Acknowledging the blood, sweat & tears that went into making a head explode on film, among other things.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Spotlight on: An American Werewolf In London (1981)

I try to stay away from this film and The Thing (1982) because, what else is there to say about them? They are the top dogs of the practical effect universe. I won’t go into too much detail about the craft because I have a few rare video clips I found on youtube that I lumped together for all to marvel at. I will however talk about my “first time” watching the film.

It was around 1986-1987 when I saw AAWIL. I was around 13/14 years old and knee deep in Fangoria mags. I went weekly to the video store and rented 5 or 6 movies at once. I usually watched them all in a weekend. I loved horror, although I was more into cheesy mainstream horror more than I wanted to admit. (I didn’t discover the Italian masters until much later)

I always saw clips of AAWIL mostly from Terror In The Aisles (one of the greatest compilation films never ever to see the light of day again, unless you have the VHS and a working VCR) so when I finally rented it, I was prepared for some gore galore.

What I didn’t expect is at first viewing I was a little turned off towards the end. Believe it or not, I felt the finale in Piccadilly Square was a little too dark and relentlessly violent. I don’t know what it was, but at that point I was turned off to gore films. Seeing people getting mauled by the wolf, smashing through windshields, getting ran over, guts and skulls popping under tires, I was a little nauseated. And the depressing ending was just a little too much for me at the time. Not that I was too young, I think I just watched the film at the wrong time. The disgust was short lived obviously because growing up and understanding John Landis’ twisted mind NOW and seeing the comical absurdity of the scene, it’s genius. I’m sure I’ll get shit for being a little pussy at the time, but that was the way I felt. It was weird.

It’s definitely a fulfilling film. It holds up very well by today’s standards, which I think is due mainly because of the humor. It’s a clever film… and Mr. Landis is one clever bastard.

Below are some great video clips of Rick Baker, John Landis & Co. for you to enjoy…

I love how Landis fetches coffee for Naughton and really observes Baker working. He is a true fan of movie magic.

This is a great featurette which was produced circa 1981

This is fantastic. The actual animatronic mid-transformation wolf head in action!

Bumpy back morphing action! God, I love this stuff so.

Finally here’s the Masters of Horror special which is mainly all about AAWIL.

Have a great weekend and STAY OFF THE MOORS!


  1. Wonderful post, T! It's shocking how well some of these older films stand up when compared with the lazily slapped together CGI of today, even those effects heavy, big studio productions.

  2. Exactly! I think that's why this and The Thing are so huge is because they still work! I love all the youtube comments on these videos because it looks like ALOT of people are sick of CGI today. They yearn for the practical dag nabbit!

  3. Everything goes in cycles and hopefully, practical effects will be one of them that comes around again.

  4. Awesome site! Happy i found it! Death to CGI indeed! American Werewolf in London is a perfect example of practical effects.