An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 horror comedy film written and directed by John Landis, and starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, and Griffin Dunne. The film tells the story of two American students, David and Jack, who are attacked by a werewolf while on a backpacking holiday in England.
Two American backpackers, David Kessler and Jack Goodman, are trekking across the moors in Yorkshire. As darkness falls, they stop for the night at a local pub called the Slaughtered Lamb. Jack notices a five-pointed star on the wall, but when he asks about it, the pubgoers stop talking and become hostile.
The pair decide to leave, although the pub landlady insists the others should stop them. Instead, the local pubgoers only warn them to keep to the road, stay clear of the moors and beware of the full moon. David and Jack end up wandering off the road onto the moors, where they hear sinister howls, which seem to be getting closer.
Meanwhile, the crowd in the pub show conflict over letting the boys go, but refuse to go after them. They start back to the Slaughtered Lamb but realize that they're now lost. The boys are attacked by a large wolf-like animal, and Jack is killed. The attacker is shot by some of the pubgoers, who have finally come out to search for the boys, but instead of a dead animal, David sees the corpse of a naked man lying next to him. David survives the mauling and is taken to a hospital in London.
When David wakes up three weeks later, he does not remember what happened. He is interviewed by police Inspector Villiers who tells him he and Jack were attacked by an escaped lunatic. David insists they were actually attacked by a large dog or wolf. Jack appears to David as a ghost, and explains they were attacked by a werewolf, and that David is now a werewolf. Jack urges David to kill himself before the next full moon, not only because Jack is cursed to be a ghost for as long as the bloodline of the werewolf that attacked them survives, but also to prevent David from inflicting the same fate on anyone else. Not surprisingly, David does not believe him, thinking that Jack is a hallucination.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hirsch takes a road trip to the Slaughtered Lamb to see if what David has told him is true. When asked about the incident, the pubgoers deny any knowledge of David, Jack, or the attack. However, one distraught pubgoer speaks to Dr. Hirsch outside the pub and says David should not have been taken away, and that everyone else will be in danger when he changes. The man is then cut off by a fellow pubgoer.
Upon his release from intensive care, David moves in with Alex Price, a pretty young nurse who grew infatuated with him in the hospital. He stays in Alex's London apartment, where they later have sex for the first time. Jack, in a more advanced stage of decay, appears to David to warn him that he will turn into a werewolf the next day. Jack again advises David to take his own life to avoid killing innocent people, but David still does not believe him and urges him to go away.
When the full moon rises David suddenly feels extremely hot, strips off his clothes and painfully transforms into a werewolf. He then begins to prowl the streets and the London Underground, slaughtering six citizens in the process. He wakes up in the morning, naked on the floor of a wolf enclosure at the London Zoo, unharmed by the wolves and with no recollection of his activities.
David realizes that Jack's ghost was right about everything and that he himself is responsible for the murders the night before. After failing to get himself arrested in Trafalgar Square, David runs away from Alex. He goes to Piccadilly Circus, calling his family from a phone booth to say he loves them, then loses courage when he attempts to slit his wrists with a pocket knife but fails. David then sees Jack, in a yet more advanced stage of decay, outside an adult movie theater.
Inside, Jack is accompanied by David's victims from the previous night, most of whom are furious with David (although one couple is quite unfazed about it). While his ghost victims suggest various and comical ways for David to kill himself with the least amount of pain, David transforms again and goes on another killing spree.
After bursting out of the cinema and biting off Inspector Villiers' head in the process, David wreaks havoc in the streets, causing various vehicular accidents and deaths. He is ultimately cornered in an alley by the police. Alex runs down the alleyway in an attempt to calm David down by telling him she loves him. Although the wolf-David is apparently placated for a moment, he is shot and killed when he lunges forward, and then returns to human form in front of a grieving Alex.
- David Naughton as David Kessler
- Jenny Agutter as Nurse Alex Price
- Griffin Dunne as Jack Goodman
- John Woodvine as Dr. J.S. Hirsch
- Lila Kaye as Pub Landlady
- Frank Oz as Mr. Collins
- David Schofield as Darts Player
- Brian Glover as Chess Player
- Rik Mayall as 2nd Chess Player
- Don McKillop as Inspector Villiers
- Paul Kember as Sergeant McManus
- Michael Carter as Gerald Bringsley
- Will Leighton as Joseph
- Frank Singuineau as Ted
- Sydney Bromley as Alf
- Albert Moses as Hospital Porter
- Elizabeth Bradley as Woman at Zoo
- Alan Ford as Taxi Driver
- Christine Hargreaves as Ticket Lady
- Linzi Drew as Brenda Bristols
- John Landis (uncredited) as Man Smashed in Window
- Vic Armstrong as Bus Driver in Piccadilly Circus
List of deathsEdit
List of deaths in An American Werewolf in London.
|Name||Cause of Death||Killer||On Screen||Notes|
|Jack Goodman||Mauling: Mauled to death||Man/Werewolf||Yes||Returned as an undead.|
|Man/Werewolf||Shot to death||Pubgoers||Yes|
|Mr. Keesler||Shot||Nightmare Demons||Yes||Dream|
|Mrs. Keesler||Shot||Nightmare Demons||Yes||Dream|
|Max Keesler||Shot||Nightmare Demons||Yes||Dream|
|Rachel Keesler||Shot||Nightmare Demons||Yes||Dream|
|Nurse Alex Price||Exsanguination/Organ Damage: Stabbed||Nightmare Demon||Yes||Dream. Was still alive in real world|
|Harry Berman||Mauling: Mauled to death||David Keesler/Werewolf||Yes||Returned as an undead.|
|Judith Browns||Mauling: Mauled to death||David Keesler/Werewolf||Yes||Returned as an undead.|
|Alf||Mauling: Mauled to death||David Keesler/Werewolf||No||Returned as an undead.|
|Ted||Mauling: Mauled to death||David Keesler/Werewolf||No||Returned as an undead.|
|Joseph||Mauling: Mauled to death||David Keesler/Werewolf||No||Returned as an undead.|
|Gerald Bringsley||Mauling: Mauled to death||David Keesler/Werewolf||Yes||Returned as an undead.|
|4 Men||Devourment: Eaten alive by a werewolf||David Keesler/Werewolf||Yes||In Movie Theater|
|Usher||Devourment: Eaten alive by a werewolf||David Keesler/Werewolf||Yes||In Movie Theater|
|Inspector Villiers||Decapitation: Head bitten off||David Keesler/Werewolf||Yes|
Production notes Edit
John Landis came up with the story while he worked in Yugoslavia as a production assistant on the film Kelly's Heroes (1970). He and a Yugoslavian member of the crew were driving in the back of a car on location when they came across a group of gypsies. The gypsies appeared to be performing rituals on a man being buried so that he would not "rise from the grave." This made Landis realize that he would never be able to confront the undead and gave him the idea for a film in which a man would go through the same thing. Landis wrote the first draft of An American Werewolf in London in 1969 and shelved it for over a decade. Two years later, Landis wrote, directed, and starred in his debut film, Schlock, which developed a cult following. Landis developed box-office status in Hollywood through the successful comedy films The Kentucky Fried Movie, National Lampoon's Animal House and The Blues Brothers before securing $10 million financing for his werewolf film. Financiers believed that Landis' script was too frightening to be a comedy and too funny to be a horror film.
The budget of An American Werewolf in London was reportedly $10 million. The US box office totaled $30,565,292.
The film was also met with critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 89% based on reviews from 46 critics, compiled retrospectively. Kim Newman of Empire magazine praised the film, saying "Carnivorous lunar activities rarely come any more entertaining than this". Tom Huddlestone from Time Out also gave the film a positive review, saying the film was "Not just gory but actually frightening, not just funny but clever". Halliwell's Film Guide described the film as a "curious but oddly endearing mixture of horror film and spoof, of comedy and shock, with everything grist to its mill including tourist Britain and the wedding of Prince Charles. The special effects are notable, and signalled new developments in this field."
Roger Ebert's review was less favourable; he stated that "An American Werewolf in London seems curiously unfinished, as if director John Landis spent all his energy on spectacular set pieces and then didn't want to bother with things like transitions, character development, or an ending." The American Film Institute nominated it for ranking on its 100 Laughs list.
- The ending of An American Film in London was referenced to in the Masters of Horror episode, Deer Woman, which also featured the band from The Blues Brothers, meaning these films share the same universe.
- The three films were directed John Landis.