An American Werewolf in London appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a dated but decent presentation.
Sharpness seemed fairly good. Occasional instances of soft shots materialized, but the majority of the movie showed pretty positive delineation and accuracy. I saw no moiré effects or jagged edges, but some mild edge enhancement cropped up on a few occasions. In terms of print flaws, I saw a handful of small specks but nothing major.
Colors appeared reasonably accurate, though they didn’t come across as anything special. The movie used a fairly subdued palette and never attempted anything bright or dazzling, so the acceptably precise and solid tones seemed sufficient. The hues appeared to adequately represent the objects. Skin tones could be a bit pink, which seemed typical of the era’s film stocks.
Black levels were acceptably deep, and shadow detail was mostly fine as well. Low-light shots could’ve been clearer, but they offered reasonable clarity and smoothness. Nothing here excelled but this ended up as a more than watchable image.
The film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix offered a dated but generally satisfying experience. The soundfield itself seemed to be fairly varied. Much of the track remained fairly heavily anchored to the front, but on some occasions, it spread nicely to the other speakers.
Music showed good stereo separation, and the mix provided a solid sense of atmosphere. Small sounds cropped up in the front side channels throughout the movie, and the rears added a nice feeling of environment.
During livelier scenes, the track became more involving. Wolf howls would pop up in isolated rear channels, and the sound blended together fairly neatly for an active and useful mix. The ambience made the movie more effective and complemented the action.
Audio quality showed its age but remained acceptable for its era. Although the lines didn’t sound very distinct or natural, they remained intelligible and free of edginess.
Music and effects were less consistent. Elmer Bernstein’s score came across as somewhat muddy. It showed an emphasis on the midrange and lower realms and lacked bright, crisp highs. While overall fidelity seemed to be acceptable for its age, it still sounded a bit blah.
Most of the effects presented fairly thin and flat tones, another artifact of their age. However, some of the sounds stood out as much clearer and more accurate. I believe that some of the stems were re-recorded for the disc, which meant that elements like gunfire didn’t seem to mesh terribly well with older sounds. Oddly, this discrepancy favored the poorer audio quality; since so much of the track showed its 1981 roots, the newer, more accurate elements became a distraction.
In any case, those were kept to a minimum. Although I had some qualms about the audio quality, I thought the mix sounded as good as most other 34-year-old films, and the pretty good soundfield boosted my rating to a “B-”.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2001? Audio was a little smoother, while visuals came across as tighter and more dynamic. The limitations of the original material restricted the improvements, but this was still a pretty good step up in quality.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. First up is an audio commentary from actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne. Both men were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. On a few occasions they offered some good information, but as a whole this was a spotty and dull commentary.
A great deal of the piece passed with no remarks from either man and a fair number of the facts we did hear seemed a bit bland. They were most compelling when they discussed the makeup effects; one segment midway through the film included some nice details about their experiences. However, these moments were few and far between; this was a below-average commentary.
Next we find Making An American Werewolf In London, a featurette that came out during the period of the film’s 1981 theatrical release. At five minutes and 15 seconds, this piece is too short to offer much depth, but it presents a reasonably interesting batch of notes. The shots from the set are especially useful, especially as they detail director John Landis’ cameo in the film.
Speaking of whom, he’s the subject of An Interview with John Landis. Clocking in at 18 minutes and 20 seconds, this new interview with the director provides an entertaining look at the film. Landis covers quite a few topics, from the film’s origins and his intentions to a variety of aspects of the production.
While I like his comments, I could have lived without the excessive number of movie clips. Landis is constantly interrupted with film snippets, and some go on for far too long. It’s fine to toss in a brief bit to illustrate a point, but I got the feeling the disc’s producers forgot that we already own the movie.
A companion piece appears as well. Rick Baker on An American Werewolf In London gives us 11 minutes and 14 seconds of the famous makeup artist’s thoughts about the flick. Baker neatly covers all of the relevant topics, from the transformation scenes to the mechanical wolf to the zombies; the brevity of the program means that we don’t get a wealth of information, but Baker makes the most with what he has.
Happily, we don’t see the excess of film clips found during the Landis interview. Instead, we mainly find “unused footage” of the mechanical wolf and some other effects elements. These essentially give us a glimpse of the work behind the effects, and they’re a nice addition to the package.
Another look at the creation of the effects pops up during Casting of the Hand. This 10-minute, 59-second piece shows exactly what the title states. We watch snippets of the process through which Naughton had to go to have his hand cast; it was then used to make a puppet for the transformation scene.
Though the topic could have been dull, I thought it was an interesting look at this side of the business. The editing made sure that it didn’t literally de-evolve into watching cement harden. It’s not tremendously fascinating, but it was a reasonably fun look at the procedure.
More “behind the scenes” footage appears in the three minutes and eight seconds of silent Outtakes. Unlike the usual batch of unused material, most of these don’t show mistakes made by the actors. Instead, they mainly offer shots just before or after takes. For example, we see the application of blood and goo onto Agutter prior to one shot. It’s a modest but interesting set of bits, especially with the inclusion of the nearly pornographic “Mysterious Footage” at the end.
For something not on the prior DVD, we find a multipart documentary entitled Beware the Moon. It fills one hour, 37 minutes, 37 seconds with notes from Naughton, Landis, Dunne, Baker, cinematographer Robert Paynter, producer George Folsey, first AD David Tringham, costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, art director Leslie Dilley, editor Malcolm Campbell, makeup artists Robin Grantham and Beryl Lerman, special effects assistant Joseph Ross, Steadicam operator Ray Andrew, special effects assistants Bill Sturgeon and Tom Hester, key grip/extra Dennis Fraser, production manager Joyce Herlihy, stunt man Vic Armstrong, and actors Jenny Agutter, David Schofield, John Woodvine, Linzi Drew, Michael Carter and Brenda Cavendish.
We learn about the film’s roots and development, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, costume and production design, audio, score and camerawork, makeup and effects, editing and ratings issues, the film’s release and legacy. “Moon” provides a thorough and thoroughly enjoyable look at the movie. It covers a wide variety and subjects and does so in an enjoyable manner, factors that make it a worthwhile experience.