Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine
Directed by John Landis
Distributed by Universal Home Video
What more could possibly be said about the 1981 John Landis classic An American Werewolf in London? For nearly three decades the film has entertained, scared, and inspired audiences and industry folk alike, thereby earning every bit of the longevity it has exhibited. For this latest DVD and Blu-ray release, Universal has pulled out all of the stops in what could very well be the most comprehensive and informative home video offering of the year.
At this point in a review I usually rehash the film’s storyline. I can’t imagine anyone reading this being unfamiliar with it, but just for the benefit of the doubt … An American Werewolf in London follows the exploits of two hitchhiking friends (Naughton and Dunne) who stray from the beaten path and end up encountering a ferocious wolf-like beast who leaves one of them dead and one of them near fatally injured. Of course the survivor ends up becoming a werewolf himself, and all manner of craziness ensues such as public nudity, ghostly visitations, Nazi wolf nightmares, porno theatre massacres, and of course a bit of a love story thrown in for good measure.
Prior to the film’s release, Landis was known for his hit comedies, and as a result most audiences didn’t have any idea what to make of this flick. It is insanely funny, but it’s also far too violent and dark to be even remotely considered lighthearted. The only thing everyone agreed upon was that it had the best damned man-to-wolf transformation ever captured on film, and to this day Rick Baker’s effects very much stand the test of time. Fast-forward twenty-some-odd years, and the film has found its audience and is now widely regarded as required viewing for genre fans and movie fans in general. It’s that damned good.
This DVD and Blu-ray release is worthy of the film, too. Before we dissect the special features, most of which have already appeared on DVD before, it should be mentioned that the only main difference here between the standard and high-def packages (other than picture and sound quality obviously) is that the Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled, meaning if your player is hooked up online, you can share goodies with other users. Neat. Okay, on with the goods.
The picture quality on the Blu-ray is exactly what it should be. There’s a lot of grain present, but all-in-all for a film that’s nearly thirty years old, this is a pretty stellar restoration. Detail is sharp, in the right light colors pop, and the transformation has never looked better. Fans should be extremely pleased.
In terms of audio the new 5.1 stereo mix honestly is just passable. Your home theatre system won’t be getting a work-out from this disc, that’s for sure. At the very least the music is clear and the dialogue never gets swallowed up like on some older releases making the Blu-ray jump. Certainly nothing bad to say about it, but nothing really noteworthy either.
Now let’s look at those aforementioned extras. There are two new ones … Paul Davis’ feature-length documentary Beware the Moon and I Walked With a Werewolf, which is shot in beautiful high definition and pretty much takes the original Rick Baker featurette that also appears here, Make-up Artist Rick Baker on An American Werewolf in London, and brings it way up-to-speed.
Beware the Moon (separate review here) pretty much takes every single thing you ever could have wanted to know about the film and discusses it in great detail, instead of just touching upon them like the rest of the special features do. This was obviously a labor of love for filmmaker Paul Davis, and his efforts pay off ten-fold, though there are a few moments in which things — pardon the pun — get a little long in the tooth. My main complaint about the inclusion of this documentary is that it’s presented here in standard definition. Wow. Really? For the DVD obviously that’s fine, but on the Blu-ray it doesn’t make much sense.
The rest of the special features are older and have appeared on other DVD releases so I’m not going to rehash them all again. They’re all presented here in standard def, often in 4:3, and honestly? They look kind of crappy. Still, they are what they are, and content-wise they’re just as good as they were back then.
This is a package for the ages, my friends. Whether you get the DVD or the Blu-ray, consider yourself completely hooked up. An American Werewolf in London, like a fine wine, just keeps getting more and more vintage. Double-dip without care!
5 out of 5 each
5 out of 5 each
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