It’s been many years since I last watched this film and I’ve always looked back with admiration. This time, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a glorious film and pure John Landis. Arguably the greatest werewolf film ever made. High praise? Just honesty, nothing else comes near.
Two American’s embark on a 3 month trip around Europe, starting their journey in Northern England. After a ride in the back of a sheep truck they are dropped off in the Yorkshire Moors and soon seek shelter in the ‘Slaughtered Lamb’; an Inn with questionable hospitality. A small misunderstanding sees the lads walking in the dark, full moon over head, across the fields. It soon becomes apparent they are not alone. After a vicious attack only one survives and soon awakes in a London hospital being looked after by Nurse Alex Price (Jenny Agutter) and the daunting thought of a full moon approaching.
David Naughton takes the lead role as David Kessler, the American with the carnivorous lunar habit, and a stunning performance it is too, carried with charm, wit and charisma which is perfect against the backdrop of England, both North and South. It’s great to see such obvious clichés of England which could be seen as the first impression to tourists but are very firmly rooted in truths which still hold up in today’s society. In the North, flat-caps and mild are the typical stereotype, but I’ve found myself in pubs not too dissimilar to the Slaughtered lamb. The same goes for the London cast, especially the fops and cops.
It’s a tribute to the perceptive talents of Landis who paints a perfect cartoon England. Shot with a great script containing plenty of black humor against a balance of horror and suspense and when things get gruesome, it’s pretty damn grizzly and blood-soaked. One of the final scenes in Piccadilly Circus is a stunning composition of chaos and carnage.
Nearly 30 years have passed since the release of this film and it’s amazing that it still looks and feels very fresh, but what has always stood out for me is the tremendous lycanthrope transformation produced by the hand of Oscar winning Rick Baker which is yet to be bettered. Outstanding.