An American Werewolf in London
An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 comedy horror werewolf film written and directed by John Landis. An international co-production of the United Kingdom and the United States, the film stars David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne and John Woodvine. The title is a cross between An American in Paris and Werewolf of London. The film’s plot follows two American backpackers, David and Jack, who are attacked by a werewolf while travelling in England, causing David to become a werewolf under the next full moon.
Landis wrote the first draft of the screenplay for the film in 1969 and shelved it for over a decade. Prospective financiers believed that Landis’ script was too frightening to be a comedy film and too humorous to be a horror film. After achieving success in Hollywood with the comedies The Kentucky Fried Movie, National Lampoon’s Animal House and The Blues Brothers, Landis was able to secure financing from PolyGram Pictures to produce An American Werewolf in London.
An American Werewolf in London was released in the US by Universal Pictures on August 21, 1981. It was a critical and commercial success, winning the 1981 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and the first ever Academy Award for Best Makeup. Since its release, it has become a cult classic. A sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, was released by Hollywood Pictures in 1997 and received mostly negative reviews upon its release.
Two American graduate students from New York City, David Kessler and Jack Goodman, are trekking across the moors in Yorkshire. As night falls, they stop at the Slaughtered Lamb, a local pub. Jack notices a five-pointed star on the pub’s wall. When he asks about it, the pub-goers grow hostile, and he and David leave. The pub-goers warn the pair to keep to the road, stay clear of the moors, and beware the full moon. David and Jack wander off the road and onto the moors, where a vicious creature attacks them. Jack is killed and David is seriously injured. The beast is shot and killed by some concerned pub-goers who followed the two young men. Instead of an animal carcass, David sees a nude dead man lying next to him before passing out.
David wakes up three weeks later in a London hospital. Inspector Villiers interviews David and informs him that the locals reported that an escaped lunatic attacked him and Jack. David insists a rabid dog or wolf attacked them. An undead Jack later appears to David and explains that they were attacked by a werewolf; since David was bitten, he is now a werewolf too. Jack is cursed to walk the earth in limbo, neither dead nor alive, until the wolf’s bloodline is severed. Jack urges David to kill himself before the next full moon so he does not harm anyone.
Dr. Hirsch visits the Slaughtered Lamb to investigate, suspecting that David might have been influenced by local superstitions. When asked about the incident, the pub-goers deny any knowledge of David, Jack, or the attack. However, one distraught pub-goer privately tells Dr. Hirsch that David will endanger other people when he transforms.
Upon being released from hospital, David stays with Alex Price, the pretty young nurse who cared for him. Alex tells David that she is worried about his mental state. Jack, now even more decayed, appears and warns David that he will become a werewolf the next night, and again advises that to kill himself to avoid killing innocent people. David refuses to believe him but when the full moon rises, David transforms into a werewolf. He prowls the streets and the London Underground, killing six people. He wakes up the next morning naked on the floor of a wolf enclosure at the London Zoo, with no recollection of what happened, and returns to Alex’s flat.
After learning of the previous night’s murders and realizing that he is responsible, David unsuccessfully attempts to get himself arrested in Trafalgar Square. He calls his family to say he loves them, then loses the courage to slit his wrists with a pocket knife. David sees Jack, who is even more decayed, outside an adult movie theatre. Inside, Jack introduces David to his previous night’s victims, some of whom are furious with David and suggest different suicide methods to free them from their undead state.
David transforms into a werewolf inside the cinema. He decapitates Inspector Villiers and wreaks havoc in the streets, killing several motorists and bystanders. The police surround and trap David in an alleyway. Alex arrives and runs down the alley and tries calming David by saying she loves him. Although David briefly appears to recognize Alex, he lunges forward and is shot dead by the police, reverting to human form.
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