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… 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…
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Arrow Films presents An American Werewolf In London with a tremendous 2160p transfer in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio sourced from a 4K restoration of the 35mm Original Camera Negative and graded in 4K HDR/Dolby Vision. You really cannot go wrong with the application of Dolby Vision for increased color output that should be lauded for the nuance it brings to this picture. The new restoration features some colors in the clothing and production design that really stand out with a dazzling vibrancy like the bright red jacket that David wears. This disc handles every carefully curated choice from Landis with ease. The black levels are outstanding with nothing in the way of crush present, and white levels are flawless with no evidence of blooming. Landis captures some striking compositions within his framing which are a joy to explore with this disc. This presentation never lacks for something to appreciate.
With the core transfer, you will not find anything in the way of print damage. Unlike the older Universal release, this new restoration is respectful to the original look of the film with the added resolution making elements seem more natural and lifelike. The grain resolves well with no fluctuations detected at any point, even if some of the optical shots can take a slight turn towards the chunky. The texture on display in the costumes and within the setting are a revelation. The makeup effects likewise blend naturally which brings the horrific images to the forefront with beautiful clarity. When it comes to the encoding, there are absolutely no jarring digital anomalies such as compression artifacts, banding or any other such nuisances. The level of detail and clarity is stunning with the perfect amount of natural film grain intact. This presentation is another five-star effort from the crew at Arrow Video.
The 4K UHD Blu-Ray of the film comes with a DTS-HD 1.0 mono track and a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, both of which represent the film quite capably. The latter track was newly remastered by Arrow Video to correct a pitch error introduced in the original mix. While we are prone to stick with the original audio when given the option, the surround track is very respectful of the artistic intention. The environment of both the rural countryside and the city creates a din of sound that creeps through to provide some excellent ambient details. The dialogue itself comes through perfectly clear without being overwhelmed by the sound effects or score. All of the various sounds in the mix seem accurately rendered so that nothing ever feels off. There are moments after the transformation that add some notable intensity without becoming a muddled mess in the action. The memorable score brings a very distinct mood to the proceedings that is represented well in the mix. Everything is presented with a strong fidelity that garners no complaints from us. This presentation is mostly free of any hiss or other age-related wear-and-tear. Arrow Video continues to churn out great work.
- Audio Commentary #1: Beware the Moon filmmaker Paul Davis uses his deep knowledge of the the history and production of this film to relay rich anecdotes about the development of this film, the strange locations that were found for shooting, the background of the performers large and small, the costume choices, securing the money for the film, the makeup and visual effects, the improvised moments and characters Landis added to the film, and much more.
- Audio Commentary #2: Actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne provide a fun and more personal commentary track in which they reflect on their experiences shooting the film including the remote shooting locations in the beginning of the film, hearing the initial critical feedback, memories of their co-stars, questions they receive from fans, running gags they had on location, what scenes were the most difficult to shoot and more.
- Mark Of The Beast – The Legacy Of The Universal Werewolf: An excellent 77-minute documentary by filmmaker Daniel Griffith featuring interviews with John Landis, David Naughton, Joe Dante and many more notable historians and figures. In this piece, subjects take you from the earliest werewolf lore and its introduction into media to a more specific focus on Universal Pictures and their history with werewolves on film including deep explorations of The Wolf Man, An American Werewolf In London, the recent Benicio Del Toro The Wolfman and more. You get a greater sense of their place in history, how they stacked up to other Universal monsters, how they shaped the genre and more.
- An American Filmmaker In London: A 12-minute interview with director John Landis in which he discusses his relationship with British cinema, what it was like working in Britain, his relationship with the performers, the one difference from the original screenplay, shooting his own British skin flick and more.
- Wares Of The Wolf: An eight-minute piece with SFX artist Dan Martin and Tim Lawes of Prop Store look at some of the original costumes and special effects artifacts from the film. There is some good historical commentary provided by these two for these items.
- I Think He’s A Jew – The Werewolf’s Secret: A nearly 12-minute video essay by filmmaker Jon Spira explores how this film confronts Jewish identity, the place of ritual, the film as an allegory, the way it uses fantasy elements to tackle real issues and more.
- The Werewolf’s Call: Corin Hardy, director of The Hallow and The Nun, chats with writer Simon Ward about their respective experience with the film and how it shaped who they are today, the act of witnessing something they had not seen before, how it changed how they thought about design, and more.
- Beware The Moon: A massive 98-minute archival documentary from Paul Davis which leaves no stone left unturned when it comes to Landis’ film as he gathers extensive cast and crew interviews. While all the features on this disc add so much to the film, this is the most well-rounded, movie-specific piece included if you only have time for one thing.
- An American Werewolf In Bob’s Basement: A four-minute interview with prop collector Bob Burns conducted by Paul Davis in which he explores his impressive collection of props from An American Werewolf In London along with glimpses of items from other films.
- Causing A Disturbance – Piccadilly Revisited: A nearly seven-minute featurette in which Assistant Director David Tringham takes you on a modern tour of the Piccadilly Circus locations used in the film.
- Making An American Werewolf In London: A five-minute archival featurette which gives you a brief glimpse at the original production of the film along with some interviews in which Landis discusses what he is trying to accomplish with the film.
- An Interview with John Landis: An 18-minute archival interview with Landis in which he argues why the film is not a comedy, his inspiration for the film, the influence of classic cinema, the special effects work and more.
- Makeup Artist Rick Baker On An American Werewolf In London: An 11-minute interview in which the legendary make-up artist discusses his work on the film, what he wanted to accomplish on the film, how he worked through certain obstacles, how he executed certain moments and more.
- I Walked With A Werewolf: A nearly eight-minute piece in which Baker discusses the Universal monster output, how the Wolf Man fits into cinema, what was so appealing about doing a werewolf movie and more.
- Casting Of The Hand: An 11-minute collection of archival footage which shows Rick Baker casting his hand so the special effects wizards can make their magic.
- Outtakes: A three-minute collection of outtakes from the film are provided without sound.
- Storyboard Featurette: A two-and-a-half minute comparison between the initial storyboard version of the finale and what ended up on screen.
- Original Trailers: This disc includes the Trailer (2:53), the Teaser (1:02), a TV Spot (0:31) and some Radio Spots (2:40).
- Image Galleries: The disc contains image galleries for Production Stills, Behind The Scenes, Posters, Lobby Cards, Storyboards and Shooting Schedule. .
An American Werewolf In London is a classic genre picture which rewrites many of the beliefs about what should or should not be in a horror picture. The film is very unsettling at numerous points throughout the story, but director John Landis does not ruin this atmosphere with the humor he brings to the film. On the contrary, the perfectly utilized humor adds the perfect balance to the narrative which relaxes you enough to feel a jolt of excitement when the next terrifying moment hits. Arrow Video has released a 4K UHD Blu-Ray featuring a can’t-miss A/V presentation and a grand amount of special features. If you are a fan of the film, this release is a dream come true. Highly Recommended
An American Werewolf In London is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray. and Blu-Ray
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Arrow Video has supplied a copy of this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.