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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

An American Werewolf in London - Full Moon Edition [Blu-ray]

 

(John Landis, 1981)

 

    

Also available in Blu-ray Steelbook

    

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Production:

Theatrical: Lycanthrope Films

Video: Universal Studios

 

Disc:

Region: ALL (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:37:31.262

Disc Size: 43,858,284,856 bytes

Feature Size: 30,639,286,272 bytes

Average Bitrate: 31.551 Mbps

Chapters: 20

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 15th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1 Video / 23.976 fps

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3935 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3935 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps /
24-bit)
DTS Audio Spanish 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio French 768 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio German 768 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Italian 768 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, none

 

Extras (SD):
• Audio Commentary with David Naughton & Griffin Dunne
• I Walked With a Werewolf –in HD (7:31) new
• Beware the Moon –in SD (1:37:37) – new
• Making An American Werewolf in London (Original Featurette) –in SD (5:15)
• An Interview with Director John Landis –in SD (18:20)
• Make-Up Artist Rick Baker on An American Werewolf in London –in SD (11;14)
• Casting of the Hand –in SD (10:59)
• Outtakes –in SD (3:08)
• Storyboards –in SD (2:28)
• Photograph Montage –in SD (3:45)
• D-Box Motion Enabled

Exclusive to Blu-ray:
• BD-Live 2.0

 

 

Product Description: Re-discover one of the most gripping horror films of all-time with the cult classic An American Werewolf in London. Blending the macabre with a wicked sense of humor, director John Landis (National Lampoon’s Animal House) delivers a contemporary take on the classic werewolf tale in this story of two American tourists who, while traveling in London, find their lives changed forever when a viscious wolf attacks them during a full moon. Featuring groundbreaking, Academy Award-winning make-up by Rick Baker (The Wolfman), this digitally remastered Full Moon Edition also includes the new feature-length documentary Beware the Moon.

 

 

 

Comment:

The Movie: 6
Arggghh -The Ugly American Strikes Again! Not only does writer/director John Landis nail the thoughtless, self-centered American abroad, but eviscerates him in the process – though this may not have been foremost on his mind at the time. David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are backpacking across the Yorkshire moors, against all the usual local admonishments not to – at least not this night when the full moon is nigh. They are determined to make dog food of themselves. Aye, attacked they are by a huge, vicious wolflike creature that pretty much leaves poor Jack a bloody mess and David rescued by the locals, but not before he's sliced up a bit.

He wakes up three weeks later in a London hospital, only to learn that the hospital staff and the police are under the impression that David was attacked by an escaped lunatic – and they have the corpse to prove it. Jack, on the other hand, is re-animated (In one of his best turns, here or anywhere else, Landis has Jack reappear throughout the movie in increasing states of disrepair), visible only to David, and warns him of really has happened and what will happen to David at the next full moon. Jack urges suicide (minus the silver bullet) to avoid further bloodshed. Jack is unconvinced – and who would be! Nurse Price (Jenny Agutter) takes quite a shine to this sad case for a man and takes him home with her for further convalescence. This does not bode well.

Landis alternates humor, gruesome effects and a little romance to create quite a goulash of gore, mayhem, and comedy. Naughton is believable as the quintessential foolhardy American, if not as Jenny Agutter's lover. (The more Jenny comments on how sad he is, yet finds him attractive, the less convinced I was.) Naughton, who always puts me in mind of a cross between Al Pacino and my cousin Arnold at his Bar Mitzvah, is a terrific physical actor, and his scenes darting about London nude are a hoot. He takes quite a beating, makeup-wise, however the resultant wolf is not seen to full advantage – deliberately, I imagine.

Even within its own universe, Landis makes several judgment calls that take me out of the film – the first being when our hitchhiking, backpacking duo first leave the road across the moors. The light of the full moon is abundant. They aren't drunk, and they didn't seem to mind sticking to the road during the daylight, so it's hard to imagine what they were thinking, warnings notwithstanding. Another is the final scene in the alley with the police shooting into complete darkness. I can never sort out what they thought were shooting at, or how did they expected to miss the innocent? There were others. Two is enough.

However well the movie holds up after nearly 30 years – and I think it does quite well on that score – it holds a special place in film history for being the first movie to be honored with an Oscar for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup, thanks to the work of Rick Baker, who had previously worked as assistant to Dick Smith for The Exorcist (1973) and had been working with Lucasfilm before Landis brought him on to command the grisly makeup conversion from human to werewolf for the hapless David Naughton.

 

Image: 7/8  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

 

 

For a movie, now almost 30 years old, An American Werewolf in London looks pretty good in what I take to be a restored print. Grain is present, as it should be, but doesn't get in the way of detail. The image tends to be a little flat, coming to life when there are ample light sources off to the side. Flesh tones are convincing, textures are palpable without any wow factor. In short, much as a good print would have looked in the theater with a watchful projectionist way back when. I noticed no distracting blemishes, worrisome artifacts or the dreaded DNR. Fans of the movie should be very happy with this transfer.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

NTSC DVD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 6/7
The uncompressed DTS 5.1 audio mix is a little ham-fisted, with crashing and roaring coming in with little subtlety. Even the scene on the moor where the wolf can be heard from this direction and that strikes us as contrived and artificial. The scene at the zoo offers an opportunity for ambience as the camera shows us various animals waking up, grooming, and commenting as they do on the presence of this strange creature that has visited them during the night. Nothing. The music fares better, opening up the soundstage just enough to add weight and authority to the proceedings. Dialogue is always clear and can be made out without the aid of subtitles.
Gary's Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

Operations: 7
The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive.

Extras: 8
Two new bonus features appear on this high definition video: "Beware the Moon: Remembering An American Werewolf in London," an hour and half long making-of piece in pretty fair standard definition, hosted by its writer, producer and director, Paul Davis, that pretty well covers the territory that earlier DVD featurettes merely glanced over. (Many of those are included here as well.) Just about everyone of any importance is heard from including Landis, Naughton, Dunne and Jenny Agutter, as well as various crew members. It's a good piece and worth the price of admission. The other new feature is titled "I Walked With a Werewolf" which brings the earlier segment, "Make-Up Artist Rick Baker on An American Werewolf in London" up to date. It's in HD, Rick looks better as he ages, just as his monsters look more gruesome.

We've seen the other bonus features elsewhere, so I won't belabor them, except for a few notes: They are all in SD, often 4:3, never in any better quality than fair. The audio commentary by Dunne & Naughton is entertaining with too many silent lapses, and is not particularly instructive. In "The Interview with John Landis" the director talks about he came to write the story and to make the movie. This leads us to: "Making An American Werewolf in London (The Original Featurette)" which is nothing more than a five-minute promo piece, where Landis introduces his idea to place a familiar genre in today's world with Rick Baker's help. There is here a comment he makes about how concerned he is about safety during the stunt work, something like: "No movie is worth making if someone gets hurt." Just two years later actor Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed in accident while filming The Twilight Zone. Eerie. Reminds us of that infamous piece just before he died where James Dean cautioned us to drive safely. The Outtakes are marred by a persistent faux projector noise and a running frame counter. The brief Photograph Montage is more emotionally affecting a series of portraits than the movie. We can see where Landis got the idea that Jenny and David would make a compelling couple.

 

 

Recommendation : 8

An American Werewolf in London achieved almost instantaneous cult status and we can see why. My reservations about the movie are largely the result of Landis being unable to find its heart but, that and a few misdirections aside, the film set the standard for cutting edge prosthetic make-up effects for some time to come. The Blu-ray looks great and sounds pretty good, and is chock full of extra features, a couple of them new to home video.

Leonard Norwitz
September 5th, 2009

 

    

Also available in Blu-ray Steelbook

    


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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