On Monday the 14th of September, the world famous New Beverly Cinema hosted a special presentation of the 1981 John Landis horror-comedy AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and the world premiere of its new documentary BEWARE THE MOON. There were several guests in attendance that included the makers of the doc, legendary producer George Folsey Jr. and makeup effects maestro Rick Baker plus a few members of his original team. The evening started with the screening of a beautiful 35mm print of the classic…
I saw AMERICAN WEREWOLF about 5 times in the theatre back in ’81 and dozens of times on home video. It’s easy to forget how monumental a film this was for the horror genre back then. It’s influence has been so big that it’s now become a standard to combine humor with startling violence. John Landis was not the first guy to mix horror with comedy, but he was the first one to balance it so perfectly and while the movie featured “modern” effects (at least at the time they were) it was also paying homage to the great movie monsters of the past.
In the documentary BEWARE THE MOON, John Landis tells of how he came up with this crazy movie. He was working on the crew of KELLEY’S HEROES in Yugoslavia, when he came across two men burying a corpse by the side of the road. The body was being covered with garlic and other strange things and when he asked why, he was told the man was a violent criminal and they didn’t want him to rise out of the grave and kill anyone. John Landis said the fact that they had just put a man on the moon and here were two guys that were still afraid of zombies was the impetus for him to write AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.
Rick Baker’s transformation scene is still the best one ever put on film. Everything about that sequence is still so amazing to look at and at the screening that night, it received a huge applause from the New Bev audience. Listening to Rick Baker talk about it’s evolution from concept to reality was very interesting.
I had a question about the movie, but I waited until the documentary was over, because we were told that it pretty much covers everything about the film. My question was in regards to an old article I remember reading back in the day, when the film was first released. In an interview with John Landis, he stated that he had cut the attack of the werewolf against the three homeless guys in the junkyard because the “preview” audience’s reaction was so strong, they kept talking for 5 minutes after the scene was over. Landis was afraid that audiences would miss out on the next scene because the last one was so wild, so he cut it. In the doc he admits that he should have left it in and I was hoping to see some footage, but alas, there was none.
Lucky for me, I had the entire sequence described to me by none other than Max Landis (yes, that’s the son of John), who was also there that night. A group of us fans were discussing the movie, when Max Landis walked up and started telling us some stories about it. The description he gave me of the scene in question, sounded awesome and made me wish I could see it even more. Also, the fact that it was described to me by Max, who looks and acts almost exactly like his dad was pretty damn amazing too. Max is a screenwriter and a really cool guy. Thanks again, Max!
If you’re a fan, I would definitely buy AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON on Blu Ray, because it also includes the fantastic documentary BEWARE THE MOON. It’s very well made and covers everything you would ever want to know about this great film. Until next time, stay off the moors and beware the moon.