Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Starring John Landis, Griffin Dunne, David Naughton, Rick Baker, Jeny Agutter
Directed by Paul Davis
One of the true marks of just how groundbreaking your movie was is how well it stands the test of time. Almost invariably, filmmakers do not realize what they’ve made and have no idea it will become a “classic” or how it will influence lives. Many times those films we consider classics began as critical failures, enduring the brunt of reviewers that may just not have “gotten” it or found it too disturbing on one level or another. The ultimate tribute, however, among the tattoos and comic books and art work, is the documentary. For someone to take the time and make the effort to tell the story of how the film was made is a way for the fans in all of us to take a step forward and show appreciation. It’s been done with Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, and now with An American Werewolf in London in the new production Beware the Moon: Remembering An American Werewolf in London by Paul Davis.
The documentary is like many others in the sense that it visits the sets, talks with the actors, gets behind-the-scenes stories, yadda yadda yadda. How it differs, however, is the genuine passion that the filmmakers display toward the source material. From the twenty seconds shot in Windsor Park to the scene shot inside what horror fans know as “The Slaughtered Lamb” (which is actually named “The Black Swan”), it is obvious that these people hold reverence for what they consider to be one of the greatest films created.
While many documentaries contain the requisite cast members, often times the “biggies” are too busy to take part. Not so in this case. Included in the cast are not just stars David Naughton and Griffin Dunne but also director John Landis, make-up guru Rick Baker (who won an Oscar for his work in this film), and co-star Jenny Agutter. Also included in the documentary are interviews with producer George Fosley Jr., stuntman Vic Armstrong, and other key players in the production, bringing the total to more than twenty people who helped with the film. Everyone is represented from the higher-ups to the stars to one of the women seen in the porno theater.
Without giving too much away, the stories they tell about the production are enlightening and, in many cases, surprising. Listening to Landis and Folsey discuss how universally unliked AWIL was when it was first released is mind-boggling, especially given the film’s status today. Also, hearing from Griffin Dunne how apprehensive he was about the goriness of the prosthetic makeup he wore is quite funny. There are other stories from the shoot, both in front of and behind the cameras, that will keep audiences enthralled for the whole running time.
Beware the Moon is, by far, one of the best documentaries about a movie created. Anyone who claims to be a fan, or even just have a passing “like” for AWIL, will find the documentary to be a fascinating look into what went into this movie, how much of a labor of love it became, and how it changed the careers of those involved. It is due to be released next year on the Blu-Ray edition of AWIL, which means many will have to either upgrade their systems or, at least, buy a new copy of the disc. While that may seem like a bad way to do it, believe me when I say it’s worth the cost and effort.
5 out of 5