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The MoFo Movie Club Discussion: An American Werewolf in London

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OK ramblers let's get rambling! As per usual this is a spoiler free zone, so if you've never seen An American Werewolf in London, read no further.



This may go a little different than most movie clubs because this is one of those flicks I grew up with, literally, so I become rather nostalgic at times when talking about it. There may be a few "I remember whens" when I start talking about it, if that bugs you, sorry.



OK, lets get some of the obvious stuff out of the way. I like this flick a lot. I'd give it a solid
. And while there really hasn't been very many good to great Werewolf flicks made to this day. I reckon this one qualifies as great. It has a great soundtrack, excellent effects and never takes itself too seriously.

Is it supposed to be scary? I don't know, I guess I may have been a little scared the first time I saw it. Of course when I saw it for the first time the effects were cutting edge and I wasn't used to seeing this kind of thing. So, yeah, the walk on the moors and the howling wolf was pretty damn scary when you're younger and seeing it for the first time.



So, I thought it might be fun for you MoFo's that feel compelled to post in the discussion this time around to relay your first time seeing this and if you remember, maybe some of your thoughts on it the first time around. Did you catch it in a theater? I actually didn't sneak into the theater when this came out, I saw it much later when it came out on video during the 80's video craze. Boy that was fun, being able to fast forward and reverse all the great effects and the *cough... juicy parts.



I know this is silly to say, but they really just don't make them like this anymore.

So, what did you guys and gals think?
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Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
I agree that the film doesn't take itself too seriously. It's very witty and sophisticated, and then it drops in some Monty Pythonish silliness, but in reality, almost all of the humor arises from character. I'm apparently one of the people who thinks this film was primarily designed to scare the crap out of you. This is easily both John Landis's best direction and script. He really wants you to be thrown into the same bizarre situation which befalls David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) and their initial adventure on the moors. That scene is pure horror to me, especially when you see the aftermath. Another scene which is pure horror is the one with David's family all at home watching Kermit and Miss Piggy (Frank Oz has a funny cameo as a bureaucrat) discussing how violence in the media has gone too far (Funny Games, anyone?) and the Nazi ghouls show. The entire Piccadilly Circus finale is a masterpiece of gore and mayhem.


Now, you know how horror films tend to be about sex? I don't really mean how all the teenagers have sex and then get murdered. Something more like Carrie and how her first menstruation leads to more and more blood, or how various scientists want to [pro]"create" to produce life. Rosemary's Baby is about a baby, so there's some more sex. You can come up with dozens of your own. For example, Cronenberg loves to insert things into bodies. Well, this movie is actually about love and it does try to explain how sex and honest caring can go a long way to try to make the best of a tragic situation. since there is no way getting around that this movie is a tragedy.


Anyway, I mainly want to say that I also give it
, and that I saw it at the theatre about five times. I just enjoy it as a total entertainment, cramming a lot into 90 minutes. Much of the film reminds me of Kubrick (especially the moors and the tube station scenes). As Powdered called it, the music is terrific. Just watch the opening credits while Bobby Vinton croons "Blue Moon" about how "... you left me standing alone... without a dream in my heart... without a love of my own" and compare that to the film's ending. The Marcells' much-more-lively version of "Blue Moon" plays over the end credits but that's because Landis is subverting his own movie. It really does fit there, just as Sam Cooke's "Blue Moon" applies during the much-ballyhooed transformation scene. I still believe the scene is a technical marvel, especially compared to CGI crap, but it's probably the scene I usually pay the least attention to anymore.


I'd much rather think about Van Morrison's "Moondance" while Alex (Jenny Agutter) "feeds" on her new lover David's neck in the shower. I also love CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" in the lead-up to the transformation scene - "I'm still not hungry." The makeup and F/X of the "undead" as their shredded flesh deteriorates is also quite impressive, horrific and amusing. There is plenty more to mention but I need to slow down a bit to give others a chance.
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planet news's Avatar
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Now, you know how horror films tend to be about sex? I don't really mean how all the teenagers have sex and then get murdered. Something more like Carrie and how her first menstruation leads to more and more blood, or how various scientists want to [pro]"create" to produce life. Rosemary's Baby is about a baby, so there's some more sex. You can come up with dozens of your own. For example, Cronenberg loves to insert things into bodies. Well, this movie is actually about love and it does try to explain how sex and honest caring can go a long way to try to make the best of a tragic situation. since there is no way getting around that this movie is a tragedy.
Good point. Monster films can always be indirectly about sex if you treat the monster as a sublimated projection of sexual desire. This film may be no different. The film begins with a conversation about sexual desire (e.g. "There is nothing mediocre about Debbie Klein's body!"); mainly that of sexual frustration---the two trudge through the dreary moors; one complains that finding women here will be scarce. Furthermore, there might be a kind of homoerotic undercurrent between the two friends. Two attractive men, trapped together on a private trip---supposedly without any female companionship... The first werewolf attack could then be seen as a vehement rejection of this homoeroticism by David's unconscious acting through the werewolf, essentially ridding the atmosphere of the antithetical will. The werewolf is nothing less than concentrated heterosexual libidinal will. Upon becoming the werewolf, David's sex life blooms. There is a dream sequence where the nurse is looking over David's sleeping form and his face suddenly shifts to that of a monster. Soon after, the two consummate their desire.
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If I only watch one movie on Halloween night this year, it's got to be this one. I actually never saw the whole movie until last October when I bought it on Blu-ray. I loved it. It's scary, it's funny, it's dark, it's monumental, it's gorgeous. And the lead guy is hot and he runs around naked at one point. I also like it because the makeup effects reminds me of Michael Jackson's Thriller, especially the dead, ghoulish Griffin Dunne at one point when he visits David in his house. That's to be expected since the makeup was done by Rick Baker and the film was directed by John Landes, who both did Thriller.

And yeah, it has a great soundtrack, although the only song I remember is "Bad Moon Rising".



I'm going to watch this sometime over the next few days, so I'll get in on the discussion then. From memory, though, I love the opening scenes, at The Slaughtered Lamb ("You made me miss!") and on the moors. Rik Mayall was a big star on The Young Ones by the time I saw this, so seeing him in the pub always makes me laugh and I loved Brian Glover in everything from Kes to Porridge.

The Nazi Ghouls were as great as they were unexpected and this bit made me jump.



Love Griffin Dunne's first appearance after his death when he's talking about his funeral.

This is the ending of one of the best scenes in horror.



And the chaos in Piccadilly Circus makes for a fantastic climax. Add to that the fact that I was about 10 or 11 when I first saw this, those scenes with Jenny Agutter and the one in the cinema were most interesting.

Lastly, while I'm with mark on how this is, first and foremost, a scary horror film, how great is this poster?




I actually saw this film--well, most of it anyway, I think--can't remember how it ended but I'm guessing that, like always, the werewolf bites the silver bullet in the end.

There were things about the film that I thought imaginative. Like having his dead buddy reappear from time to time in ever-advanced stages of decomposition. Also the main character's slower morph into a werewolf preceded by dreams or visions of werewolves in Nazi uniforms bursting into his house and machinegunning his family. And the scene in the movie theater when many of his victims are seated in the audience and berating him for their murders. What I most disliked about the film was all the blood and gore, like his buddy's decomposition, the slaughter of his family, the ripped flesh of his victims.

I wouldn't buy a theater ticket or rent a tape to see this film. Instead, I saw it on TV where I could get up and walk out or switch channels when the gore outstripped my curiosity. Nice thing about films like this is you don't have to watch all of it--or even most of it--to keep up with the plot.

Anyway, the only wolfman film in my collection is Lon Chaney Jr.'s version of The Wolfman. I always liked the pathos that Chaney brought to the part, unmatched by any other actor in a similar role. I like Chaney as the Wolfman, Karloff as Frankenstein's monster and the mummy. I'm more more tolerant on vampires other than Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. But even as a kid, I've never been a big fan of horror films. Never cared for films that consist mostly of something jumping out of the dark at you.



I actually saw this film--well, most of it anyway, I think--can't remember how it ended but I'm guessing that, like always, the werewolf bites the silver bullet in the end.

There were things about the film that I thought imaginative. Like having his dead buddy reappear from time to time in ever-advanced stages of decomposition. Also the main character's slower morph into a werewolf preceded by dreams or visions of werewolves in Nazi uniforms bursting into his house and machinegunning his family. And the scene in the movie theater when many of his victims are seated in the audience and berating him for their murders. What I most disliked about the film was all the blood and gore, like his buddy's decomposition, the slaughter of his family, the ripped flesh of his victims.

I wouldn't buy a theater ticket or rent a tape to see this film. Instead, I saw it on TV where I could get up and walk out or switch channels when the gore outstripped my curiosity. Nice thing about films like this is you don't have to watch all of it--or even most of it--to keep up with the plot.

Anyway, the only wolfman film in my collection is Lon Chaney Jr.'s version of The Wolfman. I always liked the pathos that Chaney brought to the part, unmatched by any other actor in a similar role. I like Chaney as the Wolfman, Karloff as Frankenstein's monster and the mummy. I'm more more tolerant on vampires other than John Travolta and Brad Pitt. But even as a kid, I've never been a big fan of horror films. Never cared for films that consist mostly of something jumping out of the dark at you.

Yep, the usual death, shot with a silver bullet and then the morph into human form.

This has always been my favourite werewolf movie closely followed by the Lon Chaney Jnr version.

Even though I don't scare too easily at horror films these days, I have to confess that the scene where David is runningthroughthe woods, bites a deer and then you see him in a hospital bed etc, spooked me a little.

Favourite scene in the pub where the locals are playing darts, and the lads brings the place to a deathly silence and the terrible joke told by Brian Glover's character...After that we then get into the meat (no pun intended) ofthe film.

Did anyone see the terrible sequel American Werewolf in Paris? As sequels go, it was terrible.



Good point. Monster films can always be indirectly about sex if you treat the monster as a sublimated projection of sexual desire.
Guess my generation doesn't know how to watch monster movies or your generation has some strange concepts of sexual desire. Except for Elvira and few lady vampires in clinging gowns in the old Hammer films, I've never seen anything remotely sexy about movie monsters.



Yep, the usual death, shot with a silver bullet and then the morph into human form.
I did see one film on the late night show some time back (think it was Dogs of War, or something like that) about werewolves dying in a firey gas explosion, which would make sense that if you broil wolfman into a crispy critter, he's not likely to come back in either form. Or if he does, just thump him and he crumbles into ash.



Elvira nowadays is pretty scary looking.
Yeah, that happens to the best of us. I myself am not nearly as cute as I used to be. But I can remember a time when just watching her breathe was the best show on TV.

And thanks for the correction on the name. If she'd had a place to pin a name tag, I would have remembered it better.



28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
This is one of my top 3 favourite werewolf films. I might even sit at number one. The other two being the insanely awesome Dog Soldiers and the underrated Canadian flick, Ginger Snaps.



Can a film be hilarious and terrifying at the same time? Yup, and American Werewolf in London is one of these films. Almost 30 years later and this still has the most realistic werewolf transformation sequence on film. This is what practical effects and horror go hand in hand. None of this CGI crap, look at An American Werewolf In Paris for some crappy wolf effects. Still not matched in realism or terror.

My favourite John Landis. Beautiful and eerie cinematography perfectly capture the horror mood. To do a film in both comedy and horror is walking a fine line, people should look to this film for guidance. Highly recommend this film to watch around Halloween.

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will.15's Avatar
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Yeah, that happens to the best of us. I myself am not nearly as cute as I used to be. But I can remember a time when just watching her breathe was the best show on TV.

And thanks for the correction on the name. If she'd had a place to pin a name tag, I would have remembered it better.
She is back on the air, but it's not like the old days.



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Guess my generation doesn't know how to watch monster movies or your generation has some strange concepts of sexual desire. Except for Elvira and few lady vampires in clinging gowns in the old Hammer films, I've never seen anything remotely sexy about movie monsters.
They're only interpreted as such; figurative subjective projections of sexuality. Not anything necessarily corporeal. I don't think even that level is accurate though, since its merely an interpretation of unconscious motive or adherence to ideological form. The feature doesn't have to exist inside the plot or be intentional. It's just "picked up on". I'd say this film has a good deal of sexual parallels within the plot, but it does not have to be literal or figurative, just interpretative on a level entirely separated from any "immersion". In this case, I really don't think it has anything to do with "how to watch", but rather, how to watch again with new eyes. As for detecting "sexy" in monsters, ask yourself if sexuality at its purest is itself "sexy" or "monstrous"?

Also, I wonder if New Criticism is your generation or mine. Seems to predate both of us.

If you've ever seen any pseudo-Freudian analyses of James' "The Turn of the Screw", it's all there---this work being one of the first to spawn such conclusions. Again, probably before your time, my young friend.



Speaking of Silver Bullet, that along with The Howling would round out a top 5 Werewolf films list.
What? No New Moon or whatever all of the other ones are called?

I dig Ginger Snaps too by the way. More folks really need to see that one.