London Phonebooth

Greetings friends, and welcome to my first movie review for The Werewolf Cafe! This is a special review for me because “An American Werewolf In London” is one of my favorite films of all time and definitely my favorite werewolf film (though Teen Wolf is a close second, I kid you not). I’m sure most of you, if not all of you, have seen this film, but just in case, here’s the basic plot:

David Kessler and Jack Goodman are a couple of young New Yorkers on a backpacking adventure through Europe. On one particularly chilly night, they find themselves dropped off in the middle of nowhere by a local sheep rancher. The man sends them in the direction of a place called East Proctor and warns them about the surrounding moors. The two boys begin wandering across the English countryside exchanging jokes and lustful anecdotes and are soon desperate for food and shelter when they come across a pub called "The Slaughtered Lamb." Not deterred by the graphic advertisement, inside they find the pub is really quite cozy and atmospheric. Locals are playing darts, having a game of chess, telling politically incorrect, yet totally hilarious jokes, and having a generally good time. Everyone seems a bit disturbed at first sight of the two American travelers, but things warm up a bit once they are accepted as being completely harmless. That is, until Jack asks the forbidden question: "What's that star on the wall for?" The two young men are quickly turned out into the cold without an answer. Confused and disheartened, Jack and David set back out on their journey in the dark with only two pieces of advice to guide them: Beware the moon... and stick to the road.

After walking only a short distance, the boys have already strayed from their path. Soaked with rain and letting loose with a boisterous bit of “Santa Lucia,” they wander further and further onto the moors. Shortly thereafter, the pair begins to notice something. They are not alone. Something is letting out a gruesome cry in the night! Jack and David begin to jokingly speculate on what it could be, as they quicken their pace in a hurry to nowhere. But soon they realize that they are being circled. The fog is too thick to see through, and before they can react, the beast has attacked! In seconds, Jack Goodman is ripped to shreds! His best friend, David, is running in fear! He stops to think for a moment, then runs back to help is already dead friend. Now, David is the one being slashed at, but before the creature can do his worst, a shot rings out! And it's all over.

David awakens in a London hospital 2 weeks later desperately searching for his less fortunate best friend. He is cheerfully informed of his situation by the stern but benign Dr. Hirsch, and the short-tempered American representative, Mr. Collins. But when David insists that his attacker was a wolf, he is treated less than reverently. It seems to have been confirmed that an escaped lunatic did the damage to David and Jack, and no one is interested in hearing otherwise. David is frustrated, and his new, animalistic nightmares aren't helping, nor are the ones involving nazi were-creatures, but some of his stress is alleviated as he grows distracted by a lovely nurse named Alex Price. Alex is equally infatuated with David, and the two grow closer by the day, despite David's apparent mental state. You see, while having breakfast one morning, David had a visitor: his friend Jack; his DEAD friend Jack. The purpose of his visit was to inform David that they’d been attacked by a werewolf, that David, himself, would transform into a werewolf at the next full moon (in two days), and that if he doesn't want to hurt anyone he must kill himself before then. When David is released from the hospital, his next stop is Alex's London flat. The young couple wastes no time in indulging in each other, and both seem to have found their soul-mate, but all is not well with David, who is plagued by repeated visits from his increasingly decaying friend. Alex must leave him alone when she goes to work the following evening, and David grows nervous and impatient. He attempts to watch television, which offers little more than dart competitions and tabloid shows. He checks out the fridge repeatedly, but does not desire food. Finally, David manages to settle into a book, but the tranquility does not last long. Soon, the full moon is upon him, and David's moment of truth has finally arrived.

What follows is the most stunning pre-CGI special effects sequence ever imagined, for the werewolf fanatic anyway. David proceeds to transform, not into a harry, fanged, fully-clothed humanoid, but rather into something feared for centuries; a vicious, down-on-all-fours, man-eating monster, right out of Sabine Baring-Gould! The new and improved David Kessler proceeds to eat his way through the streets and neighborhoods of the city, not to mention the London Underground. Before he is done, six people are dead.

The next morning, David awakens to find himself nude in a cage at the London Zoo, a cage already occupied by two friendly wolves. David climbs out the way he came in, steals some balloons from a less than impressed child, and makes his way back to Nurse Price’s flat. Shortly after the couple is reunited in Alex’s home, Dr. Hirsch phones to ask about David. He’s taken a visit out to East Proctor and is convinced there’s a cover-up going on. The good Dr. insists David be brought to the hospital and put back under his care. Alex agrees and attempts to do just that. Their cab ride to the hospital is interrupted however, when the gabby cab driver spills the beans about the previous night’s murders. David immediately makes the connection, and exits the cab in a frenzy. Nurse Price chases him down, as he attempts to get arrested by cursing and insulting the British heritage in public. Breaking a way from Alex, David finally commits to taking his own life. He enters one of those famous, red, London phone-booths, makes a brief but touching call to his family, takes out his pocket knife and presses the blade against his wrist. But, in a move I can totally relate to, he stops before breaking the skin. At a loss of what to do with himself, David checks into a Piccadilly Circus porno theater, his best-friend Jack leading the way. As the well advertised adult film “See You Next Wednesday” plays on screen, Jack introduces David to last night’s victims, a young couple, 3 homeless men, and a married businessman, all trapped on this plane as the living dead until the werewolf’s bloodline is severed. The 6 rotting ghosts, aside from the cheerful, young couple, are none too happy to meet their executioner. All are ready with ideas for how he can end his nightly rampages. But when the conversation ends, the horror begins anew! Night has fallen outside, the moon is full, and David is changing again.

Right away, the carnage begins! David devours the other theater patrons and the ushers, and a bobby barely makes it out alive! The metal gate is brought down outside the doors, and it holds him off for a couple seconds, but soon the wolf is through and makes his presence known by decapitating the first person he sees! David aggressively struts through the streets of busy, nighttime London, snapping at legs, scaring the life out of people, and causing more deaths through car accidents than anything else. Let me tell ya, they drive crazy over there. A SWAT team is called out immediately, and as they load up their weapons, the emergency is broadcast on the local news. Dr. Hirsch immediately forms Nurse Price of the situation. If they didn’t believe David before, they do now. The two join forces and head out to the heart of the disturbance. Hirsch and Price arrive just in time, as the SWAT team closes in on David in a dark alley. Alex makes the first move, attempting to communicate with the slavering creature. As she does her best to reach the human soul beneath the wolf-like surface, the beast lunges at her! Several shots ring out, and the beast is no more. A naked, empty David Kessler is all that remains, sprawled on the ground before his doctor, London’s finest, and the woman he loves.

In 1981, John Landis put his own spin on Universal's "The Wolf Man," and the result was an instant classic for werewolf fanatics everywhere. The story is very familiar. A young American travels to England and gets bitten by a werewolf. He falls in love with a local girl, but their romance is interrupted when he grows convinced that he will become a werewolf himself. He finally transforms, reeks some havoc, and commits some murders. He becomes a sympathetic character as he expresses his fear and guilt over what he has done, but soon he transforms again and is finally killed, the film ending as suddenly as his life. With the brilliant look of its werewolves, Rick Baker's masterful effects (thankfully, CG free), an awesome soundtrack featuring CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising and several versions of “Blue Moon,” and the genius of John Landis, "An American Werewolf in London" brought a realism to the werewolf genre that is reminiscent of the olde legends and lore. No silver bullets or fully dressed lycanthropes here! Many call this film a horror-comedy. Well, it's definitely more horror than comedy, despite what you might hear. It doesn't have any more comedy than one would find in the real life of an average, young, American male. It's just so honest that it's funny. I was in London last New Year's, and they actually had dart competitions on TV. As for horror on the other hand, this movie's got it. You may not find the film scary at first, but try taking a lonely, nighttime walk after viewing it. I've always found the subway scene particularly disturbing. And what can one say about the cast? Simply perfection. David Naughton (the Dr. Pepper guy) plays the American werewolf superbly, from carefree traveler to suicidal lover. Jenny Agutter is lovely, sensual, and sympathetic, Griffin Dunne is funny yet convincing, and John Woodvine is the Doctor you hate to love. Brian Glover is disturbingly suspicious, and who can forget the cast of "See You Next Wednesday?" *ahem* It all adds up to one of my favorite motion picture experiences that I still watch remarkably often! The film is currently in its second DVD release, this time with plenty of extras. I’m still making due with the first, but I’ll change that as soon as I can. This film is well worth buying a second time.

In 1997, a sequel was released with the title: "An American Werewolf In Paris." CGI effects, a few confusing plot points, and zombies that were more annoying than funny marred the final product, but overall, it was still a highly fun viewing experience despite all its criticism to the contrary. Some say it's not a legitimate sequel because the story has nothing to do with the original film. I've heard conflicting theories though. Some sources have stated that the female lead in "An American Werewolf In Paris" is supposed to be the daughter of David Kessler and Nurse Alex Price. Intriguing and highly possible, even probable, but it's never stated outright in the film, so I'm still waiting for some official word on that. “An American Werewolf In Paris” is also currently available on DVD and VHS.

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