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An American Werewolf in London 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray Limited Edition (1981) Review

An American Werewolf in London 4K Ultra HD

An American Werewolf in London begins with Blue Moon howling across the speakers while pastoral settings flicker by.  It isn’t until we get to “Written and Directed by John Landis” before we see any signs of life and it is a truck full of sheep, with two young American backpackers, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) sitting with the cargo.  Kind of a damp setting for what’s to follow in this classic tale of werewolves, huh?  It’s perfect, though, and Landis delivers a classic tale which continues to have audiences howling at the moon.

"his is the perfect werewolf movie of any era"


Werewolf movies have been around since the early days of cinema. Like vampires, they are an expansively mined subject in cinematic tales that range in quality vastly. The Wolf Man introduced the narrative tropes of tragic man doomed with the curse of lycanthropy to classic effect—so well that it is still highly regarded. John Landis would (like many others have) take that affecting story and (unlike most) adapt it with his sensibilities. What he ended up making was, in this reviewer’s opinion, the best werewolf movie ever made.

This film was released in the 80s, but Landis conceived of it, and tried to get it made, a decade earlier. No one would touch it, firstly because its unique narrative wasn’t easily identifiable, secondly because Landis had not yet paid his dues in the industries. But after the likes of Animal House, Landis finally was able to convince the studio responsible for The Wolf Man, Universal, to bankroll it.

This film tells the tale of two young American backpackers, David and Jack, who are accosted by a vicious creature in the rainy English countryside. Jack is torn apart and killed, but strange villagers are able to kill the beast before David meets his friend’s fate. When he wakes later in a London hospital, David quickly starts to mentally unravel, having frightening dreams, and feeling very isolated and bereaved over his friend Jack. 

Things take a terrifying turn when his dead friend Jack pays him a visit, shares his breakfast toast, and tells him he needs to kill himself. Jack asserts they were attacked by a werewolf; that he is cursed to roam the earth undead and that David will, at the return of the next full moon, become a werewolf himself. Feeling like he’s losing his mind, David is discharged from hospital and put up by a very attractive nurse who has a rather unprofessional attraction to him and his plight. He starts to relax, dismiss Jack’s visit as a hallucination, and do what a young man does when a beautiful young woman wants to be with him… until that full moon arrives. Things will not end well.An American Werewolf in London 4K Ultra HD

The plot of this film is fairly simple. Where the film elevates above most werewolf films (in fact most horror films in general) is in characterization. These are two young guys adventuring in the world, their whole lives ahead of them, and are from the very first frame of the film: doomed. The writing is an example of a singular and distinct voice (Landis) and for that reason, no remake or sequel could ever come close to it. It is a perfect example of that unexplainable magic when a writer is able to infuse and deliver a fictional narrative that is so distinct that it cannot be replicated. It’s truly rare and real movie magic. The combination of terror and humor is pure unadulterated Landis. Even if Landis were to try and do another one now (as was rumored with his son at the helm) he isn’t the same young guy that wrote this. This young guy wrote organic character humor, not comedy funny—a gallows humor so natural and pitch-perfect it comes across as real and relatable and from a young man’s imagination. This script was, is, and always shall be lightning in a bottle—it’s perfect.

David Naughton and Griffin Dunne were perfectly cast as David and Jack respectfully. Jenny Agutter played a serviceable object of affection. The always scene-stealing Brian Glover kills it in his small part. The predominantly British supporting cast is all terrific. The casting was as on point as the script,

Then we come to Rick Baker’s still unmatched make-up effects: even back in the day, the transformation scene earned the first Academy Award for its efforts, such was its efficacy. But remarkably, nearly 40 years after its release, with all the advances in computer-generated technology, nothing has come close to Baker’s work in that one scene. It is truly a remarkable cinematic accomplishment that is leagues ahead of anything that came before or since.

There really is nothing else to say without getting repetitive. It would be novel-length gush-fest of every element of this film. This is the perfect werewolf movie of any era. It is a unique identity that is impossible to replicate, a product of its time, with universal appeal and unbeatable delivery. Simply the greatest werewolf movie ever made.

5/5 beers

An American Werewolf in London 4K Ultra HD

4k details divider

Limited Edition / 4K Ultra HD

Home Video Distributor: Arrow
Available on 4K UHD
- March 15, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc; Single disc
Region Encoding: 4K region-free

One of the greatest directors of the 1980s, John Landis (The Blues Brothers,Trading Places), expertly combines macabre horror with dark humor in the lycanthropic classic, An American Werewolf in London.

American tourists David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are savaged by an unidentified vicious animal whilst hiking on the Yorkshire Moors. David awakes in a London hospital to find his friend dead and his life in disarray. Retiring to the home of a beautiful nurse (Jenny Agutter, Walkabout) to recuperate, he soon experiences disturbing changes to his mind and body, undergoing a full-moon transformation that will unleash terror on the streets of the capital...

Video:

Finally released in 4K, this is a beautiful re-master. Universal, back in the early days of blu-ray, could be very heavy-handed with DNR, to the point where all grain was sanitized from the movie. It gives you a cleaner, more digital presentation, but loses massive quantities of detail and looks unnatural. An American Werewolf in London was one of those missteps. Arrow video presented a faithful, intact grain presentation, so you are getting a more detailed, more organic picture. The details in this picture are a massive uptick from the early versions, to the point of showing some of the camera stock imperfections. 

Audio:

Purists are going to be happy with the included DTS-HD Mono mix, which Arrow has offered for the first time. For surround fans, the film offers the same DTS-HD 5.1 mix from prior releases. It’s competent. It has clear and centered dialogue and some moments of environmental immersion (the subway scene a highlight). This, for an elevated collector’s edition, could have been done with a new 7.1 rework that honors its beautiful package.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Special Features:

An American Werewolf in London had audiences howling with laughter and recoiling in terror upon its cinema release. Landis’ film has gone on to become one of the most important horror films of its decade, rightly lauded for its masterful set-pieces, uniquely unsettling atmosphere and Rick Baker’s truly ground-breaking, Oscar-winning special make-up effects. Now newly restored and presented with an abundance of extra features, this big beast of horror can be devoured as never before...

4k rating divider

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

5/5 stars


Film Details

An American Werewolf in London 4K Ultra HD

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
97 mins
Director
: John Landis
Writer:
John Landis
Cast:
David Naughton; Jenny Agutter; Joe Belcher
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
Beware the Moon.
Memorable Movie Quote: "A naked American man stole my balloons."
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 21, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 15, 2022.
Synopsis: American tourists David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are savaged by an unidentified vicious animal whilst hiking on the Yorkshire Moors. David awakes in a London hospital to find his friend dead and his life in disarray. Retiring to the home of a beautiful nurse (Jenny Agutter, Walkabout) to recuperate, he soon experiences disturbing changes to his mind and body, undergoing a full-moon transformation that will unleash terror on the streets of the capital...

Art

An American Werewolf in London 4K Ultra HD

 

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