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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » An American Werewolf In London: Collector's Ed.
An American Werewolf In London: Collector's Ed.
Universal // R // September 18, 2001
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 17, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Remade years later as a rather horrid and campy thriller ("American Werewolf In Paris"), John Landis's original picture still manages to be an intensely creepy, effective horror picture years later. The film starts off with two Americans hitchhiking in the middle of Europe. David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne, who went on to direct his own films). The two stop off in a rather spooky pub and are eventually warned to leave. Yet, they've been thrown out into a dark, spooky night and eventually find themselves lost and walking in the forest. Sounds of growling are soon apparent, seemingly all around them. Suddenly, both are attacked - Jack is killed, but David is merely wounded.

David comes out of a coma, but proceeds to have several horrible nightmares. He thinks that he's losing his mind, but he's actually just about to turn into something completely different. He's fallen for his nurse (Jenny Agutter of "Walkabout"), though - will she be able to save herself?

The film's fame has really come mainly from its effects (done by "Men In Black"'s Rick Baker), which are fairly amazing, considering its time. The interesting thing is that the effects here are more believable than the computer-generated werewolves that populated the remake. The film has also been praised for the way it blends horror with humor, but I really didn't think it was that successful in that regard. Neither of the lead actors seemed that strong when it came to the comedy, especially in comparison to Bruce Campbell's wildly hilarious and occasionally near-brilliant performance in director Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" series (especially "Army Of Darkness"). Neither leads are bad, though and Dunne has a few good scenes. Agutter is a charming actress as well and it's the romance between her and Naughton's character that kept my interest in how the film would turn out. Overall, a really strong horror entry - not without a few minor flaws and a bit over-the-top at times, but solid work from director John Landis.


The DVD

VIDEO: Universal offers "An American Werewolf In London" in a new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The results are...well, let's just say the results are rather lackluster. From the opening shot I had a rather sinking feeling about what the condition of the entire picture was probably in. The film looks noticably quite soft; it's not that sharpness and detail varies or anything along those lines, the entire film simply looks soft and almost rather hazy at times. Some darker scenes are visibly a bit more undefined and rather murky.

The film suffers further from mild, noticable grain. Some pixelation and light traces of edge enhancement are noticable as well. Suprisingly, I didn't really see much in the way of print flaws. Although there were a few stray speckles and marks, I didn't find any wear of particularly great concern. Colors still looked solid, if unspectacular. This is not a terrible transfer, but it's rather soft and somewhat problematic at times. The layer change was spotted at 1:10:22.

SOUND: On the other hand, "American Werewolf In London"'s original mono soundtrack has been remixed to 5.1 and is presented in not only DTS 5.1, but Dolby Digital 5.1, as well. Although the film is now about 20 years old, the sound mix is suprisingly good (and even great at times). There's a scene early on where the two characters are lost in the woods and the growling sounds seem to be coming from all sides. Audio quality, on the other hand, is not always quite as good as one might have hoped. The score has a nice presence, but remains (as do the sound effects and dialogue) a bit on the thin side. Some of the songs do remain fairly strong, though; "Bad Moon Rising" sounded particularly crisp and rich still. This isn't a consistent assault sound-wise, nor will it compare to more recent pictures, but the film's new sound presentation is about as effective as it can be here, considering the film's age. Although the film's sound did have some concerns, the DTS presentation did make for a more enjoyable listening experience, as the sound seemed slightly crisper and clearer and the surround presentation sounded more seamless and enjoyable.

MENUS:: Very nicely animated main menus based around the cover art that are creepy and effective.

EXTRAS::

Commentary: This is quite a funny commentary with actors Griffin Dunne and David Naughton. Both are able to remember a surpising amount of detail about the production 20 years later - each actor has a wealth of stories to share which are quite entertaining. There's nothing much in the way of technical detail, but information on that is available elsewhere on the disc. The commentary is simply a good, fun journey of memories from the set that the two have. A very good track, well worth a listen.

Interviews: There's an 18 minute interview included with director John Landis and a 10 minute interview with make-up artist Rick Baker. The Landis interview is so interesting and funny it makes you wish that he'd recorded a full commentary of his own. He tells the viewer the track record for the entire project, from his early history with the idea towards and through production itself. Although there's a few more clips than I'd like filling out the running time, Landis covers a good deal of ground throughout the interview and is wildly energetic. Baker's 10 minute discussion is a little less humorous and more to the point, discussing his thoughts about how he was able to come up with the creature/make-up effects. There's also some unused footage shown during Baker's interview.

Also: "Casting Of the Hand", which is archival footage showing the making of a hand cast; 4 minutes of outtakes, which don't have sound, but still manage to occasionally be rather funny; original 5 minute promotional featurette; storyboards; photograph montage; production notes; cast/crew bios; recommendations and DVD-Rom material.

Final Thoughts: Still a mildly effective blend of scares and laughs, "American Werewolf In London" is a very strong entry in the genre. Universal's DVD dissapoints somewhat in terms of image quality, but the sound is solid considering the film's age and the supplements round off the package quite well. Recommended.

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