An American Werewolf in London appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a dated but generally good presentation.
Sharpness seemed fairly solid. Occasional instances of soft shots materialized, but the majority of the movie showed pretty positive delineation and accuracy.
I saw no moiré effects or jagged edges, but edge haloes cropped up on no occasions. In terms of print flaws, the film lacked any specks, marks or other issues.
Colors appeared reasonably accurate, though they didn’t come across as anything special. The movie used a fairly subdued palette and never attempted anything bright or dazzling, so the acceptably precise and solid tones seemed sufficient.
The hues appeared to adequately represent the objects. Skin tones could be a bit pink, which seemed typical of the era’s film stocks.
Black levels were acceptably deep, and shadow detail was mostly fine as well. Low-light shots could’ve been clearer, but they offered reasonable clarity and smoothness. Nothing here excelled but this ended up as a more than watchable image.
The film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix offered a dated but generally satisfying experience. The soundfield itself seemed to be fairly varied. Much of the track remained fairly heavily anchored to the front, but on some occasions, it spread nicely to the other speakers.
Music showed good stereo separation, and the mix provided a solid sense of atmosphere. Small sounds cropped up in the front side channels throughout the movie, and the rears added a nice feeling of environment.
During livelier scenes, the track became more involving. Wolf howls would pop up in isolated rear channels, and the sound blended together fairly neatly for an active and useful mix. The ambience made the movie more effective and complemented the action.
Audio quality showed its age but remained acceptable for its era. Although the lines didn’t sound very distinct or natural, they remained intelligible and free of edginess.
Music and effects were less consistent. Elmer Bernstein’s score came across as somewhat muddy. It showed an emphasis on the midrange and lower realms and lacked bright, crisp highs. While overall fidelity seemed to be acceptable for its age, it still sounded a bit blah.
Most of the effects presented fairly thin and flat tones, another artifact of their age. However, some of the sounds stood out as much clearer and more accurate.
I believe that some of the stems were re-recorded for the disc, which meant that elements like gunfire didn’t seem to mesh terribly well with older sounds. Oddly, this discrepancy favored the poorer audio quality; since so much of the track showed its 1981 roots, the newer, more accurate elements became a distraction.
In any case, those were kept to a minimum. Although I had some qualms about the audio quality, I thought the mix sounded as good as most other 38-year-old films, and the pretty good soundfield boosted my rating to a “B-”.
How did the 2019 “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray compare to the Blu-ray from 2009? Audio felt identical, as both appeared to sport the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix.
As for visuals, the 2019 Blu-ray looked a bit tighter and cleaner, and it lost the mild edge haloes from the old release. I suspect this film will never look great, but the 2019 Blu-ray became the best representation to date.
The Collector’s Edition Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and I’ll mark features new to the CE with an asterisk. We get two audio commentaries, the first of which comes from actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne.
Both men sit together for this running, screen-specific track. On a few occasions they offer some good information, but as a whole this feels like a spotty and dull commentary.
A great deal of the piece passes with no remarks from either man and a fair number of the facts we do hear seemed a bit bland. They become most compelling when they discuss the makeup effects.
For instance, one segment midway through the film includes some nice details about their experiences. However, these moments seem few and far between, so this turns into a below-average commentary.
For the second track, we hear from *film historian Paul Davis. He brings his own running, screen-specific discussion of story/characters, music, cast and performances, sets and locations, effects, and connected domains.
I don’t know how much preparation Davis did for this track, but I get the impression he basically showed up at the studio and said “let’s roll!”
Because Davis clearly knows a whole lot about the film, he delivers a pretty solid overview. He touches on the appropriate topics and does so with gusto.
Still, the commentary tends to ramble a little at times, and it doesn’t feel as tight as I’d like. Davis also makes some head-scratching errors, like when he refers to Muslim Cat Stevens as “Born Again” and he alludes to the then-non-existent “NC-17” rating. There’s more than enough to make a listen worthwhile, but I wish the track was a little more concise.
Next we find Making An American Werewolf In London, a featurette that came out during the period of the film’s 1981 theatrical release. At four minutes, 54 seconds, this piece is too short to offer much depth, but it presents a reasonably interesting batch of notes.
The shots from the set are especially useful, though. This becomes true especially as they detail director John Landis’ cameo in the film.
Speaking of whom, he’s the subject of An Interview with John Landis. Clocking in at 18 minutes, 19 seconds, this chat with the director provides an entertaining look at the film. Landis covers quite a few topics, from the film’s origins and his intentions to a variety of aspects of the production.
While I like his comments, I could have lived without the excessive number of movie clips. Landis gets constantly interrupted with film snippets, and some go on for far too long. It’s fine to toss in a brief bit to illustrate a point, but I got the feeling the disc’s producers forgot that we already own the movie.
A companion piece appears as well. Rick Baker on An American Werewolf In London gives us 11 minutes, 13 seconds of the famous makeup artist’s thoughts about the flick.
Baker neatly covers all of the relevant topics, from the transformation scenes to the mechanical wolf to the zombies; the brevity of the program means that we don’t get a wealth of information, but Baker makes the most with what he has.
Happily, we don’t see the excess of film clips found during the Landis interview. Instead, we mainly find “unused footage” of the mechanical wolf and some other effects elements. These essentially give us a glimpse of the work behind the effects, and they’re a nice addition to the package.
Another look at the creation of the effects pops up during Casting of the Hand. This 10-minute, 59-second piece shows exactly what the title states.
We watch snippets of the process through which Naughton had to go to have his hand cast; it was then used to make a puppet for the transformation scene.
Though the topic could become dull, instead it offers an interesting look at this side of the business. The editing makes sure that it doesn’t literally de-evolve into watching cement harden. It’s not tremendously fascinating, but it’s a reasonably fun look at the procedure.
More “behind the scenes” footage appears in the three minutes, seven seconds of silent Outtakes. Unlike the usual batch of unused material, most of these don’t show mistakes made by the actors.
Instead, they mainly offer shots just before or after takes. For example, we see the application of blood and goo onto Agutter prior to one shot. It’s a modest but interesting set of bits, especially with the inclusion of the nearly pornographic “Mysterious Footage” at the end.
Next we find a multipart documentary entitled Beware the Moon. It fills one hour, 37 minutes, 39 seconds with notes from Naughton, Landis, Dunne, Baker, cinematographer Robert Paynter, producer George Folsey, first AD David Tringham, costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, art director Leslie Dilley, editor Malcolm Campbell, makeup artists Robin Grantham and Beryl Lerman, special effects assistant Joseph Ross, Steadicam operator Ray Andrew, special effects assistants Bill Sturgeon and Tom Hester, key grip/extra Dennis Fraser, production manager Joyce Herlihy, stunt man Vic Armstrong, and actors Jenny Agutter, David Schofield, John Woodvine, Linzi Drew, Michael Carter and Brenda Cavendish.
We learn about the film’s roots and development, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, costume and production design, audio, score and camerawork, makeup and effects, editing and ratings issues, the film’s release and legacy.
“Moon” provides a thorough and thoroughly enjoyable look at the movie. It covers a wide variety and subjects and does so in an enjoyable manner, factors that make it a worthwhile experience.
I Walked with a Werewolf runs seven minutes, 30 seconds and features Baker. He discusses his childhood interest in makeup and effects as well as his work on Werewolf. The program comes from the same sessions shot for “Moon” and some of Baker’s comments repeat from there, but he still gives us a few good insights.
After this we go to *Mark of the Beast, a one-hour, 17-minute, 18-second documentary that features Landis, Naughton, filmmakers Mick Garris and Joe Dante, author/screenwriter Peter Atkins, writer/filmmaker Steve Haberman, makeup effects artists John Goodwin, Steve Johnson, Craig Reardon and Mike Hill, film historians Justin Humphreys, Richard Heft, Preston Neal Jones, Eric Hoffman and C. Courtney Joyner and author Phoef Sutton.
“Beast” offers an examination of werewolf legends/myths over the years, with an emphasis on film depictions, especially those under the Universal umbrella. It becomes a rich, informative overview of the genre.
With the 11-minute, 41-second *An American Filmmaker in London, we hear more from Landis. He chats about British film influences, shooting in the UK, and aspects of the production. Though Landis repeats some earlier notes, he still makes this a fairly engaging reel.
*Wares of the Wolf spans seven minutes, 58 seconds and provides comments from effects artists Dan Martin and Tim Lawes. They discuss and show us costumes and masks from the film. It’s a decent little take on the topic.
A “video essay” entitled *I Think He’s A Jew: The Werewolf’s Secret runs 11 minutes, 26 seconds and provides notes from filmmaker Jon Spira. He talks about the ways the film and other werewolf legends confront the “Jewish identity”. That’s an unusual subject for a film like this, and Spira brings an intriguing program.
Via *The Werewolf’s Call, we locate an 11-minute, 26-second program with filmmaker Corin Hardy and writer Simon Ward. They discuss their experiences with Werewolf and some impressions of the movie and its impact. It feels like a passable piece but nothing memorable.
The Storyboards area provides a two-minute, 27-second look at the Piccadilly Circus climax. This running presentation shows the boards in the upper left corner of the screen with the movie itself in the lower right, and the latter blows up when boards aren’t available for certain segments. I’m not a big fan of storyboards, but these appear to be particularly well drawn, and the presentation seems good.
The Photograph Montage provides the usual mix of images. We find shots from the set, publicity stills, and pictures from the movie. All are backed with the movie’s score in this three-minute and 45-second piece.
In addition to two *trailers and a *TV Spot, the disc concludes with *Image Galleries. This domain splits into six subjects: “Production Stills (116 screens), “Behind the Scenes” (91), “Posters” (24), “Lobby Cards” (18), “Storyboards” (36) and “Shooting Schedule” (14). These add a lot of good material.
Also included in this “Limited Edition”, we get a 60-page booklet, a foldout poster and six postcard-size lobby card reproductions. My review copy of Werewolf came with the disc-only so I can’t directly comment on these features, but I wanted to mention their inclusion.
While it doesn’t match up with classic horror films, An American Werewolf In London still provides a nicely entertaining combination of scares and laughs. The movie combines two genres into a fairly effective package that still works well after more than three decades. The Blu-ray presents dated but generally positive picture and audio along with a bunch of supplements. This ends up as a pretty good release.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON