American Werewolf in London: Full Moon Edition (An) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Roger Nicholl & Noor Razzak (26th September 2009).
The Film

"An American Werewolf in London" is known as a comedy-horror, but itís first and foremost a horror film. The story line is grim and unforgiving, and when people are killed they get really messed up. But itís also really funny. Thereís a ton of great lines, and David Kessler (David Naughton), the man bitten by a werewolf finds himself in a lot of funny situations, none of which work to undermine the movieís mood. The story line may be grim, but the characters arenít, and thatís what makes this movie special.

David and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are American backpackers doing a tour of Europe. For some reason theyíre trudging through the backwoods of England (Jack would much rather, understandably, be in Italy). They stop in a small village and visit a pub called The Slaughtered Lamb where the patrons are less than welcoming. After causing some friction when asking about a pentagram drawn on the wall they make a hasty exit. Despite warnings they cut across some moors and are attacked by a wolf. Jack is killed, but David survives his bites and wakes in a hospital in London.

David recovers physically, but he starts having some serious mental problems. He not only has horrible dreams, but his dead friend Jack keeps visiting him (including one great scene in a blue movie theatre playing a film called "See You Next Wednesday" which has the greatest soundtrack ever). Jack says heís stuck in limbo until the last of the werewolf bloodline, i.e. David, is killed off. The solution, David needs to kill himself. But David isnít sure if Jackís real.

The Oscar-winning make-up by Rick Baker still looks great, and the werewolf transformation scene is justifiably famous. It stills stands head and shoulders above computer generated transformation scenes because itís shot in excruciating detail, in bright light, and see that turning into a werewolf hurts like hell. You see shots of bones changing shape and hair sprouting through skin, accompanied by screams of pain and the song "Blue Moon". Brilliance.

"An American Werewolf in London" glides effortlessly and naturally between scares, humour, romance, and pathos. The only patches where it bogs down are in the subplot involving Dr., Hirschís (John Woodvine) investigations, but this is a minor quibble. Overall, itís one hell of a movie and deserves an audience far beyond horror fans. Mandroid says check it out, post haste.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this image is delivered in HD in 1080p 24/fps and mastered in VC-1 compression. For a film that's 28 years old one can expect that it'll have its share of problems and "An American Werewolf in London" certainly has. While the image is the best this film has ever looked, surpassing the previous DVD edition in terms of a much clearer and brighter image, I found that there were flaws that stuck out. The limitations of film stock from that era is the first noticeable issue, grain is very heavy, especially in scenes that take place in darkness limiting detail and depth. Furthermore the image looks predominantly flat, however, I was pleased with some of the sharpness, especially with close-ups, they look great. There is softness overall but it's dependent on lighting situation and location as well which factors into the look of the film. Kin tones appear natural and colors hold up very well and I was pleased with the lack of dirt and specks for such an old film. It's a clean image that services the film well.

Audio

Universal offers up five audio options here in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixed at 48kHz/24-bit as well as Castillian Spanish DTS 5.1, French DTS 2.0 dual mono, German DTS 2.0 dual mono and Italian DTS 2.0 dual mono. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its lossless DTS-HD audio, this is an up-mixed track created from the film's original audio format, usually these tracks aren't as good and are lacking in depth and weight. This track does a fairly decent job of presenting the film's audio, dialogue us clean and distortion free, ambient sounds are subtle but present and the music is also well mixed into the sound space. Surrounds are little lacking and overall depth is also limited, overall ambience suffers and this film is all about ambience. Otherwise it's an OK track, I just wish that Universal had also included the original soundtrack.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

Extras

Universal releases this film as a "Full Moon Edition" and features an audio commentary, a documentary, five featurettes, outtakes, storyboards reel, a photo montage and some BD-Live access. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a highly entertaining feature-length audio commentary with actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne. This is the fourth time I've listened to this track, as I've previously had the pleasure on the previous DVD release. In fact it's one of my favorites to listen to, mainly because it's a such a great film to watch full stop. These two reunite after a long time to watch the film and comment on it, while there some quiet moments for the most part they provide some funny comments, it's not a usual track that features a lot of details or production information, or even technical insights (which would have been nice), but the tone is light and it's just nice to hear these two talk about the film and their favorite moments among other things.

While some might find the commentary lacking in detail, you certainly won't with the excellent "Beware the Moon: Remembering An American Werewolf in London" which is a feature-length documentary that runs for 97 minutes 37 seconds. This incredibly in-depth, insightful and overall brilliant feature directed by Paul Davis comprehensively and painstakingly takes fans through the entire production. Starting from the original development of the film and script, director John Landis' involvement, casting, the shooting, the groundbreaking special effects, and reaction to the film upon release. For fans this is a must view feature and worth the price of addition alone.

Next up is "I Walked with a Werewolf" featurette which runs for 7 minutes 31 seconds, and covers the groundbreaking and Oscar winning special effects from make-up guru Rick Baker as he talks of his involvement with the film, working with Landis and on creating a memorable sequence that included stuff audiences hadn't seen before.

"Making An American Werewolf in London: An Original Featurette" is, you guest it, a featurette that runs for 5 minutes 15 seconds. This is a vintage promotional EPK clip, the usual stuff is found here covering the basics of the production and a look at the special effects. Aside from a curiosity of EPK clips of days gone by there isn't anything worth repeated viewing here.

"An Interview with John Landis" is the next featurette and runs for 18 minutes 20 seconds. There's nothing here that you wouldn't have already learned from the in-depth documentary but Landis covers his involvement with the script and talks about making the film.

"Makeup Artist Rick Baker on An American Werewolf in London" featurette runs for 11 minutes 14 seconds, a redundant clip that offers up more of the same, Baker takes us through the special effects makeup that helped create the famous transformation scene.

Following that is "Casting of the Hand" featurette which runs for 10 minutes 59 seconds, and is a cool behind-the-scene clip from pre-production of David Naughton getting a cast of his hand made up at Baker's work shop.

There are outtakes which run for 3 minutes 8 seconds, missing sound but feature some candid footage worth checking out.

Also included are some storyboards reel which runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds, a comparison is offered for the Piccadilly scene between original boards and finished product, this clip could have included an audio commentary from crew but that opportunity was missed.

The disc also features a photograph montage which runs for 3 minutes 45 seconds, and includes some candid photographs taken during the film's principle photography.

The only exclusive extras we got here is some BD-Live access for profile 2.0 players with Internet access that allows viewers to access the Universal online portal. The disc also features D-Box motion code for those with the appropriate equipment.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B- Audio: B Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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