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“Oh, hi doggie. I said we can go for a walk after I’m done on the phooOOAAAAAAHH!” Right: The Japanese poster for AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.


Let’s face it: even though cinema audiences were much more naïve seventy years ago, neither of those movies would have worked if no one bought the fact that the two guys were each going through their own unique brand of hell. Great makeup and good acting sold both films. The end of that golden era came with ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. And as much love as I have for that movie (I still think it’s the perfect Universal movie for all ages), there will always be a part of me that wishes Lawrence Talbot’s Wolf Man wasn’t in it. Why? Well, at the end of HOUSE OF DRACULA, Lawrence Talbot—one of the most tortured beings in horror cinema history—was finally able to walk away from this cursed life, into the light of the full moon , and in my heart of hearts, I would have loved for it to have stayed that way. Oh well. The second golden werewolf era was a tad shorter than the


first. It only spans from April 1981 till August 1981, when THE HOWLING and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON were released, earning 1981 the title ‘Year of the Werewolf’. Neither of the movies were anything remotely like their predecessors, as both had a healthy mixture of screams and laughs. Yet each was unique unto itself. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON looks every


bit like a John Landis movie—a good thing, too, because it was directed by John Landis. Music, nakedness, and gigantic practical effects carnage all play a huge part in making the movie as good as it is. The horror elements add the perfect frosting on the cupcake— or, in this case, fairy cake. If I had to categorize it, I’d say it is a horrific comedy film (as opposed to THE HOWLING, which is a comedic horror film). For me—someone who has never strayed outside of the continental United States—AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON was like a cheap trip to England. I walked away having learned a valuable lesson: I have no earthly idea what moors are, but to this day I stay clear of them. And, really, aren’t the best movies the ones in which you learn where not to go to get torn to shreds? THE HOWLING was a much scarier film and certainly a


much scarier film-going experience. My friends and I traveled to New York (from Connecticut) so we could catch it early, and I swear there was a guy at the end of our row who looked like Eddie Quist’s brother. And each time one of the werewolves were attacking someone, he was pounding his fist on the arm of his seat and whispering, “Get ‘em! Get ‘em! Go get ‘em!” I’m now 55 years old, and it’s still the only time I’ve been


more worried about my own safety than the safety of the victims in the film. But I left the theater feeling that THE HOWLING was a masterpiece, and with more in-jokes than I’ve ever experienced in a movie theater, a wonderful wink to audiences who love werewolf films. It was also a blast seeing Forry [Ackerman] on the big screen in a relatively big budget movie! Unfortunately, THE HOWLING had almost as many sequels as FRIDAY THE 13TH


—each one worse than the last—and they


involved everything from killer marsupials to country line dancing. (I kid you not!) As great as the casts of these two movies were, and as beautifully directed and written as they were, the real stars of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and THE HOWLING, respectively, were Rick Baker and Rob Bottin. Never before had transformations from man to beast looked so painful and so real. And although they were both a bit too air-bladder intensive, thirty years later they continue to look considerably better than the CGI transformation stuff that’s been coming down the pike for the latter part of the last century. In my film library, I have pretty much every obscure werewolf


film appearance that I could ever want, from Dick Martin in THE MALTESE BIPPY to Michael Landon’s nod to his I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF role in the ‘I Was A Middle-Aged Werewolf’ episode of HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN. I have a bunch of Paul Naschy werewolf films, werewolves from Washington, and werewolves on wheels. I love them all. And even though RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE is to werewolf pictures what DEVIL SHIP PIRATES is to yachting films, the movie managed to do something to me that Jack Pierce did to Lon Chaney Jr. so many times… … it transformed me.


FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND • JAN/FEB 2012 23


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