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AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)

Article 3439 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-5-2010
Posting Date: 1-13-2011
Directed by John Landis
Featuring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne
Country: UK / USA
What it is: Werewolf movie

Two young American men are attacked by a werewolf while walking the moors in northern England.  One dies and finds his soul trapped in limbo; the other survives and carries the curse of the werewolf.

I first saw this movie on commercial TV, and now having seen the theatrical version, I'm definitely classifying this one as one of those movies that can't survive the bowdlerization necessary to make it palatable on commercial TV.  Still, I don't find myself quite as taken with this movie as some others, mostly because John Landis's comic style blows hot and cold for me, and though I smile sometimes at the humor in this movie, I never laugh.  However, I'm really taken with some of the other aspects of the movie.  The transformation sequence is a truly amazing piece of work.  The modifications to the werewolf myth are very interesting; I particularly like the fact that the werewolf is haunted by the limbo-consigned spirits of his victims.  I think the movie also shows real cleverness in handling cliches; though the ominous villagers in the pub cliche is here in all its glory, they're given more dimension and variety than I usual find, making them more than a hoary old plot device.  And I have to admit to a taking a certain satisfaction at Landis's decision to turn one standard movie setpiece on its ear; many movies tend to glorify the multiple-car-crash cliche by unrealistically having no pedestrians hurt in the process, but this movie offers no such easy out.  By the way, that's Muppet wrangler Frank Oz as the ambassador, and SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY is a porno film.

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