An American werewolf in London (1981) - 4k Quality

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An American werewolf in London (1981) - 4k Quality

An American werewolf in London (1981)

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An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 comedy horror werewolf film written and directed by John Landis. An international co-production of the United Kingdom and the United States, the film stars David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne and John Woodvine.

The title is a cross between An American in Paris and Werewolf of London. The film's plot follows two American backpackers, David and Jack, who are attacked by a werewolf while travelling in England, causing David to become a werewolf under the next full moon.

An American werewolf in London

Landis wrote the first draft of the screenplay for the film in 1969 and shelved it for over a decade. Prospective financiers believed that Landis' script was too frightening to be a comedy film and too humorous to be a horror film.

After achieving success in Hollywood with the comedies The Kentucky Fried Movie, National Lampoon's Animal House and The Blues Brothers, Landis was able to secure financing from PolyGram Pictures to produce An American Werewolf in London.

An American Werewolf in London was released in the US by Universal Pictures on August 21, 1981. It was a critical and commercial success, winning the 1981 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and the first ever Academy Award for Best Makeup.

Since its release, it has become a cult classic. A sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, was released by Hollywood Pictures in 1997 and received mostly negative reviews upon its release.

Director: John Landis

John Landis, who had already established himself with hits like "National Lampoon's Animal House" and "The Blues Brothers," brought his unique directorial vision to the horror genre with "An American Werewolf in London."

Landis managed to create a film that was not only terrifying but also genuinely funny, a rarity in horror cinema at the time. His direction injected a fresh energy into the werewolf sub-genre and set a high bar for subsequent horror comedies.

Genre: Horror, Comedy

An American werewolf in London

The film is primarily a horror story, focusing on the classic theme of lycanthropy – the myth of humans turning into wolves. However, what sets "An American Werewolf in London" apart is its successful incorporation of comedy.

The film skillfully uses humor to both alleviate and amplify the horror elements, creating a unique and entertaining viewing experience that has influenced countless films since.

The Plot

Two American graduate students from New York City, David Kessler and Jack Goodman, are trekking across the moors in Yorkshire. As night falls, they stop at the Slaughtered Lamb, a local pub. Jack notices a five-pointed star on the pub's wall.

When he asks about it, the pub-goers grow hostile, and he and David leave. The pub-goers warn the pair to keep to the road, stay clear of the moors, and beware the full moon. David and Jack wander off the road and onto the moors, where a vicious creature attacks them.

Jack is killed and David is seriously injured. The beast is shot and killed by some concerned pub-goers who followed the two young men. Instead of an animal carcass, David sees a nude dead man lying next to him before passing out.

An American werewolf in London

David wakes up three weeks later in a London hospital. Inspector Villiers interviews David and informs him that the locals reported that an escaped lunatic attacked him and Jack. David insists a rabid dog or wolf attacked them.

An undead Jack later appears to David and explains that they were attacked by a werewolf; since David was bitten, he is now a werewolf too. Jack is cursed to walk the earth in limbo, neither dead nor alive, until the wolf's bloodline is severed. Jack urges David to kill himself before the next full moon so he does not harm anyone.

Dr. Hirsch visits the Slaughtered Lamb to investigate, suspecting that David might have been influenced by local superstitions. When asked about the incident, the pub-goers deny any knowledge of David, Jack, or the attack. However, one distraught pub-goer privately tells Dr. Hirsch that David will endanger other people when he transforms.

Upon being released from hospital, David stays with Alex Price, the pretty young nurse who cared for him. Alex tells David that she is worried about his mental state. Jack, now even more decayed, appears and warns David that he will become a werewolf the next night, and again advises that to kill himself to avoid killing innocent people.

David refuses to believe him but when the full moon rises, David transforms into a werewolf. He prowls the streets and the London Underground, killing six people. He wakes up the next morning naked on the floor of a wolf enclosure at the London Zoo, with no recollection of what happened, and returns to Alex's flat.

An American werewolf in London

After learning of the previous night's murders and realizing that he is responsible, David unsuccessfully attempts to get himself arrested in Trafalgar Square. He calls his family to say he loves them, then loses the courage to slit his wrists with a pocket knife.

David sees Jack, who is even more decayed, outside an adult movie theatre. Inside, Jack introduces David to his previous night's victims, some of whom are furious with David and suggest different suicide methods to free them from their undead state.

David transforms into a werewolf inside the cinema. He decapitates Inspector Villiers and wreaks havoc in the streets, killing several motorists and bystanders. The police surround and trap David in an alleyway.

Alex arrives and runs down the alley and tries calming David by saying she loves him. Although David briefly appears to recognize Alex, he lunges forward and is shot dead by the police, reverting to human form.

Cinematography and Special Effects

One of the film's most notable achievements is its groundbreaking special effects, masterminded by makeup artist Rick Baker. The werewolf transformation scenes in "An American Werewolf in London" were revolutionary at the time and remain impressive by today's standards.

Baker's work won him the inaugural Academy Award for Best Makeup, setting a new standard for prosthetic makeup in film.

The cinematography, under the direction of Robert Paynter, effectively captures the eerie atmosphere of the English countryside as well as the urban landscape of London. The film's use of lighting and camera angles enhances the suspense and horror, particularly in the werewolf attack scenes.

An American werewolf in London

Characters and Performances

David Naughton delivers a compelling performance as David, bringing a sense of vulnerability and likability to the character. Griffin Dunne's portrayal of the undead Jack provides some of the film's most humorous and memorable moments, balancing the horror of his situation with a morbid wit.

Jenny Agutter's performance as Alex, the nurse who becomes romantically involved with David, adds depth and emotion to the film, creating a poignant contrast to the horrific events unfolding.

Themes and Cultural Impact

"An American Werewolf in London" explores themes of identity, transformation, and the struggle between man's civilized nature and animalistic instincts. The film can be seen as a metaphor for the fear of the unknown and the duality of human nature.

The movie had a significant cultural impact and has been credited with reinvigorating the horror genre in the 1980s. It paved the way for a new wave of horror films that blended scares with humor, influencing a generation of filmmakers and spawning numerous imitations.

An American werewolf in London

Reception and Legacy

Upon its release, "An American Werewolf in London" was both a critical and commercial success. It has since gained a cult following, revered for its innovative blend of horror and comedy, groundbreaking special effects, and memorable soundtrack.

The film's legacy extends beyond its cinematic achievements; it is often cited in discussions about the evolution of horror cinema and remains a reference point for effective horror-comedy filmmaking.


"An American Werewolf in London" is more than just a horror film; it's a groundbreaking piece of cinema that redefined what a horror movie could be. John Landis's vision, combined with outstanding performances and Rick Baker's revolutionary makeup effects, created a film that is both terrifying and riotously entertaining.

It remains a timeless classic, continuing to thrill and amuse audiences decades after its release. For fans of horror and cinema history, "An American Werewolf in London" is an essential film, demonstrating the power of creativity and innovation in the genre.