Movie Monsters: An American Werewolf in London!

An American Werewolf in London, Wolf Headshot, Copyright Liz Vitale 2015
An American Werewolf in London, Wolf Headshot, Copyright Liz Vitale 2015

Hello! Aunt Liz here.If you enjoy perusing the above image, thank you. It’s the first time I have seriously used acrylic paints. Not bad for a first try, eh?
Well,I wanted to talk about AAWIL today, because I have had a wonderful time re-introducing myself to this masterpiece. See, all through my teen years I had seen it in bits and pieces on cable, etc., but had never seen it start-to-finish. I recently pulled it up on both YouTube and Netflix and had a ball watching it plus having it play in the background when I am working at home. My husband, your friendly Uncle Steve,is not a horror fan, but he likes this movie since it seems to cross that genre boundary and into comedy. What can we say? It’s just a great movie.

For one thing, the banter between Jack and David, especially the beginning shots on the moors, is natural. It doesn’t feel scripted; I can genuinely believe these guys have probably been friends for many years and even when Jack is a dessicated zombie to the point of having to be performed by a puppet, actor David Naughton’s dialogue with him still feels natural.
The humor, sad as it can be at times, is top-notch, whether it’s David running nekkid around the zoo,Corpse-Jack playing with the little rubber Mickey doll, or that dingbat couple that David killed on their way to a party and their endlessly cheerful demeanor despite having their throats ripped out.
I even like Alex, the nurse. I am not much for romance in movies, I will admit that unashamedly. I hate chick flicks, I don’t do romance movies. But to me there is something touching, however fast their relationship might be moving, about the interaction between David and Alex. Alex is a no-nonsense sort of woman, I can tell, and she feels sorry for this guy as well as fascination for him. That there is compassion there, especially at the end when she tries to reach that last bit of humanity that might be buried within David-the-Wolf, speaks to me.

And the effects. Cripesamighty, what effects. It looks SO GOOD for a thirty-plus-year-old film. Rick Baker himself has said that he sometimes cringes when he sees the transformation scene today, as he “was thirty years old and the average age of my crew was like nineteen. There were kids who had never worked on a film before.”
Rick. Baby. Don’t worry. IT HOLDS UP.

That little dangly piece of flesh hanging from Jack’s neck is one of the most gruesome things in all horror movies for me. I can watch Bishop getting torn in half by the Alien Queen, I can deal with Regan puking on Father Karras, but OH GOD don’t make me watch that little quivery piece of latex.

How intruiging that director John Landis had to almost force Baker to get a “four-legged hound from hell” out of his effects crew. Baker wanted, insisted, tried to do a biped creature, but Landis, although acknowledging Baker’s expertise on all other formats of these effects,and otherwise giving him a lot of freedom, was determined to have the werewolf be on all fours. Good call; the film stands out and was ahead of its time mainly because of this pioneering creature design, plus the horror-comedy cocktail so expertly mixed by Landis.

I found a photo-packed webpage  of a company that has restored some of the puppets and props from AAWIL, mainly the Wolf puppet and dear dessicated Jack himself. I found it pretty cute that the current owner of the Wolf puppet calls him “Oscar”, since the movie won Rick Baker an Oscar in 1981. Take a look!

“Boys, keep off the moors, stick to the roads. The best to ya…”

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