For a while, werewolf and vampires seemed to run rife through the movie world. A mixture of serious and comedy horror movies were released. Most of them good movies but of course you’ve got to be into that type of movie. I am, and ever since I watched An American Werewolf In London back in 1981.
Not the first movie to show a man change into a werewolf but in 1981 it was a big deal. Already a massive super movie fan by then (see About Me for why) I was entranced by the special effects. Throw in the great story, good actors, comedy and you’ve got yourself an oldie but goodie comedy horror.
Oh, and did I mention the soundtrack? Moondance (Van Morrison), Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and the opening credit’s song is Blue Moon (Bobby Vinto)…….
Blue Moon is playing and the camera pans over the cold and desolate Yorkshire moors. Two headlights shine in the distance as a truck comes over the hill. Packed full of sheep and a couple of American boys it stops to let them out. (The Americans that is, not the sheep.) Throwing their backpacks over their shoulders they get out but not before Jack (Griffin Dunne) thanks the truck driver and tells him he has lovely sheep.
Wishing them luck and with a serious face he tells them to keep off the moors and stick to the road.
Looking around at the vast stretch of moors and freezing cold Jack asks David (David Naughton) if he is cold. Pleased when he says yes it is obvious Jack is not happy. Just starting their three month backpacking trip Jack reminds himself that they will go to Italy soon.
Wondering if Debbie Kleine will meet him in Rome Jack wants David’s opinion. David can’t understand his fascination with her and tells him they’ll be plenty of girls to meet on the trip. Having known this girl since they were twelve and joking around about girls in general it’s obvious they’ve been friends for years.
The Slaughtered Lamb
Finally, spotting a village they see a pub. Jack comments on the pub being called The Slaughtered Lamb and no lamb pictured in the pub banner. A wolf’s head on a stick is shown instead. “Where’s the lamb?” Jack queries. Hungry and thirsty David says the lamb is probably inside and urges him to go in. Laughing he agrees and says if anything happens it’s David fault.
Noisily chatting the pub is full of locals drinking and playing darts. They leave the freezing cold but now enter into a different kind of coldness. As soon as the boys enter the locals are silent and stare at them. Eyes follow them as they sit down. Walking from behind the bar the landlady comes over to their table. Asking for hot soup, it’s a no. For coffee, no. Hot chocolate, no again. She tells them spirits and beers or for something hot a cup of tea.
Pentacles And Candles
One of the chess players (Brian Glover) starts telling a joke and the pub’s hubbub gets back to normal. However, seeing a large pentacle drawn on the wall Jack wants to know why it’s there. Interrupting their lively laughing he asks, “What’s that star on the wall for?”. Dead silence follows. And a thud is heard as a dart hits the wall. The dart player (David Schofield) points at them and slowly states, “You….made me miss. I’ve never missed that board before.”
Obviously not welcome the boys stand in readiness to leave but the landlady tells the men that they can’t just let them go. But they do let them go and with only a couple of messages: To keep off the moors and beware the moon.
Murder It Is
Trying to get away from the pub as fast as possible Jack is going crazy about being told to beware of the moon. David apologises and sets out to find another pub.
Back at the pub the landlady tells the men again that they can’t let them go. Not wanting the world to know their business the chess player is glad they have let them go. But the dart player disagrees and says it’s murder then.
Still, cold and hungry the boys continue talking about the pentacle and the weird experience they just had. Raining heavily the boys imagine Italian weather and start bellowing out the song Santa Lucia. Stopping in their tracks the boys hear a howling noise. David suggests it could be a coyote and Jack reminds him they are in England. His next suggestion is Heathcliff and Jack says that he didn’t howl. Maybe not says David but he was on the moors.
Completely distracted now the boys realise they are on the moors AND it is a full moon.
“It’s Circling Us”
Hearing more howling they vote to go back to the pub but running they quickly find they are lost. Deep growling and the boys feel the thing moving and circling them. Hopefully thinking it’s a dog of some sort they try to run away even faster. David trips. Jack offers him a hand up and as he does the beast jumps on him.
Nurses And Nightmares
The men from the pub do appear on the scene in time for David but not Jack. David wakes up in hospital with the lovely Jenny Agutter at his side who plays nurse Alex Price. Having weird dreams and people telling him they were attacked by an escaped lunatic is only the beginning of David’s nightmare.
A couple of years after directing this movie John Landis was asked by Michael Jackson to create his music video for Thriller. Seeing Jackson turn into a werewolf, I can still remember the whole family crowded round the TV watching in awe. It changed the way music videos were made.
The idea that a human can turn into a different sort of entity for a period fascinates me. Entity meaning anything really, a beast, a vampire, an animal or super hero. I find it all highly entertaining.
Re-watching again recently I still think the scene where David metamorphosed into the werewolf is still amazing. Along with the comedy element this movie will remain one of my all time favourite comedy horror movies ever.