#14 – An American Werewolf in London 1981
An American Werewolf in London begins with two American tourists, David and Jack, backpacking on the moors of rural England. They stop in at a pub with arguably the greatest name in the history of pubs: The Slaughtered Lamb. Not only does this pub have a kickass name, it employs one hell of a graphic designer in order to drum up business.
With a such a friendly sign like above, it is somewhat surpising that the pub’s local denizens are less than mused at seeing our two heroes wander in. The distinct lack of hospitality, and possibly the pentagram on the pub’s wall, make David and Jack too uncomfortable to stay for very long. As they are leaving, they are warned to stick to the road. So, naturally, they don’t. What do drunken, rural English farmers really know anyway? Before long, they realize they aren’t on the road and they are hearing disturbing noises in the surrounding darkness. Once they realize something is stalking them, I think Jack pretty much nails what I suspect my reaction would be in that situation. “Awwww…shit, David! What is that?”
Jack gets mauled to death, David gets scratched by the werewolf, and you can probably venture a guess as to where it goes from there. What you might not guess, is that there are plenty of comedic moments mixed in. An American Werewolf in London was written and directed by John Landis and released in 1981. Landis actually wrote the script for the movie in 1969 while he was working as a production assistant for the television show Kelly’s Heroes in Yugoslavia. However, he was unable to secure the $10 million dollars the picture cost to produce until he had made a bigger name for himself in Hollywood. Potential investors were were-y (bad pun intended) that the concept was too gruesome to be a comedy and too funny to be horror movie. It was only after Landis had achieved commercial success with movies such as The Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House, and The Blues Brothers that he was able to get his financing.
One of the best things about An American Werewolf in London, is the special effects. It was during this era of movie making, before nearly every horror movie became some bloated CGI-laden crapfest, that special effects and make up artists really tried to out innovate the movies that had come before them. They may look kind of cheesy upon re-examination thirty years later, but it is impressive to think how these effects were physically created at the time. It wasn’t just some dude programming them on a computer. Witness David’s transformation.
The film’s effects, mainly due to the work of Rick Baker, were so impressive for their time that they won the Academy Award in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Makeup in its inaugural year. The movie also inspired Michael Jackson to collaborate with Landis on his music video for Thriller.