Triple Feature of Terror: An American Werewolf in London!

Today I am going to reach into my treasure trove of childhood memories and treat you to a wonderful story. In the summer of 1981 I was thirteen years old and commercials for An American Werewolf in London were playing all over the TV. I wanted to see this movie very badly. My parents watched the TV commercials, one of which featured a voice-over by 70’s radio personality Wolfman Jack, and thought An American Werewolf in London was a comedy.

Long story short, the three of us made the trek to the movie theater in Port Jervis NY, now long gone. My mother fled during the scene in the moors. I bolted when the deformed Nazi monsters massacred David and his family. We weren’t the only ones to leave, not by a long shot. A small crowd huddled in the lobby, shell-shocked. A young woman whose date stayed behind burst through the theater doors, muttering “holy shit.” Quite a night for the Galuschak family!

I’m happy to report that my father watched the entire movie. He never said so, but I think he was disappointed by our lack of fortitude. Anyway…I rewatched An American Werewolf in London this evening. Technical difficulties prevented me from seeing it during my snow day. Since this is about my 80 zillionth viewing of the movie, it’s not exactly a terrifying experience anymore.

What does a person notice when s/he is watching a movie for the 80 zillionth time? A few things. When David calls home near the movie’s end he gives the operator a NYC area code. During the subway chase scene, I amused myself by looking at the ads on the wall, and saw an advertisement for See You Next Wednesday. This is of course the porn movie playing at the theatre David and Meatloaf Jack visit when they discuss his suicide. The first time we meet David and Jack they are in a truck full of sheep, and soon afterwards they visit a pub called The Slaughtered Lamb (I got this one from the interview I linked to); as director John Landis says, the symbolism ain’t exactly subtle.

What else? During the end credits Lycanthrope Productions congratulates Prince Charles and Lady Di on their wedding. Frank Oz, the voice of Miss Piggy in the Muppet Show, makes a cameo (along with Miss Piggy) as the American guy from the embassy who doesn’t like the young people.

The English apparently use I find you extremely attractive as a pick-up line; Alex says it three or four times, as so does the middle-aged protagonist of Vampyres, a 70’s Eurotrash movie about a pair of female vampires who lure middle-aged men to their castle, kill them and then carefully pose their naked bodies in their cars so that it’ll look like a car accident. Watch out for all those nude drivers in England!

I don’t think I’m reaching when I say An American Werewolf in London is the best werewolf movie ever made. It’s funny, it’s gory and the makeup effects are wonderful. You can make an argument for the original Wolf Man, I guess, but how many people have even seen that movie? There’s The Woofen – I mean The Wolfen – an underrated gem worth watching just to see Albert Finney treat the world to his version of a New York accent. Maybe The Howling? Please. None of these movies have the crazy energy of An American Werewolf in London. None of them measure up. None of them will ever measure up. I’ve been disappointed in every werewolf movie I’ve ever seen after this one.

An American Werewolf in London is not a comedy. It’s a horror movie with comedic elements. Don’t believe me? That’s what director John Landis says in the interview I linked to. Of course this is a horror movie. Did the people who say this movie is a comedy even watch it? Although maybe the young people think it’s a comedy. When I saw the second theatrical release of The Exorcist a few years ago the movie theater was full of young people, and they were all laughing their asses off.

Anyway…here is the second part of the Web of Nostradamus™. An American Werewolf in London is a werewolf movie, just like The Wolfen. Whitley Strieber wrote The Wolfen; he also wrote The Hunger, the movie version of which was directed by Tony Scott, the brother of Alien director Ridley Scott. By the way, The Wolfen is a pretty damn good novel. Whitley Strieber made his name writing about people being probed by aliens, but he’s penned some decent classic horror novels also.

I don’t think I ever thanked my parents for taking me to see An American Werewolf in London, which is one of my all-time favorite horror movies. Thank you, sorry this is thirty-seven years late. These dumb-ass kids, they never appreciate anything you do for them!


5 Replies to “Triple Feature of Terror: An American Werewolf in London!”

  1. I didn’t even catch the bit about David and Jack being in a sheep truck and then being dropped off at the Slaughtered Lamb! I am deeply ashamed. Also, did you notice that David’s voice seemed to get deeper as the film went on? Do you think that was a quirk of the audio or was it supposed to represent the wolf taking over David’s body/personality?

    1. I never noticed that! I’ll have to listen for that the next time I watch the movie. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was the wolf taking over. When David wakes up in the zoo, the other wolves recognize him. And he feels great. I also found it interesting that he tries and ultimately chooses not to kill himself.

  2. Hi George!

    Great review as always! Loved the story of your family seeing this film at the theatre, that was awesome! It is interesting how times have changed, and what send people fleeing front their seats in the 80s, some now call comedy. That’s kind of scary actually.

    I enjoyed American Werewolf in London, it was the best movie I think we’ve reviewed so far! Definitely full of horror tropes, humor, and gore. I don’t think I was scared at any point in the film, but I was amused quite often. As Molly mentioned, too didn’t pick up on the sheep and slaughtered lamb in the beginning, but I think that was mainly because of its slow start. I was not engaged enough yet to pick up not he details. Thankfully, that did change as the story moved forward!

  3. Hi George,
    I loved reading your review though my impression of the movie differs. I did not like it at all. I felt that some of the scenes were over the top and others cheesy. The name of the pub just let everything out of the bag. I wish that would have been a little more overate with the name so you actually had to think about it. I also felt the transformation was too much and put me off.

    I loved getting to read about how you got to see this movie when it came out. I thought it was funny how people reacted to the movie considering what we watch today.

  4. I’ve always had a fondness for horror, but never quite immersed myself in it until this class. That said, thanks to my horror loving uncle, I have heard of this movie many times. It’s something that I went in expecting to love and came out…well, with a very different opinion on it. I could see the appeal for some people, and I would ultimately classify it as horror over anything else, and my God man, those effects. Loved the transformation and the gore.

    I actually did notice some of the symbology, but I owe that all to watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was younger. I was so into it I went to behind the scenes stuff. That’s where I learned one of the characters named Oz, who is a werewolf, always wore a wool jacket, sort of to hint at a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Symbology isn’t exactly subtle there either, but it’s always a nice touch.

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