American Werewolf in London, An (HD DVD) (1981)

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Released 6-Jun-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Screen Saver
Audio Commentary-David Naughton & Griffin Dunn (Actors)
Featurette-Making Of
Outtakes
Interviews-Crew-John Landis, Rick Baker
Featurette-Casting of the Hand
Storyboard Comparisons
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 97:09
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Landis
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring David Naughton
Jenny Agutter
Griffin Dunne
John Woodvine
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $39.95 Music Elmer Bernstein


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
German Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Catalan Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
French
Italian
German
Catalan
Japanese
Portuguese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are two young American men backpacking through the rolling moors, dodging rain, fog and sheep s*** as best they can. Tired, cold and keen for a quiet ale, they stop in a strange country pub that gives new meaning to the word 'hospitality'. It's clear they're not welcome, but the locals do offer them some advice before turfing them out on their heels. "Stay on the road" and "beware the moon" they're told. It's all too weird, so they head out once again into the night. But, against this advice they leave the road and become lost, wandering the fields in circles. Before they realise the enormity of their error, they hear a nearby howl and are set upon by an enraged, long-fanged beast.

    David is injured, but lives to tell the tale, contrary to the reports held by Scotland Yard. Was the attack perpetrated by an escaped loony or a wild beast? David wants to trust his gut feelings, but is clearly traumatised by the ordeal. Not only is he stuck in a London hospital, he's began experiencing violent nightmares and bizarre visitations from his now-deceased travel partner, Jack. Jack tries to warn David that as a survivor of the attack, he is now a Werewolf. With a full moon only days away, Jack implores David to commit suicide before he hurts any innocent people. Will David heed his late friend's advice?

    An American Werewolf in London is a classic of the genre, combining equal proportions of laughs and scares to great effect. The make-up effects by Rick Baker were state of the art in their time, and hold up surprisingly well by modern standards. Our lead character's transformation from man to werewolf is superbly enacted and has been both imitated and lampooned in countless films since. Although the script had been changing hands for many years, by this time Director John Landis was fresh from enjoying the success of Animal House and The Blues Brothers, so gaining a good cast and studio backing was suddenly easier. Quite a few recognisable faces can be found, such as Rick Mayall as a chess-playing local of the aforementioned pub. Beautiful British actress Jenny Agutter also features as Nurse Alex Price, the love interest of David.

    If you're a fan of the film, this HD DVD doesn't present any new or exclusive bonus material, but the improvement in transfer quality does make it a worthy upgrade. Similarly, if you're yet to experience the film this HD transfer would be the ideal way to see it for the first time.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 720p. More information can be found here.

    The feature is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in a native 16x9 frame. The video stream has been compressed via the VC-1 codec at a resolution of 1080p. This is one of those films I've owned on every format at some time or another, so to see it released in HD is pretty special.

    An HD transfer of a film of this age and budget is never going to be comparable to current benchmarks such as King Kong or World Trade Center. I began reviewing this disc with the mindset that the best I could hope for would be an improvement on the SD release, and that's exactly what it is. MPEG compression issues have been removed completely, while the image itself is much less dark. Shadow definition and shading is excellent. Colours seem much more vibrant and are free of noise.

    I have no doubt that this transfer has been sourced from the same master that was made for the 20th Anniversary Special Edition. Despite the improvements I noted above, there are still moments of extreme grain and the odd spot of dirt on the print. Like the SE transfer of 2001, the opening scenes fare the worst in terms of grain and mild telecine wobble, but the transfer does improve greatly soon afterwards.

    The level of clarity is noticeably superior to the SD equivalent, for example take the scene at 31:55 where the books on the shelves are nicely defined. In the SD transfer this shot is not nearly as sharp. Skin textures and costume fabrics also reveal a level of detail I had never experienced on prior releases of this film.

    An English subtitle stream is included for the hearing impaired. The text is relatively accurate and easy to read.

    This disc is a dual layered format (HD-30).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are six soundtracks included, four of which are foreign language dubs. The default soundtrack is determined by the viewer's selection in an initial language setup menu. I listened to the film's original English audio (Dolby Digital Plus 5.1), as well as the Audio Commentary by actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne (Dolby Digital 2.0).

    Like the video transfer, the audio presentation is comparable to the SD release. There are the same variances in dialogue level, probably an issue with the ADR process. Likewise, there are a few lines that are poorly synced. These issues aside, the spoken word is easy to discern throughout.

    Channel separation is great, while the mix as a whole seems to contain a lot more depth, particularly in effects and soundtrack music.

    The surround channels are surprisingly active with thunder, gunfire, wolf howls and passing vehicles surprising the viewer many times during the film. Voices are crisp and are generally confined to the front centre channel.

    The score by Elmer Bernstein is probably the most dated element of the film, but it does do justice to the film's emotional ups and downs. Moon-related ditties are also featured prominently in the soundtrack, particularly from artists Van Morrison and Credence Clearwater Revival.

    The LFE channel adds a little grunt to thunder and gunfire effects, but isn't especially active.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Despite the listing on the cover slick being cleverly re-worded, this is actually the same range of extras that were included on the 20th Anniversary Special Edition.

Menu

    This menu is as generic as you're likely to see on this format. The menu page is animated with a graphic identical to the Universal screen saver, with elevator-muzak audio (yuck!). The menu navigation is also generic, along the lines of other Universal HD DVD titles. The disc is coded with a handy progress bar that appears whenever the film is paused or skipped.

Screen Saver

    A standard feature on Universal titles, the screen saver appears when the film is paused for a few minutes or the menu is left to rotate a number of times.

Audio Commentary- David Naughton & Griffin Dunne (Actors)

    No great surprises here, as the two gents reminisce about filming in the UK and share anecdotes relating to the production. Poor Naughton seems a little jaded by his one-and-only stab at Hollywood stardom, but the commentary remains light and is certainly above average for a straight 'cast effort'. Definitely a worthwhile listen for fans of the film.

Featurette- Making An American Werewolf in London (5:15)

    This brief Making Of was made back in the day, with comments from John Landis and Rick Baker, this is mostly comprised of 16mm footage that was taken on set during production.

Interviews-Crew- Rick Baker (11:13)

    Rick discusses his working relationship with Landis and their first film together, Schlock. There's also some interesting deleted footage included here, showing the special effects team at work between takes.

Interviews-Crew- John Landis (18:18)

    Landis describes his experiences working on Kelly's Heroes in the former Yugoslavia, where he wrote the film's script in 1969. He goes on to explain some of his inspirations for the film, expressing his love for the genre.

Featurette- Casting of the Hand (10:59)

    An interesting peek behind the scenes in Rick Baker's workshop, as the make-up effects team are making a cast of actor David Naughton's hand for use during the transformation scene.

Outtakes (3:07)

    A simple, silent reel of clacker board intros and assorted cut pieces of film. The standard definition DVD version actually included audio of a projector clunking away in the background, but the footage is completely silent here. The end of the reel features a funny skit that was staged while filming the bogus porno footage.

Storyboard to Film Comparison (2:27)

    The porno-theatre sequence is shown in a small window, next to the corresponding storyboard frames.

Gallery-Photo (3:43)

    This gallery includes pans and zooms of assorted promo stills taken during production, with absolutely no audio accompaniment.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Ours is identical to the European HD DVD release. The North American equivalent is a HD DVD / DVD combo format, with the HD side being only single layered (HD-15). No foreign language dubs are included, but the extras are almost the same. Reviews of the North American disc claim that the photo gallery contains audio clips from Bernstein's score, whereas ours is silent.

    At the time of writing, HD DVD discs do not include any Region coding. Being an older catalogue title, it can be picked up quite cheap if you shop around a bit.

Summary

    It goes without saying that An American Werewolf in London is a rite of passage for any young horror fan. Its charm and humour have not aged in the slightest, and it is certain to remain a fan favourite for another 25 years.

    The transfer is the best the film has received to date.

    The extras are ported from the 20th Anniversary Special Edition.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba HD-D1, using HDMI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.

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