An American Werewolf In London
Special 21st Anniversary Edition

Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter and Griffin Dunne
RRP: £5.99
820 9236
Certificate: 18
Available now

While backpacking through desolate English moors, American students David Kessler and Jack Goodman are attacked by a fearsome creature. Jack is killed, but David survives, waking up three weeks later in a London hospital. However, David is not the lucky one, because on the next full moon he is due to become a werewolf...

There are some things in life that you just take for granted, aren't there? Such as the fact that water is wet, or that grass is green. Or the fact that An American Werewolf in London is a fantastic film. It's been a few years since I last saw it, and I had forgotten just how brilliant it is.

Horror comedies, of which this is a groundbreaking example, are far more commonplace nowadays than they were back in 1981, and by today's standards the emphasis seems to be very much on the horror element rather than the comedy. A vast proportion of the plot is spent building up the tension, from the spooky scenes on the dark moors of East Proctor to the dire warnings about what David (David Naughton) will become. These warnings come in the form of disturbing nightmares and verbal cautions from David's undead pal, Jack (Griffin Dunne). It's amazing how writer/director John Landis manages to sustain the story for so long before David's transformation, by which point the movie is well over halfway through. The aforementioned dream sequences help to keep the terror ticking along, especially the one that takes place in David's family home.

The comedy elements also help to keep the viewer interested. These range from the bumbling, Inspector Clouseau-style antics of police sergeant McManus (Paul Kember) to the casual comradeship of Jack, who remains laid back even as his facial features decompose during the course of the movie - thanks to some splendid make-up effects by Rick Baker. Following David's first metamorphosis, the movie takes on a more horrific slant, though this doesn't get in the way of some hilarious juxtaposition of tone as gruesome events take place during the screening of a porno movie entitled, courtesy of a John Landis in-joke, See You Next Wednesday.

A particularly commendable aspect of this movie is the fact that its American writer/director doesn't make any of Hollywood's usual crass generalisations about the UK. The only real giveaway is when characters, including Brit John Woodvine as Dr Hirsch, refer to the north of England as "northern England" - an Englishman would be far more likely to use the phrase "the North" or specify a region. Other B-list British celebs to watch out for include a non-speaking Rik Mayall and the trademark gruff Yorkshireman Brian Glover.

Another slight quibble that I have is this: why does the undead Jack appear so "fresh" three weeks after he was killed, only to decompose so rapidly over the next few days?

But such minor points pale into insignificance compared to the film's stronger points. Now reissued at a bargain price, there's no excuse for never having seen this classic movie. See it before next Wednesday!

Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online
We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal!
(Please note all prices exclude P&P - although Streets Online charge a flat £1 fee regardless of the number of items ordered). Click on the logo of the desired store to buy this item.

£10.39 (
£4.99 (
£4.99 (

All prices correct at time of going to press. Sci-fi Online regrets it can take no responsibility for price changes made by any of the participating stores.