Recap #288: An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Title: An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Tagline: Beware the moon.
Summary: Two American college students are attacked by a werewolf that locals won’t admit exists. Consequences ensue.
[Wing: Another Halfoween surprise, a new Snark at the Moon! recap. Delighted to see bat back with werewolf wonder.]
Hey! It’s the other half of the Snark at the Moon! duo, back EARLY this year after missing Beaver Moon 2019 & 2020. But, I have come bearing gifts during this full Buck Moon: the gift of werewolves! Because werewolves. Strangely, none of these particular werewolves are involved in sports. I know, a total departure for me. I ran out of sports-related werewolf films to recap.
Wing decided to go with Dog Soldiers for her SATM recap in October 2020, which is technically a foreign film, being set in Scotland and all. Which kind of cemented the idea I had rattling around in my skull: it’s time to do one of the biggest cult classic werewolf films of all time: An American Werewolf in London!
So, really, Snark at the Moon! totally went international. I think Wing and I both miss traveling. [Wing: Definitely. I was supposed to see Iceland with Dove and Raven fall 2020. Clearly we did not. I am still sad.]
As Wing is to werewolves, I am to vampires, and I’m usually late to the party on watching werewolf films. An American Werewolf in London was released the year I was born so I feel some sort of kinship to it in that sense. Plus I’ve been to London all of once. (And I totally went to Piccadilly Circus! Like, I was obsessed with going there, couldn’t tell you why, not realizing the connection until many years later.) Never been to the Scottish moors but maybe some day. In fact, I was always aware of this film but I didn’t actually watch it until a few years ago. Couldn’t tell you why I never got around to it (vampires?) but I ended up loving it.
I also remember when the… um…. “sequel”, An American Werewolf in Paris dropped in 1997 – it was heavily promoted at the time and featured CGI in its burgeoning infancy – and for some fucking reason I saw that film before I saw the first film. It was on TV. It was stupid and horrible and I’m pretty sure it resides in the same hellish pit that Lost Boys: The Tribe does.
(Ironically, I can play Trivial Pursuit: KS Edition with An American Werewolf in Paris, since it stars Julie Delpy, who was Constance in The Three Musketeers (1993), which starred… well, you know who. I tell you, this is why I am the (un)recognized authority at Trivial Pursuit: KS Edition!) [Wing: Surely you are the actually recognised authority now! We should make you a trophy.] [bat:…. I would love to see what kind of trophy you make for me.]
So. Basically, I don’t have as decent of a grasp on this film as I do others, having only seen it once (maybe twice?) all the way through. I remember stuff happening but we’ll see how much I actually remember.
Like lambs to the slaughter, off we go to the misty moors of Scotland…
[Wing: Not my first werewolf movie, which was The Howling, but it is one of my favourites, and it has one of the most memorable transformation scenes. I’m thrilled to have bat writing about it.]
Aw, the good old Universal logo. Super old PolyGram logo, too.
We open on a shot of the Scottish highlands (?) where the sun is setting and the wind is blowing hard. Bobby Vinton’s slow version of Blue Moon begins to play as the production credits roll. (This movie appreciates musical titles that are applicable to werewolves and I applaud it for embracing that.) [Wing: Me too. This had quite an influence on how I make my writing playlists.] The title appears in white letters over a shot of the moors as the soothing song rolls on. Clearly Landis wanted to lull viewers into thinking this was not going to turn into some nightmare monster film. Ha ha. [Wing: Oooh, I’m going to treat this as the original inspiration for all the slow, moody, creepy versions of pop songs that are used in summer blockbuster movie trailers.]
Cast credits roll as the Blue Moon continues, showing us the lovely scenery of Scotland. The lyrics to Blue Moon apply to the coming story line, if you know them or pay attention.
Ah, a dirt track, wet from rain, appears as John Landis’ name appears. Grey clouds float overhead, dumping rain on to the grassy hills, as headlights appear in the distance. It is not yet dark. The truck, full of sheep, rattles to a stop in front of a sign post that delineates the directions of Leshire, Erwood, and East Proctor. The drivers exits the cab, as the sheep bleat, and opens the back of the wooden pen.
We meet David (red puffy coat) and Jack (tan puffy coat) who are wedged in among the sheep and hay. They smile at the driver as they climb from the bed of the truck, Jack donning his backpack. The driver points in the direction of East Proctor, announcing he’s going… the other direction, and all about them are the moors. Good to know.
“Keep off the moors. Stick to the roads,” the driver insists, as he wishes them luck. David tells the sheep he will miss them, as Jack says, “Bye, girls!” [Wing: Adorable. And fitting as the sheep escape and the boys are lambs to the slaughter.] The boys zip up their puffy coats. They are cold. David suspects that Jack isn’t real thrilled by their decision to wander round the Scottish moors; he likes it here. “Northern England first, Italy later.” Jack snarks.
The boys wander along the road, headed towards East Proctor, discussing Debbie Kline’s body and how Jack has been chasing after her since 8th grade. He seems to think Debbie is the love of his life and ponders if she’ll meet him in Italy. David cuts to the quick, stating Jack just wants to fuck Debbie and she’s dull.
The sun is set but there’s still enough light to see the village of East Proctor, stone buildings nestled together on a patch of bright green field. David and Jack head down the hill as it progressively becomes darker until they have reached the village road. They see a pub. “‘The Slaughtered Lamb’?” Jack asks, dubious. We see the painted sign illuminated by a lamp: a wolf’s head impaled, its tongue limp and bloody, a full moon behind the severed head. “That’s kind of strange,” David notes. “Where’s the lamb?” Jack wants to know. [Wing: This is one of my favourite moments in one of my favourite movies. It’s just so much fun.]
They argue a bit before entering the pub. It’s not a Hilton but it’ll have to do. David agrees that everything on this trip (so far) is his fault. Famous last words!
Upon entering the pub, David and Jack immediately stick out like sore thumbs. Everyone inside goes silent at the entrance of the two Americans. All are obviously locals, dressed in tweeds and homemade sweaters dyed in varying shades of green and brown. David and Jack make their hellos, stating it’s very cold outside, may they come in? The older woman behind the bar nods shortly, but no one else says a word. [Wing: This is such a trope now, but I’m not sure it was back then. Even if it was, I adore the drama and tension of it.]
David and Jack take seats at an empty table. The some locals share furtive and pointed glances, while some other locals just openly stare. Not a very warm welcome. David and Jack inquire about soup and coffee; the bar mistress flatly states they serve spirits and beers and if they want something hot they can have tea. “Then you have tea?” “No. But I can make some for ya, if you like.” The boys order tea. Jack gives David a look. This is totally David’s fault.
The locals have all gone back to whatever they were doing before the entrance of the brightly colored Americans. Jack isn’t sure about the locals. David’s just glad it’s warm in the pub. “Look at that,” Jack points to the wall, where a bloody pentagram (pentacle?) is drawn on the wall in what could be blood or crayon. Two lighted candles sit on either side of it, years of melted wax having dripped down the candle holders. “It’s a five-pointed star.” “Maybe the owners are from Texas?” David retorts, getting Jack to chuckle.
As the bar mistress returns with tea, Jack asks if she remembers the Alamo. She replies she does, she saw it in Leicester Square. The boys are confused. A man interjects that she means a John Wayne film. Jack remembers that everybody in the film dies, “very bloody!” This triggers the local man to story-time mode, where the rest of the pub shouts him down, not wanting to hear the tall tale. David tells Jack to inquire about the candles. Jack says the pentagram / pentacle is a five-pointed star used in witchcraft. “It’s the mark of the wolfman!”
“You want me to ask if they’re burning candles to ward off monsters?” The boys argue whether or not they’re going to actually ask about the candles. Meanwhile, the local tells a racist joke about 4 U.N. representatives in a plane that is going down over the Atlantic. Everyone bursts into laughter. David and Jack smile awkwardly.
“Excuse me, but what’s that star on the wall for?” Jack smiles, yelling his question over the roar of the crowd. Silence slices into the ruckus laughter and smiles disappear from faces as the locals stare at David and Jack.
Well, we’ve hit peak awkwardness.
The man playing darts misses. He calls out to Jack that he made him miss and he’s never missed before. Jack half apologizes. David announces they better leave. Jack wants to stay, he’s starved. “There’s no food here!” the dart player announces. Ominous thunder rolls outside the pub. David insists they leave. The bar mistress says to the locals that they can’t let the boys go. David tries to pay for the tea but the story teller tells them to go. “God be with you.”
The bar mistress insists again that the boys can’t go. Dart player tells them to stick to the roads and stay off the moors. HELLO POINTLESS PLOT FORESHADOWING FOR FUN AND PROFIT. Story teller adds for them to beware the moon. David and Jack take their leave, Jack wanting to know what the hell that was all about. David just wants away from the Slaughtered Lamb. They’ll head up the road and find an inn or something. Sure.
[Wing: You know, the moors, chock full of inns and safe places to sleep. Good lord, boys, listen to someone. Anyone. Listen.]
Back in the pub, the bar mistress insists for a third time that the locals cannot let the boys go. “Should the world know our business?” the story teller responds. “It’s murder!” the dart player declares. “Then murder it is, it’s in God’s hands now!” the story teller announces. Huh, seems like Jack might have been on to something…
Up to the moon, slowly revealed from behind a heavy curtain of rain clouds, glowing pale and ominous in the dark sky. It is full. Thunder rumbles distantly, the winds blowing hard. [Wing: This is such a beautiful setting.] David and Jack walk the dirt road. Jack contemplates the pentagram / pentacle (did he just call it a “pen-tangle”??) was for something supernatural. David downplays Jack’s questions and concerns. The boys decide the locals were ashamed of whatever the bloody star on the wall represents and laugh about it, as their feet leave the dirt road and cross onto the grass. [Wing: Idiots. Not that I expect a werewolf to abide by road versus open land, but whatever.]
It begins to rain.
Jack reminds David they should be in Italy. The boys trek off across the moors, singing about St. Lucia. (I wish there was like a countdown clock in the corner… you know it’s coming…) The bar mistress supposes the rain may protect them. (HA!) The story teller insists that no one brought them to the Slaughtered Lamb and they weren’t wanted, either. Darts player says if they had told them the truth, the boys would think the locals “mad”. All I have to say is everyone looks super suspicious and not a little bit guilty.
A very loud series of howls come from outside. “You must go to them!” the bar mistress implores, as the men sit around and look stupidly ashamed. “I heard nothing,” the story teller stammers, just as more howls sound.
[Wing: Bar mistress says a lot of things about keeping them safe/saving them, but she’s sure not doing anything to back that up. I mean, let the werewolf have them, werewolves need to eat too, sweet puppies, but still. She’s all talk.]
Out on the moors, because SOMEONE DIDN’T HEED ADVICE, David and Jack hear the howling. The rain has stopped, their warm breath showing in the moon light. “Did you hear that?” Jack asks warily. The boys discuss what it could be. Coyotes? [Wing: Wut. Were they ever in Europe? I thought they were a North American animal.] [bat: Yep, they are, because they can only think of American animals. But the golden jackal is the Eurasian coyote equivalent.] The Hound of the Baskervilles? Pecos Bill? Heathcliff? “Heathcliff didn’t howl!” “But he was on the moors!” David laughs.
“It’s a full moon!” Jack exclaims, before both boys recall “Beware the moon!” “And stick to the road,” David adds, as both look down and find their feet on grass. “Oops.” More howls sound, seemingly farther away. Jack votes to return to the Slaughtered Lamb. David seconds this idea. Both boys turn around and start walking back to the road. Soon David realizes their lost. The howls are closer. Jack wants to know what is making the noise. David insists they keep moving.
YES. RUN. RUN ACROSS THE MOOR TOWARDS THE ROAD UNDER A FULL MOON WHILE SOMETHING IS HOWLING. EXCELLENT PLAN, BOYS!
After a brief bit of jogging, the boys stop. The howls change to growling sounds, which are very close. “It’s moving,” David points out. Jack thinks it’s circling them. “Ah, fuck,” Jack really wishes he was in Italy right now. Their only plan is to keep moving, a lovely stroll on the moors. Shut up, David. A very loud growl reveals the mystery creature to be in front of them. The boys stop again. “It’s a sheep dog or something,” David insists, making Jack walk back the way they’ve just come. “Here we are, WALKING AWAY!” Jack says.
It’s literally herding them like sheep. This is funny.
The boys begin to run, deeper into the moors, because that’s the bright idea. They don’t know where they’re going but Jack will tell David when they get there. Suddenly David trips and falls down. Jack is pissed, David frightened him. He moves to help David up, extending his hand, when a large furry object jumps into the shot, felling Jack. It begins to tear at Jack’s throat and chest, feathers flying out of Jack’s puffy coat. David gets to his feet and begins to run away. Jack screams for help, for David to save him, as David runs into the darkness.
Something obviously wolf-life is mauling the ever living shit out of Jack. There is blood everywhere, as Jack screams. David finally stops running and turns around, running towards where he left Jack. As suddenly as it appears, the creature disappears. David approaches, finding a bloodied and torn apart Jack laying on the grass. Jack isn’t moving. Suddenly we see the muzzle of a wolf-like creature. It roars at David before attacking him. It fells him to the grass, scratching, clawing, biting, snarling. We never see any real steady shot of it, just a lot of fur and fangs. It makes inhuman noises.
Suddenly, rifles go off. The townsfolk have arrived. [Wing: What convenient timing. If you wanted one dead and one infect boy, I guess.] They fire upon the beast, which screams and flees. David, his cheek bloodied, stares up at the misty moonlight. David’s head lulls to the right. He sees an older man, naked, bleeding profusely, one raised hand in a claw-like gesture. He is dying. David looks up into the faces of the locals that have crowded around him. His eyes close. The screen goes black.
A curtain opens. Sunlight streams onto David’s face, claw marks on his left cheek very evident. “Jack?” he calls, lying in bed, his eyes closed. We see a nurse, a pretty brunette in a starched white uniform and cap. [Wing: I thought nurses in western Europe started phasing out white uniforms in the 60s or so, but I’m too tired to pull citations.] She approaches the bed, calling to “Mr Kessler?” She’s going to look into his eyes. David doesn’t respond or acknowledge her, as she lifts his lids and peers into his eyes. Another nurse enters the room, saying the doctor is going to fetch round someone from the American embassy. Nurse one says the chart states David is from New York. Nurse two tells nurse one that she believes David a Jew, as she’s “had a look”. Oh lord. [Wing: Young!Wing did not get this. Adult!Wing snickers despite herself.] Thankfully, the doctor arrives just then.
Nurse one says that wasn’t a proper thing to do and that “it’s common practice now”, but she’s laughing. The doctor calls their attention and says nurse one is quite right. Nurse two at least looks chastened. Nurse one informs Dr Hirsch that David just called out. Dr Hirsch pointedly calls out nurse two to go and do her job. She leaves. He approaches David’s bedside and takes his pulse.
Although Dr Hirsch dismisses Nurse Price he suddenly wants to know what David called out. Geez, dude. She informs the doctor that David called for Jack. “Ah, that would be Jack Goodman, the boy who was killed.” RIP Jack. We hardly knew ye.
Nurse Price inquires as to what happened to the boys. Dr Hirsch says they were attacked by an “escaped lunatic”, who had to have been a very powerful man. [Wing: Oh fuck off, Hirsch.] Nurse Price wanders closer to David’s bed, which garners her a reminder that it’s really none of her concern. She leaves the hospital room. Dr Hirsch peers into David’s eyes but David isn’t seeing him. He isn’t conscious. In fact, he is in a dream.
The camera pans along a forest floor carpeted in fallen brown leaves. We hear the padding of feet, as though the point of view we are seeing is close to the ground. “Hello, David.” Dr Hirsch speaks and David’s eyes open. He is in the hospital room.
For some reason, Frank Oz has joined in. Oh wait, that’s right, he plays the American ambassador, Mr Collins. Dr Hirsch introduces himself. David wants to know where he is. “In a hospital, in London.” FATEFUL WORDS.
David is disbelieving, he wants to know where Jack is. Dr Hirsch informs David that Jack is dead. Mr Collins steps forward to introduce himself fully as the American ambassador and that both Jack’s and David’s parents have been notified of what’s happened. I can’t help but notice the print of Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers on the wall as
Miss Piggy Mr Collins is talking to David. Nice irony.
Staring at the doctor and the ambassador, David wants to know who they are. Last he knew, he was on the moors in Scotland. Dr Hirsch has to restrain David, who demands to see Jack, calling for the nurse to help. Mr Collins stammers away, telling David he appreciates how upsetting the news is but there’s no reason for hysterics. [Wing: Oh, yeah, you’re excellent at your job, Collins.] Nurse Price runs in, Dr Hirsch ordering a 20mg injection of some medication to calm David. Mr Collins continues, saying the police want to interview David and Collins has given them permission to do so. He will also return to check up and give a progress report to David’s parents.
Good lord, dude, get the fuck out of the room. Finally Dr Hirsch thanks Mr Collins and sends him out, assuring him that David will be fine once he’s adjusted. TO WHAT?? Mr Collins complains that dumb-ass kids never appreciate anything done for them.
The injection has kicked in. David is calmer. He asks how long he’s been in London. “You’ve been unconscious since you were brought in three weeks ago.” Dr Hirsch answers cheerfully. HOLY FUCK. Hello, three weeks?? Doesn’t leave much time between full moons!
Dr Hirsch goes on to say David suffered some cuts and bruises and lost a “little” blood but nothing serious. David is still stuck on three weeks. Nurse Price stays silent, watching and listening. Dr Hirsch adds that David will have some scars to boast of and that the “madman” who attacked the boys had a lot of strength, since all lunatics have the strength of ten men. Ugh. [Wing: FUCK. OFF. HIRSCH.]
Telling David he’s been given a strong sedative and to rest, Dr Hirsch says Nurse Price will attend to David’s needs before he finally leaves the hospital room. “It wasn’t a lunatic,” David mumbles. “It was an animal.” Nurse Price is suddenly super interested. “Did he say a wolf?” Dr Hirsch asks Nurse Price.
“Yes, I believe he did.” Nurse Price answers. I’m thinkin’ Nurse Price is getting a bit Florence Nightingale here with David.
SMASH CUT to Dr Hirsch in his very cluttered office, on the phone, with I’m guessing his wife. She’s apparently having a dinner with guests and he’s certainly not looking forward to it. He rings off, attempts to sip his tea, when a buzzer goes off. The police are here! Well, an inspector and a sergeant, same difference.
They enter and sit, the sergeant ordering tea before the inspector gives his junior counterpart a look and puts the kibosh on that. They’re here to discuss how David Kessler is awake. Has he said anything about the attack? Before Dr Hirsch can answer, he’s buzzed again. Sergeant McManus putters around the office, snooping, before knocking into something that makes a terrible racket. He attempts to re-stack the kidney-shaped bowls as Hirsch and the inspector stare.
Smash Cut to David’s room, where he insists that he and Jack were not attacked by a man, which is in direct conflict with the official report. Sergeant McManus pipes up that two strong young men would likely be able to overpower a man, which leads to the inspector dressing down McManus by asking if he’s implying the official report is wrong and David and Jack were attacked by an animal and everything in the report is a cover up?? (Yes. Yes it is.) Inspector Villiers says the autopsy says it was a man shot by local cops, there’s two witnesses to this fact, and basically David is in shock so anything he says about the attack can be chalked up to, yes, shock.
Wow. Way to gaslight, Inspector Villiers. IT IS A CONSPIRACY! [Wing: Werewolves must occupy high positions at city hall.] [bat: And ghouls. Equal opportunity employment.]
Sergeant McManus continues to try and defend David but gets instantly shut down by Inspector Villiers again (CONSPIRACY!!) before Inspector Villiers tells David that the inquiry is officially closed. Scotland Yard peaces out, leaving David to stare at Dr Hirsch. “There were witnesses??” he asks, incredulous. He repeats that it was dark, they were running, Jack went to help David get up when David fell, and the “thing” came out of nowhere. Who the hell could have witnessed it?
“My memory is fine. It’s my sanity that I’m beginning to worry about,” David tells Dr Hirsch.
Cue running through the forest cut scene. It’s day light, misty, as whatever is running through the hedges and bushes suddenly turns into a shot of a man’s bare legs running across the fallen leaves. A long shot shows the man is fully naked and running across a marshy bog, the dead cattails and reeds brown husks in the stagnant water. The camera moves in and we can clearly see it is David, naked, hurtling over fallen logs.
A pair of deer appear. David pauses and peers out from behind a tree. The deer sense a disturbance but stay put. A closeup on David’s eyes widening before he leaps onto the deer, grabbing it by the throat as it thrashes. Suddenly David pops up, covered in bright red blood, chomping on a severed deer limb.
Yeah, something might have happened to David, out there on the moors.
Back at hospital, Nurse Price walks through the ward hallway, carrying a tray with medication on it. She’s in the childrens ward. Stopping at a bed, she greets Benjamin, who immediately says, “NO!” She still hands him the pill with water, which he dutifully swallows. Apparently his favorite word is no. That’s the joke.
Nurse Price notes his collection of comic books. Another young boy runs up and grabs one of the comic books, slapping Price on the ass. She looks startled but says nothing, leaving the ward. Uh. Huh.
Out in the hall she encounters an orderly pushing a cart of hot meals. Price inquires about the patient in room 22 – clearly David – and the orderly has obviously been pumped for information before because he rambles about being an orderly and not a doctor. None of this makes much sense, because Nurse Price wanders into David’s room and removes the metal cover on his plate of food.
David, laying on the bed, has his eyes closed and is listening to his headset. The room is darkened by the drapes. Nurse Price notes he has not eaten. She points out this fact to him. “Oh, I’m not hungry,” David answers. The open wounds on his face have mostly closed and healed over. Huh. That was fast.
“You have to eat something,” Nurse Price tells him. David refuses again, saying he’s really not hungry. (Yeah, not for “human” food, no.) Nurse Price pulls the headphones off David, telling him he’s put her in an awkward position, because he was to take medication after he eats. If he doesn’t eat, no pills.
David says to just leave the pills. Nurse Price opens the drapes, flooding the room with daylight. David complains. “You may call me Alex,” Nurse Price tells him, removing the cover from the plate of food. She wants to know if she’ll be forced to feed him? David insists he’s not hungry. Alex sits on the bedside, puts the napkin in David’s lap, and begins to cut up the food. David looks at her, incredulously.
Raising the fork to his mouth, Alex is met with stubbornness. David crosses his arms and presses his lips together, like a child. He wants Alex to give him a break. She pinches his nose closed instead and shoves the bite of food in his mouth as soon as it opens.
Like, maybe it’s not just me, but it feels like they’re flirting with each other during this scene. [Wing: They are. In a weird, kind of obnoxious way.]
David chews and swallows, as Alex asks if she’ll have to continue drastic actions to get him to eat. This time he opens his mouth obediently. There’s a lot of staring into each others’ eyes going on here. Improper patient/nurse relations, ahoy!
Smash cut to David, in his red puffy coat, running through the sun dappled woods. He stops, hiding half behind a tree, as he sees himself laying in a hospital bed. Alex appears, walking up to the bedside. The camera focuses on the David lying in the bed. He opens his eyes, revealing yellow eyes and a mouth full of yellowed fangs, as a snarling sound effect plays. Oh dear.
Really, it’s a badass makeup job. Two thumbs up.
SMASH CUT (damn it) to Dr Hirsch washing his hands in the sink, viewing David, who is sitting on the edge of his bed, in the mirror. Dr Hirsch asks if David hasn’t ever had a bad dream. David alludes that he had nightmares as a kid but that this dream was way too real. (I wonder why.)
Dr Hirsch asks if David saw his attacker and David repeats that it was not a man, that it was “a big wolf or something”. We can see the claw marks on David’s face had further healed almost to the point of disappearing. Hm. Dr Hirsch walks over and does an examination of the big fucking claw mark across David’s chest.
David reminds him that Jack was torn apart but Dr Hirsch pooh poohs him, saying David would be surprised what a man is capable of. Um. Okay, but, hello, those are animal claw marks and they’re healing way too quickly. [Wing: After three weeks of apparently not healing. It’s such a weird timeline.]
“Did you see Jack??” David asks. Nope, Dr Hirsch replies, and adds that David’s wounds were cleaned and dressed before he ever arrived at hospital. NOT SUSPICIOUS. NOT SUSPICIOUS AT ALL. David wants to know why Dr Hirsch is so quick to dismiss him, does he think David is crazy?
Dr Hirsch says if a monster was running around the moors, the country would have seen it on the telly. SURE.
“You’re leaving the hospital in three or four days. Please. Remain sane. At least until you’re no longer our responsibility.” WOW. JUST WOW.
As Dr Hirsch leaves, David confesses he doesn’t want to be alone. The doctor agrees to send someone in to keep David company. WHY AM I NOT SHOCKED IT’S NURSE PRICE.
She reads as David dozes, before he awakens and stares at her. Price stretches, David commenting on how she’s beautiful (and startling her.) Price chuckles, thought David was asleep, asks if she should read to him. “A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, by Samuel A Clemens. Okay, that kind of goes with the theme… an American (werewolf) in London.
Basically, the couple really starts flirting now.
The scene fades (wow! a different transition! I may faint!) into a shot of a television showing an episode of The Muppet Show. Kermit explains to Miss Piggy that puppetry is an art form, as they watch two puppets act out a Punch and Judy skit.
Suddenly the scene expands and we are in a large middle class home. Two children are watching the TV, sitting on the floor. An older man lounges on the couch, reading the paper. The wife, in the kitchen doing dishes, yells for someone to answer the knock on the door. David sits at the dinner table, doing school work. The older man gets up and walks to the foyer to answer the insistent knocking at the door.
Upon opening the door, he is greeted by a hail of automatic bullets, the guns used by a trio of monstrous-looking half human, half animal men. They seem to be dressed in WWII uniforms of some sort. Some are more transformed than others; they all bear gigantic wolf fangs.
David screams and tries to get up from the table to stop the carnage but is caught by one of the wolf men, who grabs David by the hair and holds a huge hunting knife across David’s throat. He forces David to watch his mother and siblings get blown away in a hail of bullets and violence. The wolf men creatures destroy the home’s furnishings and contents with more bullets, as David continues to watch, before setting everything on fire.
Finally, the wolf man slashes David’s throat and he awakens, in hospital, alive and soaked in sweat. Nurse Price stretches as she wakes up, having fallen asleep in the chair beside David’s bed. She asks if he’s been awake long. David calmly informs her he’s had a nightmare.
Nurse Price smiles and says she has just the thing, walking over and opening the curtains… only to be stabbed to death violently by one of the WWII wolf men.
David awakens again. “Holy shit.” Indeed. [Wing: Such a weird fucking dream. I feel like it has some deeper meaning, but I’ve never actually considered it until now, actually, beyond him being Jewish (…maybe? Are we meant to take that as canon?) and it being Nazi werewolves coming for the people he loves.] [bat: Yes, it’s canon! The director John Landis says David and Jack are both Jewish and based off him and his best friend.]
The hospital worker appears, bringing David a tray of breakfast foods, opening the curtains (no werewolf Nazi men appear) before rambling on about all the food on the plates and how David needs to eat up. Yeah, I don’t know that that’s going to happen.
Stabbing his spoon into the porridge, which stands straight up the porridge is so thick, David surveys the food before looking up… and finding Jack standing there at the end of his bed.
“Can I have a piece of toast?” Jack asks, his face split wide open from claws, his throat shredded to the point you can see his trachea and muscles exposed, drying blood soaking his hair and clothes.
“Get the fuck out of here, Jack.” David calmly replies, as one does when one sees a murder victim’s ghost appear. David slides back against the headboard as Jack walks closer, even going so far as to remove the metal cover from the plate. Jack admits he doesn’t look good.
David wants to know if he’s awake or dreaming.
Jack, ignoring the question, takes a piece of toast and dips it into the eggs, informing David that he is hurting Jack’s feelings. David counters that did Jack ever think it might be unsettling for someone to see him rise from the grave looking this bad?
Oh boy, we get a close up. That looks real bad, Jack. Pretty fatal. (Man, the SFX makeup in this movie is *chef’s kiss*)
David goes on to add that isn’t Jack supposed to be buried in New York? Jack admits that yes, he is, and David’s parents attended his funeral. Apparently Debbie Cline (remember her?) cried a lot. She was so aggrieved she went and had sex with Mark Levine. “Life mocks me even in death,” Jack laments. David still wants to know if he’s awake or asleep, but decides he’s just gone completely crazy.
Jack apologizes for upsetting David but he has a message: they were attack by a werewolf. David covers his ears with his palms and refuses to listen. Jack continues, explaining that because his was an unnatural death, he is forced to walk the earth in limbo until the werewolf’s curse is broken. The werewolf’s blood line must be severed, meaning the last surviving werewolf has to die. “It’s you, David.”
Jack tries to tell David that David will soon be killing people. He laments that the undead surround him and talking to corpses is boring. He wants it to end, he wants to die, fully. He encourages David to kill himself. David does the only thing he can think of, screams for the nurse and presses the call button.
Nurse Price comes running down the hall, headed for David’s room. Jack senses her arrival and speaks to David a final warning: “Beware the moon.”
Entering the room, Price finds David clinging to the headboard, crying. She asks him what’s wrong. He kisses her before announcing, “I’m a werewolf!” To her credit, Price doesn’t dismiss him. She just asks if he’s all right. “I’ll let you know the next full moon.” David replies. [Wing: This is such a weird, fun exchange.]
Price is super worried; David will be discharged from hospital – in an unfamiliar city, all alone. David replies that Jack was just here. Um. Yeah? Sort of? “Your dead friend, Jack?” Price asks. David confirms, one in the same. He adds that Jack informed him that he’d become a monster in two days.
“What do you think?” David asks Price.
“About the possibility of you becoming a monster in two days? Or visits from dead friends?” You can tell Price is on her toes with this one and she’s not going to let some pesky dead friend bringing dire warnings keep her from having the hots for David.
David realizes he sounds entirely not of sound mind and chalks it up to “dreaming again”. Price concurs. At this point, David will have to present himself as totally sane and sound if he wants out of hospital. (Although I have not been in hospital for mental health problems, I have been in for surgeries. And as much as I hate hospitals, I know the four things you have to be able to do before they’ll discharge you. Let’s just say I managed all four in record speed and got home before I was very ill due to the opioid pain medication they’d given me too damn much of. BUT I WAS OUT OF THE DAMN HOSPITAL AND THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERED TO ME!)
Price, casually, asks if David has a place to stay in London. Yeah, that’s not calculated. I mean, she stares at him, he’s looking all forlorn and cute, and totally hatches this plan.
SMASH CUT! David has been released! He’s wearing his hiking pack over a blue puffy vest and a heavy wool sweater. He’s walking with Price, who’s in street clothes with her hair down, along the high street as Price explains she’s a “working girl” and he shouldn’t expect much of her flat. David only asks if she lives alone. Price confirms this and David is pleased. No flatmates to interrupt.
The couple stops at a corner shop to purchase provisions. David notes that the prices are expensive. Price replies that everything is outrageous and her pay can’t keep up with inflation. (Well, we’re back there, again.) Now we SMASH CUT to the Underground! David holds onto the hanging handle while standing among a group of punks, all with very brightly colored dyed hair. One who has a leopard design of black spots over purple and orange buzzed hair is playing tonsil hockey with his girlfriend as David tries not to stare. He squeezes his eyes shut and puffs out his cheeks in an exaggerated expression before running through several comical expressions, which makes Price smile. The punks aren’t amused. A longer wide shot shows just how crammed in everyone is in the train car and I am so glad I never rode the Underground while I was visiting. We stuck to buses and taxis, when we didn’t walk.
Leopard head finally comes up for air and catches David sticking out his tongue with his eyes crossed. David breaks out into a wide smile as the punks stare. Amazingly, he is not stabbed.
SMASH CUT to back above ground, as the couple walks through the neighborhood to Price’s flat. They pass a huge church. (Which, because we have the technology 40 years later, I mapped to figure out which it was. It’s St. Savior’s Pimlico, in St. George’s Square.) Price leads David to a flat with a fancy front entry. All wrought iron and carved marble columns. It’s obviously a multiple flats (apartments) inside an old town home, as she smiles at David while unlocking the first door on the right. Oo, fancy ground level flat with big windows, nice! [Wing: I’d live there! Even though I prefer a higher location. You never know when a werewolf will try to come in through the window. Oh wait, Price and I just bring them home.] [bat: S’why I live on a second storey; vampires can just come on in by landing on the balcony.]
As soon as they have entered – it’s spacious, there’s a large bay window with a built-in seat, a fire place, a couch, as well as the clutter of a lived-in space – she announces they’re in the living room. David removes his backpack before they wander into the kitchen and drop off the groceries. The short hallway has a closet – “Charming!” David notes enthusiastically – before Price shows him the loo.
Across the hall is the bedroom. “There’s only one bed,” David immediately observes. [Wing: THERE WAS ONLY ONE BED. Tropetastic.] Price admits she is not in the habit of bringing home stray young American men. She proceeds to also admit she finds him very attractive and “sad”. Um. “I’ve had seven lovers, three of which were one night stands, I don’t know what I’m trying to say?”
Wow. You were doing so well with the honest part about him being attractive and sad? But now you’re giving him your romantic history? David moves in for a kiss but Price rebuffs him, asking him if he’d like to watch telly while she showers? David lets out a shaky whistle for a long shot before we smash cut to them both in the shower, kissing.
Yeah, it’s safe to say he’s not missing anything on television. I remember British telly. Between the onslaught of Wheatabix commercials, episodes of the Teletubbies, and the weird airing of several episodes of The Simpsons all smashed together in a long string without commercials, yeah.
This is a long… well, it’s mostly touching and rubbing soap all over and snogging and for some reason Price seems to be gnawing on David’s shoulder. Who’s the beast here? Eventually they move to the bed, where there’s a lot of heavy breathing and rolling around in the dark while naked while Van Morrison’s Moondance is literally blaring (WTF, is the copy I’m watching having a sound issue?) and I guess David’s not that sad enough that this is pity sex.
The scene is filmed in the dark to the point where it’s implied but not seen that David is a fan of cunnilingus and apparently passable at it, because Price seems to be enjoying it. [Wing: Good. Real heroes eat pussy, DC. (And now I’m going to get us flagged as porn. Again.) (I prefer the word cunt, but that’s not how the response went.)] [bat: BRING ON THE FLAGS.]
Now the couple is curled up in bed, post-coitus; David awakens and slowly extricates himself from Price’s embrace and slips from bed. Price is now wearing a t-shirt? Anyway, David wanders into the loo to take a leak and we get a good glimpse of the healing claw marks across the left side of his chest. They look pretty red. [Wing: Damn, this movie influenced my writing a lot more than I realised. I love to write scenes like that.] David looks in the medicine cabinet mirror, closing it, bringing a very decomposing Jack standing behind him. David screams. [Wing: Before the mirror jump scare was so trite!]
“You’re not real!”
“Don’t be a putz,” Jack admonishes his very naked friend, before leading him back across to peek in on Price, noting that David is sleeping with a nurse. David shuts the door and quietly leads Jack into the living room… or wouldn’t it be lounge? Jack pokes along the dark hallway before sitting down across from David. David wants to know why Jack is here.
Jack just wanted to see David. Uh huh. Jack’s skin is rotting away and an unhealthy shade of green. He teases David with a Mickey Mouse doll. David tells Jack to go away. Jack apologies for upsetting his friend but David doesn’t understand what’s going on. David counters that he knows Jack is one of the undead and that he (David) is a werewolf. His tone is biting, facetious. Jack agrees with the assessment. “Tomorrow night’s the full moon,” he reminds David. David is going to change. David seems to not entirely disbelieve but he doesn’t exactly agree.
Once more Jack insists that David must kill himself before it’s too late. The camera lingers on Jack’s multiple wounds, still oozing blood, and his rotting green skin. David admits he thinks Jack is part of a bad dream and he’s “lost” his mind due to the attack. [Wing: Fair enough on this fear.] Jack insists that David has to take this seriously, because if he doesn’t, David will attack and kill people, making them just like Jack. “I will not be threatened by a walking meatloaf!” [Wing: I laughed.]
Price wakes up and starts looking for David, finding him sitting alone in the lounge, a pillow covering his lap. [Wing: No, no, you’re supposed to use that to hide your awkward boner before you sleep with her, not after.] She heard voices, she says. David insists it’s only him, and that he’s not all right. Price takes him back to bed, where David asks if he seems crazy to her. He admits he saw Jack, who told him he’ll turn into a monster – omitting exactly what type of “monster”. Price asks if David believes Jack. David deflects, asking if Price believes him. She believes he’s very upset and that David loved his friend very much and has assumed blame for Jack’s death. Wow, let’s dance around everything, you two.
“Did you ever see The Wolf Man?” David asks. He ends up explaining the plot of the 1941 film to her, since she has not seen it. Price actually laughs, confused as to why David is telling her this. David explains that he believes a werewolf can only be killed by someone who loves them. Price still doesn’t understand and David loses confidence. She’s still half laughing as she tells David she half pities him and half finds him hot AF. They kiss before we SMASH CUT to the Moors, once again.
Car headlights appear in the distance, cresting a road on a hill, speeding along the pavement. It pulls to a stop alongside a very familiar road sign with directions to Leshire, East Proctor, and what is probably Sherewood. The car continues on in the direction of East Proctor, encountering a flock of sheep as it reaches the town centre, rain pouring down in buckets.
It’s Dr. Hirsch! [Wing: Shocking.] He holds his coat over his head as he runs for the shelter of the Slaughtered Lamb. Inside isn’t so busy but the regulars are there, giving each other worried looks. After his first drink choice isn’t available, he avails himself of a small Guinness, and starts remarking about the nasty business with the young American boys. That’s the way to get conversations started, sure. The man at the bar feigns ignorance while Dr. Hirsch insists this was the area, just a few weeks back during the full moon.
Everyone in the pub is getting twitchy but remains silent. Eventually one asks where Dr. Hirsch is from. “London! Knight takes pawn,” he answers, stunning the chess player, before taking a drink. “What’s that?” he asks, pointing at the obvious bloody pentagram is still drawn on the wall. The bar mistress dismisses it, saying it’s been there for 200 years and they didn’t paint over it because tradition!
Dr. Hirsch presses again about anyone knowing anything about the incident. Thunder cracks ominously outside. The chess player wants to know if Dr. Hirsch is a cop. “No, I’m a doctor! I work in the hospital where they brought the Kessler boy. He was talking about werewolves.” Oh that’s a good idea, just tell them, they’ll really open up now. This openness immediately backfires and the patron at the bar gets angry. Dr. Hirsch admits he just thought he’d look into David’s story.
The chess player admonishes Dr. Hirsch, because clearly David is crazy, and diffuses the tension. Dr. Hirsch settles in to play a game of chess but the chess player isn’t having it. He has turned cold and dismissive towards Dr. Hirsch, no longer feeling like a game. Bar guy is up and putting on his coat, saying he won’t be long, he’s off to check the dogs. [Wing: Uh huh.] Chess player and bar mistress aren’t real thrilled but let him go. Dr. Hirsch inquires about food but is promptly shut down. It’s very clear that everyone wants Dr. Hirsch to leave.
“There is nothing here for you, sir,” chess player notes. Dr. Hirsch takes another long drink of Guinness before leaving, back into the pouring rain. As he reaches his car, he realizes he is being watched. A figure stands in the distance, outside in the church yard. It’s the bar guy, hunched over, soaking wet. They share a pointed stare. Dr. Hirsch crosses into the yard, greeting him friendly-like.
“Listen! That boy’s in danger!” He adds that everything was a mistake, that they shouldn’t have let David leave the area. There’s something wrong with the place. “That much I understand,” Dr. Hirsch points out dryly. Bar guy explains that David’s the one in danger and others will be, too, because it’s almost the full moon.
“That’s enough!” roars chess guy, who is standing outside the church yard. Bar guy takes off running through the rows of headstones. Apparently that’s the end of the conversation, as chess guy gives Dr. Hirsch one last angry look before leaving him. Guess you’re not going to get any more help from the locals, Dr. Hirsch.
Back in London, David follows Price out onto the front step. She’s going to work and reminds David to call if he feels too anxious. She’s also left medication for him. Yeah. He makes a joke about going werewolf. Dude, you’re just tempting fate here.
The couple kiss goodbye, David a little extra aggressive in his affection, which seems to startle Price. She heads off to catch the tube to work, leaving David to his own devices. He’s barely had time to turn around when a dog begins to bark at him, quite incessantly. (It almost looks like a long lost relative of Monster Dog?) [Wing: Aww, my sweet girl.] Two little girls begin to laugh at David and how their dog is quite upset at him. THE DOG IS WARNING YOU, DON’T YOU KNOW. [Wing: Monster Dog would do this. She likes people, but she hates other dogs. I imagine a werewolf would confuse her poor little head and she’d default to barking and snarling.]
David waves and thanks the dog as the trio passes by. Is it me or do the scars on his face looks quite pronounced? I feel like with every passing scene they are more and more visible. [Wing: I can see that, and I find it very interesting. Most stories have the wounds healing quickly, usually with no trace of them, but I’m interested in the idea of wounds healing and then getting worse again as the moon cycles. Not that that’s what has happened here considering he was healing quickly just a few days ago after not healing for three weeks, but still. The idea intrigues me.] David attempts to go inside but finds himself locked out. Good going, Price. David climbs over to the bay window, looking for a way in, only to find a ginger tom cat hissing its face off at him. David seems equally confused by this reaction as he was about the dog’s. Luckily, the large window is unlocked and he slides it up, reentering the flat.
He heads over to a mirror and makes faces and snarling sounds, all jokingly. He even examines his teeth but sees no change. Just wait for it, David. (Okay, what’s with these Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls everywhere??) He turns on the telly to find the Test Card F with Carole Hersee playing tic-tac-toe with Bubbles the Clown (oh god I am having instant Life on Mars flashbacks, I need to rewatch that, that show is a mind trip) before changing the channel to a darts competition.
Sorry but not sorry, television in England was boring AF back then.
Changing the channel again, David views a commercial for a “tell all” interview with Nina Carter (nope, don’t know who she is) (also, remember when we knew nothing of “celebrities” except what came from studio PR people and tell-all interviews and tabloid magazines? BEFORE SOCIAL MEDIA RUINED THE MYSTIQUE AND MADE CELEBRITIES “ACCESSIBLE”?? I have very decided feelings about that.) David finally gives up and realizes day time telly sucks, shutting off the TV.
CCR’s Bad Moon Rising begins to play as David returns to the bedroom. [Wing: BEST USE OF THIS SONG EVER.] He lays down on the bed and attempts to nap but it’s a few seconds before he’s up and off to the kitchen. Opening the tiny fridge he searches through it but announces aloud he isn’t hungry. Turning on a lamp in the lounge, he sits in the car and picks up a book on the table, but doesn’t read much. Up again, he opens the front entrance and looks out onto the street, but again, this restless energy has him back in the flat and looking in the mirror.
We are treated to a montage of clips of David pacing the lounge, pawing through the fridge, and generally at a loss on how to spend his time alone. When you think about it, he is a stranger in a strange land, left to his own devices, his only link to humanity at work. He could leave the flat but why? He knows no one but Price, he probably doesn’t have any money (or at least it’s not easily accessible) and he feels like he’s losing his mind. Yeah, not a fun place to be.
The lyrics are poignant as we watch David pace – “Hope you got your things together / Hope you are quite prepared to die”. (If I was to ever make a werewolf movie, I would use Rasputina’s cover of this song. It’s a great mood setter. Of course, I will proselytize about Rasputina to anyone who will listen.) [Wing: That is an excellent cover. I also like Thea Gilmore’s cover. Somewhere, I have enough covers to make an entire playlist, I think.] [bat: You should definitely share that playlist on Twitter, Wing.]
Over at hospital, it’s dark. Price kneels beside Benjamin’s bed, as the little boy cuddles a stuffed animal. “How are we feeling tonight?” she asks. “NO!” Benjamin shouts. God, this joke is still terrible. Price asks in a serious voice if Benjamin has ever been “severely beaten” about the face and neck. WTF? He, of course, screams “NO!” Price tucks him in and together they both scream “NO!” in unison. She tickles the little boy, who giggles and wiggles, as the camera pans up and over to the window, revealing a fucking fake as full moon oh my god you have such amazing special effects in this movie but no one could get THE FULL MOON right?? [Wing: All the money went to the werewolf.]
We smash cut over to David, who is sitting still reading a book, as Sam Cooke sings softly You Send Me. Suddenly, David cries out and grabs his head, falling to his knees on the rug. He is soaked in sweat and screaming about burning up, as he rips open his shirt. His jeans and underpants go next. Now he’s fully naked, dripping in sweat, and screaming. Yeah, this bodes well.
Suddenly he looks at his hand, watching his fingers elongate before his very eyes. Next his palm begins to stretch to twice its size as David continues to scream, in both pain and confusion. Long dark hair (fur?) begins to cover his body as he falls to his knees, crying for help. Yeah, if there’s neighbors, they aren’t coming to your aid, David.
His feet begin to elongate like both hands, putting David on all fours. The transformation continues in earnest, a closeup of the hair (fur?) sprouting on his body as David cries out that he didn’t mean to call Jack a meatloaf. The ridges of his spine become visibly pronounced as the muscles shift during the transformation, David screaming all the while. His teeth begin to become more canine-like, his lower body stretching out and into a more canine-like shape, forcing David onto his back as he watches in horror as his torso changes.
A lot of werewolf stories always talk about how horrible and painful the “change” is, but this movie is where viewers got to see it first hand, experience it along with David.
Viewers are treated to watching the lower half of David’s face elongate into a muzzle-like form, as his eyes turn yellow. His ears grow pointed as his jaw stretches out further to accommodate the large predatory fangs he has grown. There is blood and sweat all over him, to remind viewers how painful this transformation truly is.
David’s moans and groans become more like animal-made sounds, grunts and wheezes as his body completes its transformation from man to animal. The image grows darker until it changes to a shot of the full moon shrouded in thin clouds, a rage-filled howl sound filling the air.
[Wing: This may be the greatest movie werewolf transition to ever be done, no matter how good special effects become.]
Else where in London, a taxi arrives outside a row of brick town homes. A dressed up couple exits the taxi, the man pays the fare, and they head towards the front door. Suddenly the man suggests they go in through the back; this is a party so let’s surprise people! Yes, Harry is “crazy”, sure. They wander around the row houses, intending to creep up the back stairs and give them a “right old scare”. Um. I’m beginning to think these are the same row houses that Price lives in and this isn’t going to end well for dear old Harry and companion. [Wing: This is such a forced reason for them to be in the right place for mauling. Come up with a better reason, writers!]
“Did you hear something?”
“Just now? No.”
*VIOLENT ANGRY ROARING BLUR OF FUR AND FANGS ENTERS THE SCENE*
Well, we’ve found David, or were!David, as it were. He violently attacks Harry and the woman. Upstairs, a different woman peers out the window but doesn’t seem to see the attack. Her husband is busy lighting the candles on the dinner table, where an elegant spread is laid out. So much for your dinner party.
“Shaun, those hooligans are in the park again,” the woman laments. Oh yeah, one BIG HAIRY HOOLIGAN. Shaun ignores his wife’s concerns, concentrating on lighting candles, asking if she isn’t ready yet because their guests will be arriving soon. Um.
Smash cut to a bunch of quick edits of were!David doing his level best to maul the shit out of the guests.
OVER AT HOSPITAL, Dr. Hirsch has arrived back from his quick fact-finding jaunt to the country. He stops in at… a medications storage room? and asks the nurses if Price is on duty tonight. They confirm she is. Dr. Hirsch cuts to the chase and asks if Price has seen “the Kessler boy” recently. The redheaded nurse stammers and feigns uncertainty. Fortunately, Price has showed up and is standing just outside the door, where she readily confirms she has indeed seen David. Human!David. [Wing: All of human!David.] Dr Hirsch orders her to his office. Oh dear.
Back at the dinner party that won’t happen, the wife watches from the upstairs window as Shaun is outside at the gate, investigating. Because you totally bring a tumbler of scotch and yell, “Is anyone there?” before taking a gigantic swallow when you’re that posh. Taking a look back at his wife, and getting zero response from his inquiry, Shaun presses on into the park for further investigation.
Dr Hirsch tells Price he went to East Proctor and he’s very concerned about David, and there’s a full moon don’t you know? Where’s David?? Price hesitantly admits David’s at her flat but she’s off at midnight. Dr Hirsch demands her telephone number. I got news, most werewolves can’t operate telephones.
Back in the dark park, Shaun continues to wander round with his tumbler of scotch. An owl hoots. His dress shoes crunch on the dry grass. He mistakes a noise for Harry and laughs. He walks a little further until his dress shoe squelches something very wet on the ground. Shaun looks down and sees a severed hand and forearm lying on the grass.
SMASH CUT to the rotary phone in Price’s flat ringing loudly. Someone also turned off all the lights in the flat. Pretty sure those were on and blazing away so werewolves make sure to flip off light switches before going hunting? [Wing: Look, werewolves can be concerned with global climate change, too.] Dr Hirsch looks concerned that David is not answering the phone. Price seems shocked David isn’t there. “Has David persisted in his werewolf fantasies?” Instead of admitting YES HE TOTALLY HAS WHY DO YOU ASK, Price wants to know what’s going on and if there’s something more serious happening then she is aware of. I’M PRETTY SURE THAT’S OBVIOUSLY THE CASE, YOU NIT, IF THE DOCTOR IS ASKING ABOUT “WEREWOLF FANTASIES”.
Dr Hirsch explains he attempted to investigate the attack, to find the case closed, the files misplaced, and not a soul willing to talk about what happened. He also adds that someone treated David’s wounds before he ever arrived at hospital but no other doctor examined him before Dr Hirsch. A LITTLE SUSPICIOUS. Dr Hirsch explains he thinks the villagers at the pub are totally lying about the attack and there’s no “escaped lunatic”. He insists that there’s some mass neurosis in East Proctor and David has suffered a severe trauma, and if the villagers believe Jack was killed by a werewolf, why wouldn’t David believe it, too?
(Maybe because JACK keeps showing up and telling David he’s a werewolf, but I dunno.)
“If he himself survived an attack by a werewolf, wouldn’t he become a werewolf on the next full moon?” Dr Hirsch posits. Price looks outraged and shocked a medical doctor would hypothetically propose such a thing. Dr. Hirsch is concerned that, true or not, David might be traumatized enough to become delusional and hurt himself or others. Price, accepting that this is totally plausible, cuts to the chase and asks what they should do. Dr Hirsch proposes calling the police. Okay. Because they’re totally going to handle a delusional man with tact and sensitivity?
Oh, a new location! A car junk yard! Three men stand around a fire barrel, warming themselves. Oh, it’s the banks of Thames? Well within view of London Bridge? A dog whines. Oh no! NOT DOGGO. Doggo begins to bark and whine louder. One of the men directs the other to let the dog go. YES! SO DOGGO CAN SAVE HIMSELF! The third man hears a noise and calls out, “Who’s there?” He is answered by a raging howl.
“That’s not Winston.” The man who let doggo go remarks. No. No it is not. The three men see were!David as he approaches, just before he attacks them. AND SMASH CUT to a tube train speeding by! We’ve returned to the London Underground, where several people wait for the train on the platform. The walls, gleaming white and green tiles, colourful adverts painted on them, are dim in the dull florescent lighting. It’s Tottenham Court Road station!
A business man exits the train, toting his umbrella. He is alone on the platform. He pauses at a vending machine as the train exits the station, leaving him utterly alone now. Removing the purchased item, he hears a very dull and distant roar echo through the tunnel. The sound repeats again. Business man asks aloud if someone is there but gets no reply. A shorter roar stops him in his tracks. Business man announces this isn’t amusing (it is, but not for you, dude.) and he will report this.
He heads out of the platform and up the stairs to the escalator, where he hops on the side going up. More colourful advertisements line the walls, where as everything else is shiny metal. Business man is still (seemingly) alone. He hurries off the escalator and into a long tunnel with walls covered in paper adverts. (This part always makes me feel claustrophobic and that’s the point, I know.) A muffled growl sound echoes through the tiny tube-like tunnel, giving the business man pause.
Ironically, business man stops next to a advertisement for a non-stop orgy next Wednesday at what I’m guessing is a porno theatre, this is called FORESHADOWING FOR FUN AND PROFIT.
[Wing: I want this to be a reference to the porn shop theatre opening to The Howling, but they were released close enough together that I’m pretty sure it’s not. Alas.]
The camera drops down to werewolf eye level and we “see” what were!David is seeing: a lone business man in a tiled tunnel. Were!David reveals himself and the business man is indeed scared shitless at the sight of a werewolf. He begins to run, which means were!David begins to chase. This is where, yet again, the film is smart in NOT showing the werewolf ala Jaws, because it is THAT MUCH MORE TERRIFYING to imagine then to actually see.
Business man flees as fast as he can, already out of breath and gasping in great lungfuls of air by the time he is nearly to the next escalator. Hopping a railing, he drops his umbrella and stumbles onto the moving stairs, falling in a heap as his briefcase explodes open, spilling the contents on the steps.
In a FANTASTIC shot, we watch from the top of the escalator as the business man rolls over and sits up, below the viewers but steadily moving towards them, as were!David enters the room. The werewolf stalks its prey slowly, knowing escape is virtually impossible now. The camera zooms up on the business man, from were!David’s point of view, and unfortunately for the business man, he has a bloodied nose now. [Wing: This entire chase scene is iconic as fuck (and creepy). I know Cursed tried to tap into it with the parking garage/elevator scene, but I bet we could find many others that have as well. I love it every time I think about it, much less see it.] Just as were!David is about to leap
WE SMASH CUT to a male lion leaping forward and roaring, baring its fangs. An elephant trumpets as it splashes in a pool of water. Tigers roar and leap at the iron bars. Monkeys scream. More and more animals make noise at the intruder. The intruder who is human!David, naked, asleep in a pile of hay.
David awakens slowly, almost as if he’s hung over, spitting the taste of his mouth. He looks to his left and sees a grey wolf laying near by. To his right there is a second grey wolf. Both begin to sniff him as David gets up, telling the wolves he’ll be back and to take his calls. He jumps onto a platform and begins to climb out of the enclosure (god this is a horrible enclosure and I feel so bad for the wolves) before jumping the wall and running off, still totally naked.
Okay. Where’s all the blood? Because there’s no way you slaughter six people and don’t get covered in blood. Unless it rained? Because, you know, London. But still. I HAVE QUESTIONS. [Wing: I was going to suggest that the wolves licked it off him, but even if he was still in wolf form, I’ve now gone way past my own line for sex humour.] [bat: And there’s the rest of the flags.]
SMASH CUT over to Price, who’s on the phone with Dr Hirsch, and of course David has not turned up. Yet. She admits she feels helpless sitting around the flat – why aren’t they out looking for him? – but I guess the police were no help, either? Back at the zoo, David darts around behind trees, trying to hide the fact he’s naked, but not really doing a great job at it. The monkeys watch him. Out from a bush he pops, right into the path of a wealthy looking woman dressed in furs. “Excuse me!” David smiled, dropping back into the bushes. She shrugs and moves on.
David gets the attention of a school boy holding balloons, trying to lure him over to the bushes. The kid refuses at first but when David offers him £2, the kid slowly walks towards the bushes. Wow, kid has a cheap price. “I don’t know who you are!” the kid informs the talking bush. David decides he’s the “Famous Balloon Thief”. Okay. “Why would a thief want to give me £2??” KID HAS A POINT.
Deciding to explain face to face, David tiptoes out from behind the bushes, grabs the balloons, and takes off running. He passes by a couple sitting on a bench, grabbing the woman’s coat off the back of the bench as he holds the balloons over his crotch. Well, I give him points for inventiveness.
Little school boy walks over and tugs on a woman’s leather coat. “A naked American man stole my balloons!” Ha ha ha! [Wing: I laugh every. single. time.]
Over else where in the city, Dr Hirsch stops and grabs a paper from a newsstand. We see a headline for the Daily Mirror – MAN OR MONSTER? – on the side of the stand. Apparently whatever is on the front of the paper has Dr Hirsch distracted, as he nearly forgets to pay for the paper until reminded.
MURDER VICTIMS FOUND HALF EATEN it reads, with details of how the police are issuing no details until pathology reports are concluded. Also the crime is unusual and there’s no immediate cause for alarm on the behalf of the public. UM. I HAVE QUESTIONS.
We smash cut to a shot of the bunch of balloons floating away, before we follow a line of legs standing in line, men and women, various pants legs and shoes, until a pair of bare legs and feet come into view. David’s wearing the woman’s red suede coat with the fur collar and cuffs, waiting at the bus stop. The man behind him looks generally confused and/or disgusted. David smiles and comments they’ve been having a lot of weather lately. The man in front of him also takes a look but thankfully the bus arrives.
How the hell did David get on the bus without fare? Was there random change in the coat pockets? BECAUSE THEY ARE VERY STRICT ABOUT BUS FARES THERE. I KNOW FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.
David makes it back to Price’s flat, unharmed. Somehow he’s able to just let himself in, which makes no sense, since he was locked out hours ago. Price hears the door close and turns round, finding David there in the red coat. “Good morning!” he bellows cheerfully. Price is stunned. David takes off towards the bedroom, announcing he’s freezing, as Price chases after, wanting an explanation.
“I’ve lost my mind!” David explains, while thankfully putting on a pair of pants. “I woke up in the zoo!” Price isn’t buying it. David does not remember the events of the prior evening, not beyond seeing Price off to work and getting locked out, climbing in through the window, sitting down to read, and “waking up naked at the zoo!”
Price is taking this way too calmly. She says they were worried and didn’t know where David was. WHY DID NO ONE GO LOOKING?? DIDN’T DR HIRSCH CALL THE COPS?? Just as the couple kiss and Price inquires about the coat, the phone rings. It’s Dr Hirsch, at his desk, reading the paper. Price admits that David is back but remembers nothing and, oh yeah, woke up at the zoo. “Is he rational?” Dr Hirsch inquires.
“He’s very excited and confused but he’s not crazy, if that’s what you mean,” Price answers. Dr Hirsch asks if she’s read the papers or listened to the news. Nope. He wants to know if David is behaving strangely. Of course David chooses this moment to play bite his way up Price’s body, over her clothes, and make growling noises. Dr Hirsch insists that Price bring David to hospital straight away, to be placed in Dr Hirsch’s custody. He’ll also notify the police that he’s been found. Oh yeah, this sounds bad. Basically, Dr Hirsch is stupid and has no idea that they won’t be arriving straight away.
Oh, well, maybe they will? Now they’re on the street, headed to hospital. David is jumping around, feeling energized and excited. He wants to go back to the flat for a quickie but Price waves for a taxi. She manages to get David in the back of the taxi and off they go, but he’s groping and kissing her. The taxi driver comments that it reminds him of the old Fleet Street days. Price is confused. The taxi driver explains it’s the murders. “What murders?” David asks, his attention refocused. “Last night! Six of ’em!” (Cue me screaming as I see the lion statues at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square in the background.)
As the taxi driver explains the victims were in various parts of the city and all mutilated, David gets real quiet and serious. Oh dear. David demands the taxi driver pull over. Price tries to stop him but as soon as the taxi stops, David bolts out into Trafalgar Square. Price chases after him as David melts down, acknowledging he is a werewolf and murdered those people and he needs to turn himself in. Price wants him to calm down and go to Dr Hirsch. (Cue me still screaming because there’s my favorite lions again!) David sees a policeman standing in front of the Column, with two children, as a woman takes their photograph.
“Officer! I killed those people last night!” David declares. Price tries to diffuse the situation; David says he doesn’t know her and wants to be arrested. The policeman isn’t taking either of them seriously and tells them to move along. Now there’s a crowd growing around them, because I’m pretty sure running across Trafalgar Square and screaming about how you’re a murderer gets you attention. David demands he be arrested but the policeman won’t do it, so he resorts to insulting Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Winston Churchill, as well as Shakespeare, before dissolving into screaming “Fuck! Shit! Cunt!”
I mean, I guess that’s how you get arrested real quick? The policeman tells David if he doesn’t stop disturbing the peace he will arrest him. Price keeps interrupting and trying to downplay David’s outburst as anger and grief over his friend being killed. A second time David disavows knowing Price. The policeman has had enough and tells them to move along, again.
David is stunned he can’t get arrested. He asks a young woman in the crowd if the policeman should arrest him. “I don’t know, perhaps he thinks this is a prank!” she stammers. David can’t believe it. The policeman breaks up the crowd, David yelling they’re all crazy, as Price tries to get him to shut up. She doesn’t want him to lose control. “What control!? Jack was real, he tried to warn me, I thought I was crazy!”
“I love you!”
“I love you but I think I did some terrible things last night that I can’t remember!”
Well, you deny knowing her twice then tell her you love her? Sure, David. Price insists they go see Dr Hirsch but now David wants Price to stay away from him. David says she’s not safe around him, kisses her, says he loves her, then walks away. Price starts to follow but David runs into oncoming traffic and gets away. I dunno, if the man I loved professed said love three times and ran off, I would try a little harder to try and help him during a total mental breakdown. Of course, he did deny knowing her to the cop, so I guess it’s a wash.
Back at Dr Hirsch’s office in hospital, he has assembled Inspector Villiers and Sergeant McManus, because clearly this is a real crack team investigating this. Price is there also. Anyway, the Inspector admits that forensics concludes *some kind* of animal was involved in the attack and he goes on to attempt to give his opinion on the case when Dr Hirsch interrupts and points out the immediate problem is David is missing and must be found before nightfall. The Inspector is all pish posh, we’ll totally find David, eventually, we’re totally
not doing everything we can.
Price points out that David wants help, that he attempted to get arrested and the policeman wouldn’t do it. The Inspector totally talks over her and says that’s not the problem. So Dr Hirsch interrupts and asks how they can help the cops. And of course, the Inspector says to stay put, they’ll reach out when/if they need help. Ha. The Inspector adds no one can accept a connection between the six grisly murders the night prior and David, but they will find him, “I can assure you of that!”
Well. Yes. True. More foreshadowing.
Inspector Villiers leaves as Sergeant McManus turns and firmly reassures Price they will find David. He turns to go and finds the door has closed. Sigh. Yeah, they’re really going to work hard on this. Dr Hirsch and Price share a look. It’s basically up to them now.
OH LOOK, PICCADILLY CIRCUS! All the blazing lighted advertisements! The traffic! The statue of Anteros atop the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain! More traffic! David is in one of the signature red telephone boxes, attempting to place a collect call to America. As you do. I remember stopping at red phone boxes in Piccadilly but I’m not sure they were in the same position as the film and there were less of them, as it was the late 1990s by that point.
(I placed a lot of long-distance collect phone calls during the summer of 1995 when I was in California, so it’s weird thinking that this was a thing once upon a time that nobody under 30 really knows about.)
David places the phone call and successfully reaches his sister Rachael, whom he instructs to “just say yes!” to the collect call charges. Once that’s settled, he asks if his parents are available. They aren’t. And his brother, Max, isn’t home either. David is incredulous they left Rachael home alone at the age of ten. Because they certainly didn’t allow him to stay home alone at ten! He explains he’s still in London and “all better now”. He instructs Rachael to inform their parents he loves them and to try to not fight with Max. He repeats the message for his parents, adding he loves Max and Rachael, too. Yeah, this isn’t depressing or anything. “I’m not being silly, you little creep!” Ah, there’s the sibling love. He tells Rachael to be a good girl before hanging up.
I’m wondering about the time difference here. No, calculations say it’s pretty accurate, since there’s only about a 5 hours difference between NYC and London. So completely plausible his parents would be out.
Still in the phone booth, David pulls out a small pocket knife and holds it against his left wrist. He attempts to press the blade in, but is shaking so bad and starting to cry, because honestly, he clearly doesn’t want to die but doesn’t know what else to do to stop himself from turning into a werewolf and slaughtering people. He eventually gives up and leaves the phone booth. [Wing: Oh, sweetie, I feel for you.]
SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY the giant red and yellow banners read. (Shouldn’t it be Tuesday?) It’s the porno movie house! The one from the advert in the tube station! David runs across the street, through the slow moving traffic, and inquires the admissions price. “Two pounds, eighty, sir,” the bored woman in the ticket box points to the sign above her head. That was probably, like, $5 in 1981? David pats around in his pockets and puffy vest before finally finding the correct amount.
Inside the very dark porno theatre, David enters to find the movie in full swing and about five dudes sitting spread very far apart in the seats. A very special person awaits him in the very back row. David sighs and takes his seat next to the rapidly decomposing figure of Jack. At this point, Jack has lost his lips, revealing his teeth, and his eyelids, leaving his eyeballs large in their sockets, and his skin has become a very rotted grey-brown-green colour. “Hi, Jack,” David says, as both he and Jack watch the screen. “Hi, David!”
Jack intently watches the badly acted scene between the sex acts, where the burly dude enters to find his girl shagging a different dude, only for the woman to say she’s never seen him before. Yeah. Okay? Jack and David begin to discuss how Jack was right but because he’s dead, he isn’t going to say he told David so. David tells Jack he looks awful. (I am just impressed by the SFX.) He also explains he isn’t sure he’s the one who killed the people, because is it really him or is it the werewolf? David doesn’t remember doing it.
Jack points out the zoo. “Even if I’m not the wolf man, I’m crazy enough to do something like that.” David observes, but he’s also sitting in a porno theatre talking to a corpse. “I’m actually glad to see you, Jack.” Aw. Jack goes and ruins this touching moment by saying he wants David to meet some people. Uh oh.
Jack starts off by introducing Gerald Bringsley, the business man were!David slaughtered in the tube tunnel. He’s a fresh kill and therefore is the least decomposed. Gerald states that his arrival isn’t Jack’s fault but David’s, because of his “victim of your carnivorous lunar activities”. That’s a great band name. [Wing: And a beautiful line.] David apologizes to Mr Bringsley but is clearly torn, because what do you say to someone you apparently murdered but have no memory of doing so?
Gerald Bringsley pours on the guilt about his widow being widowed and his children fatherless and how he’s to walk the earth in limbo until the “wolf’s line is severed.” Yeah, this is going well. “You must die, David Kessler!”
Jack moves on to introduce Harry Berman and his fiancee Judith Browns, the couple who were attending the dinner at their friends’ flat, and the trio of homeless gentlemen who were on the Thames wayside, Alf, Ted, and Joseph! Harry and Judith are pretty cheerful and not as decomposed as I would expect, but Alf, Ted, and Joseph aren’t real happy to see David.
“What shall I do?” David asks Jack.
“Suicide.” Jack responds.
Harry agrees. David counters that it’s easy for them to say, they’re already dead. Gerald, still real angry, says no they’re not, they’re undead. This entire scene dissolves into a discussion on types of suicide and their varying effectiveness. It’s not a pleasant scene, although it is done with dark humor, and doesn’t hold up well.
“Thank you, you’re all so thoughtful,” David is clearly not having all the cheery suggestions made by Harry and Judith, nor the bitter snipes of the trio.
Back outside, it’s dark, and Piccadilly Circus is filled with people. The full moon comes into view over Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, as the bright advertisement lights flash and blink. David has clearly waited too long.
In the theatre, Jack and the other undead victims have disappeared, as David once again begins to scream and groan as the transformation starts. He begins to pull on the seat back in front of him as his body coats in sweat, begging one of the patrons across the aisle to run. His hand begins to elongate and grow talons. His transformation hits faster this time, as his face is already lupine-like before we smash cut to outside the theatre, where the box office lady and an usher are talking. They hear a scream and the usher runs in, looking around the theatre, before were!David pops up and bites him.
Outside, the ticket woman is screaming hysterically and pulling on passers-by, calling for help. Two policemen run over. They break it up, asking what’s wrong. “A mad dog is killing people in there!” Well, sort of? One officer runs in, scanning the theatre with his torch, finding two victims in the aisle. He steps over the bodies and walks up the aisle to find were!David tearing on the flesh of another victim. Were!David roars at the policeman, who shouts and runs out. We get a very good look at the werewolf itself, all grey, its muzzle coated in bright red blood.
The policeman panics, pulling down the metal gate and shouting that there’s a monster in the theatre. Of course the crowd comes rushing over to stand there and gape as well as panic. The policeman orders the other to call for assistance and for backup to bring rifles. Were!David has exited the theatre and is charging against the metal gate, roaring and snarling. More people flood in, forcing the policeman to tell them to get out of the way, as he and other cops try to hold the gate.
More and more police flood the area, along with more stupid people. It’s just creating a frenzied environment that surely were!David can pick up on. Finally, backup arrives and begins to push the crowd back and away, as six policemen hold the gate. Were!David lets out a blood curdling roar just as Inspector Villiers and Sergeant McManus arrive on scene.
Inspector Villiers walks up and demands to know what’s going on. “Some kind of animal, sir!” a lowly PC informs him. Inspector Villiers turns and just then were!David plows through the gate and bites right into Inspector Villiers’ throat, tearing his head off and sending it bouncing off the hood of the police car. Women scream! Police and the crowd begin to flee, out of were!David’s direction.
Into on coming traffic, were!David roars at a double decker bus, forcing the driver to spin the wheel to miss hitting the werewolf. It causes a motorbike to crash into a car, forcing another car to smash into the side of the bus, sending a passenger crashing through the glass of the second level. The man falls on the roadway and is immediately run over. This seems gratuitous at this point.
More and more cars crash as witnesses stand around screaming and staring. (Cars crashing into cars is kind of a thing with John Landis; if you’ve seen The Blues Brothers, then you know what I mean.) Sergeant McManus watches in panic as people seeing the werewolf running through Piccadilly Circus cause even more collisions and injuries; a car hits and man and sends him through the glass windows of a business. Another car collision sends the driver through the windscreen. Another woman lays dead in the street. It’s absolutely mayhem. It just keeps going and going and going…
I wonder, though, do these deaths add to were!David’s personal undead entourage? Because I think it’s just direct murders, not indirect ones.
Price is asleep in a chair, when the light flips on and Dr Hirsch appears at her side. He wakes her and tells her there’s word of a “disturbance” in Piccadilly Circus involving a mad dog. Uh huh. “David!” Price cries, as we smash cut back to the “disturbance” in Piccadilly Circus.
It’s a literal all out mess. Car collisions blocking traffic, aide car sirens blaring, police officers running around, people screaming and shouting. Were!David zooms through it all. (Like, for as amazing as the practical effects are, I always think the full body werewolf looks hilarious. It kind of looks like a fuzzy shark body on stumpy legs that don’t really convey the motion of walking correctly. Or maybe bowlegged? I dunno. I’ve watched it on slow motion and it’s still funny.) [Wing: It definitely is. The transformation scenes, especially the first one, are amazing. The rest of it is, uh, not that great.]
The police follow were!David into an alley, where he roars in outrage at finding he’s ended up in a dead end. Or is he sad? Does the werewolf have emotions? Is this why David blacks out and doesn’t remember? The two halves aren’t integrated as other werewolf films purport them to be? I HAVE QUESTIONS.
Various police vehicles come rushing in to block the road, officers pouring out of them, as onlookers begin to crowd the pavement to get a look at the “mad dog”. Basically a smaller version of the chaos still ongoing at Piccadilly Circus.
A police van goes careening through the streets, skidding into turns, before revealing this is the armed police, loading bullets into magazines as they ride to the scene. That’s the big difference about this film; in America were!David would probably already have been shot by some one with a concealed weapon permit, where as in Britain (the U.K. in general?) there’s way more strict weapon laws and only certain parts of the police force are allowed the use of guns. (I’ve been reading the Peter Grant / Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch and this comes up *a lot* because Grant is a police officer. It’s quite fascinating to me.)
The speeding police van passes the taxi in which Price and Dr Hirsch are riding to the scene of the “disturbance” (I don’t know why but that is cracking me up today) and Price immediately gets out of the taxi as soon as it stops, knowing that van is after David. She runs through Piccadilly Circus, Dr Hirsch on her heels, to the alley that has been cordoned off by police. The crowd of spectators has grown and the police line is having difficulty in keeping them controlled. The van speeds to a stop and armed officers being to pour out of it. This will not end well.
Not that I ever expected it to. I learned my lesson long ago about horror movies and “happy” endings.
The armed officers push through and begin to line up and take aim. Price and Dr Hirsch struggle to push through the rapidly growing crowd. Price makes it to the human police line, forcing through, demanding to be let through before falling into the lined of armed officers. Soon she is past them and heads into the alley, Dr Hirsch yelling for her.
Ironically, it’s a very well lighted alley. Price stops for a moment before heading deeper into it. We can’t see were!David but he’s clearly there, somewhere. Price being in the way means the officers with rifles have to disengage and wait. Price walks further into the alley, asking aloud if it’s really David in there.
“David, they’re going to kill you,” she informs him, just before we see were!David hunched up in hiding. He kind of blends in with the trash bins. Price begs him to allow her to help him, and we get a real good closeup of the werewolf’s face, seemingly attempting to understand what is being asked. (Really, the perma-snarl the face is always making doesn’t help things? Like I know it’s a nitpick.)
“I love you, David,” Price tells him, which relaxes the perma-snarl just a fraction, but LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH and were!David roars before leaping at Price. Shots are fired (I wanna say 4? Wing?) and hit were!David in the torso but somehow miraculously miss Price.
Dr Hirsch breaks through the line and runs down the alley towards Price, followed by the armed officers. Price stands there, in total shock, before we see David’s human body, dead on a pile of flattened cardboard, two bullet wounds in his torso. Price begins to sob as Dr Hirsch and the police observe the beast was actually human. One last shot of David in death before
SMASH CUT TO THE CREDITS with The Marcels’ version of Blue Moon jolting viewers. Or maybe just me. I forgot it ended so abruptly. Like, I applaud that editing choice, because what else is there to show? The aftermath? The consequences? Best left not shown.
Really, this is one of the finest werewolf films ever made for the silver screen. Rick Baker and the SFX team’s practical effects – especially for the werewolf transformation – were revolutionary at the time. Typically, wolves were used to portray the monster, instead of seeing a man turn into a beast. So audiences were titillated and shocked at the onscreen transformation of David into his werewolf form.
Historically, the 1935 film Werewolf of London was what set the precedent used in this film: that werewolves always kill what they love most. I don’t think that holds up in a lot of the films where werewolves are characters; mostly they’re just portrayed as wild and full of blood lust. 1941’s The Wolf Man was the first to make the werewolf a sympathetic character, one whose condition – or curse – was to be pitied by viewers. I think that trope is more heavily relied upon, especially when “innocent” people are caught up in a situation where a werewolf is attacking or they have been “accidentally” turned and must accept their cursed existence or off themselves. We certainly saw this in Dog Soldiers.
[Wing: It is very common, particularly when it comes to male werewolf characters. Too often female werewolves are still treated as sexual predators not to be pitied but to be cheered on into death.]
But back to the film I’m recapping. American Werewolf was revolutionary for its SFX work as well as its modern day premise. Putting monsters into a typical era vulgaris setting – one viewers can relate to – seems to always be the thing that catapults said creature back into the spotlight. Does this film still hold up, forty years after the fact? Fuck yeah, except for the mental health bits, but again, you have to view it through the context of that time and remember mental health treatment was (still) pretty barbaric.
Another thing about this film that I really love is the use of music. Picking songs that help convey to viewers a mood or a theme is something I honestly enjoy; I love musical scores just as much, I collect them, but it’s just something about having lyrics that works really well.
You know, this film holds up not because of the practical SFX work but because it’s a simple story and is just cause, effect, fallout. Nothing fancy. A slice of life, as it were, no need to know all the backstory or remember who is who and what powers they have. Those tend to be the movies average viewers can watch over and over again. I think it’s all the more powerful because of the ending. It’s not an ending viewers can shake off easily.
Well, on that note, I’ll end this recap and hopefully return with a new Snark at the Moon for Beaver Moon 2021. Stay on the road and off the moors, everybody!
[Wing: Listen to this advice, readers! I’ll be off the road and on the moors myself every full moon to come.]
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