Even 40 years after its initial release, An American Werewolf in London remains a high water mark for horror-comedies, blending the two genres with an effortlessness that remains mostly unmatched. Arrow released a Blu-ray edition a few years ago that fixed several of the film’s longstanding home-video transfer issues; its new 4K Ultra HD edition enhances that previous restoration and includes quite a few cool pack-in collectibles that make it worth the upgrade for tempted collectors of the format.
The story follows two American backpackers, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne), who are traversing the Yorkshire moors. In classic monster-movie fashion, they come across a local tavern, where they’re treated with distrust and disdain. The townsfolk warn them to stay off the moors and beware the full moon. That pub, incidentally, is named the Slaughtered Lamb. Writer-director John Landis knows the kind of film he’s making and leans in on the inherent comedy of self-aware humor to enhance the terror that follows. David and Jack don’t heed the warnings and are attacked by a creature who eviscerates Jack and incapacitates David, who wakes up in a London hospital several days later. Soon David starts experiencing dark fantasies, nightmares and spectral visits from an increasingly decayed Jack, who warns him he’s been bitten by a werewolf and is destined to transform upon the next full moon.
Although Landis deserves considerable credit for the film, it’s really special-effects artist Rick Baker who changed the genre with his stunning depiction of gore and body horror. David’s transformation into the werewolf — that agonizing, bone-crushing metamorphosis — redefined the way werewolves were depicted in popular cinema.
The new set by Arrow includes their 4K restoration from the original camera negative, as well as both DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and 1.0 Mono tracks. There are two audio commentaries — one by filmmaker Paul David and another with Naughton and Dunne. Beware the Moon, a behind-the-scenes documentary, runs about the length of the film itself, and there are a number of other special featurettes.
As packaging goes, the Limited Edition is the same form factor as the other Arrow packages and looks great on a shelf. The slipcovers give each of these releases a real prominence in a collection without looking out of place. A 60-page perfect-bound book features essays by Craig Ian Mann and Simon Ward, as well as original reviews from the film’s first release. The set also includes a fold-out poster, a reversible sleeve for the DVD case, and six postcard-sized lobby card reproductions. Arrow has done everything possible to make this upgrade palatable to fans who may think they’re fine with the Blu-ray.