Europe with his best friend. But ended up a night that would determine his fate.
2. How Horrific the images portrayed were executed: Every time I’ve watched this movie, I usually jump back a little at every same point in the film. Which feels nice for two reasons. 1: that a movie can still hold up after so long and 2: that even though I know what to expect as the scenes approaches, I still can’t help myself. It has great staying power. In the beginning when Jack gets attacked, Baker had shared a story about filming that scene. He had discussed with Griffin to be careful with the wolf’s face as it was fragile and it was his hand operating the puppet. In the first take, Griffin ripped it off and threw it to the side, forcefully. Baker than decided if “that’s how he wanted to play it, I was gonna give him all I had.” Getting as dominant as could with the actor and making for a really great scene. The make-up of Jack, when he becomes un-dead wasn’t so much revolting as it was greatly pieced together. Or the several handful of nightmares that David would endure during his transformation. The one in which his family is overrun by hideous beast. Landis had told Baker he wanted to see “Nazi demons” and what you see in the film was a result of that.
3. How Humorous the movie turned out: The movie was originally marketed as a Comedy since that was what Landis had been known for. So one could imagine what adult audiences may have thought upon first viewing. It was the teenagers however that found enjoyment out of the film, altogether getting rather mixed reviews to begin with. The fact that the two leads happened to be funny mixed with Landis sense of humor made for nothing too over the top.
4. Transformation: Landis had originally written the script in 1969 and later discussed with Rick Baker on the making of Schlock, of the possibility of doing a werewolf movie. But wanting the transformation perceived to be painful. Referencing the original Wolf man and Werewolf of London, Landis knew what he had wanted to be portrayed, claiming that in no way would a man going through the transformation just sit still as in the above mentioned movies. When the time came and John had the money to do the picture he finally called Baker who had informed him of already started working on a werewolf film; The Howling. Obviously and rightly so upset, Baker said he was going to hand that project over to his protegé and begin work with Landis. Naughton had to come in 10 months before production so as to do the casts for his body. Baker and his team were able to use a variety of techniques used throughout the film. The actual scene using a mixture of plunges and syringes in order to stretch out the hands and feet. Throughout, Baker would also use a head prop that he had his hand through as he would attack the actors. Creating a separate cast for the wolf and using a limber dancer that would be able to use more fluid movements. Though they also incorporated having someone lie down inside the cast while in a wheel-barrel as they would push them through a track for some of the chasing scenes. As much preparation that had been done for the casting of the wolf it was actually rare that Landis would end up using each prop to its true advantage. Perhaps being a bit discerning for Baker but had been well worth it I’m sure when handed the first ever Oscar for make-up by Vincent Price later that year.
5. The Face: One thing they mentioned in the behind the scenes was how a lot of work went into the make-up for certain images, for very little screen time. The look of David in the hospital bed when in the forest had such a great image to back the film, taking Baker and his crew 6 hours straight for a mere, 3 second take. For issue 93 of the Rue Morgue magazine, artist Gary Pullin developed a great adaptation for the cover of that exact moment. Immortalizing a part of the movie that David didn’t even think anyone would bother to notice because of how quick it was. He also mentioned most people probably not necessarily caring at how long the process may have taken but let me speak for myself as well as a couple other fans in stating, OH WE CARE!
The entire cast was terrific as is the movie; that’s why it’s a classic. There’s as well of lots of special features if your able to get the Full Moon edition. The howl that you hear for the werewolf was a combination of 7 different animal howls mixed with an elephant’s trunk. John Landis performed his own stunt near the end as the wolf begins creating terror in the city. A car hits him as he crashes through a wall that didn’t even break all the way. (He had glasses with a bandanna around his head) Several other stories that never get old. If you haven’t seen this yet I’m not sure what you’re waiting for but classics don’t get too much better than this one here.