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An American Werewolf in London

"An American Werewolf in London" on DVD

Once in a Blue Moon...

By Jim Bray

John Landis' horror comedy is probably his best film - but if the pre-release screener we got is any indication it certainly isn't a great DVD.

David Kessler (David Naughton) and his friend Jack (Griffin Dunne) are on the first leg of a three month European vacation. They're traveling through Northern England when they're attacked by what appears to be a large dog.

Three weeks later, David regains consciousness in a London hospital, only to start being visited by his now-dead friend Jack, who warns him that since he lived through the attack (while the werewolf that attacked them was killed), he's the end of the lycanthrope line and must therefore be killed to set the undead victims free.

David can't believe this, of course and, after being discharged from hospital and shacking up with a nurse (Jenny Agutter), the ugly reality hits him with the arrival of the next full moon.

What now?

"An American Werewolf in London" isn't a horror spoof like "Lake Placid." Rather, it's a legitimate horror film with a sense of humor and fun - and Oscar-winning makeup effects by the modern master Rick Baker. Director Landis does a good job of balancing the thrills, chills and chuckles. He and some of his crew were later hired by Michael Jackson to do the "Thriller" video.

Naughton is good as David, the cheeky but eventually frightened werewolf, and Dunne is delicious as his horny dead friend, while Jenny Agutter is wonderful as the requisite love interest.

The Universal DVD is supposed to be a special edition, but the pre-release screener we viewed didn't have any supplementary material at all. In fact, it didn't even have chapter stops or menus.

What was worse, the video quality was, at best, adequate for a DVD - and there are many shots in which it's positively grainy and fuzzy - in short, terrible. The audio quality is okay, but tending toward shrillness in places.

This is inexcusable in a DVD of any ilk, but particularly unforgivable in a special edition. The period onscreen disclaimers warning that the disc belongs to Universal were bad enough, but the overall lousy quality of the disc was its most serious downfall.

At least it's anamorphic widescreen...

The release disc is supposed to include commentary by actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, production notes, theatrical trailers, a "making of" featurette, production stills and storyboards, and interviews with Rick Baker and John Landis. Since our disc didn't have any of these, we can't comment on them.

An American Werewolf in London, from Universal Home Video
approx 97 minutes, widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne
Produced by George Folsey, Jr.
Written and Directed by John Landis


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Updated May 13, 2006