31 Days of Horror: An American Werewolf In London

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Just re-released on DVD, this is the best werewolf movie ever made. The story is simple --a couple of Americans (David Naughton and Griffin Dunne) are hitchhiking across Britain one dark and stormy night. They stumble across a inn called the Slaughtered Lamb that happens to have a pentagram drawn on its wall. The local residents are very hostile when Naughton and Dunne ask about it.

As the pair leave the inn to go out into the night, they're warned: "Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors. Beware the moon, lads." Naturally they walk on the moors. They ignore the moon.

Then something attacks, leaving one mangled and dead and the other alive but cursed.

The movie is probably John Landis' best film. After this he tried to outdo Steven Spielberg on The Twilight Zone: The Movie resulting in the deaths of several people working on the film. He really hasn't made anything worthwhile since. [Editor's note: Shane and readers, check out Landis' short The Deer Woman, made for the Masters of Horror anthology series. It's a lot of fun.]

An American Werewolf In London has its funny moments but unlike Landis' previous movies--National Lampoon's Animal House and The Blues Brothers, which were both comedies--this is a capital-H horror movie. And believe me, it's quite horrifying at times. Just the sound of the werewolf makes my hair stand on end. The other highlight of this film is its special effects. It features the first full body werewolf transformation on screen. In this day and age of CGI effects--it still doesn't come close to how amazing the transformation scenes looks in this film. The first time those terrible yellow eyes snap open is just chilling.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

This week in direct to DVD releases featured another in the long line of Warner Brothers original animated movies based on the DC Comic book line. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is based on the first 6 issues of the once popular Superman/Batman comic. The comic was written by Jeph Loeb - a screenwriter (of such classic movies like Commando and Teen Wolf) turned comic book writer. He gained some fame for writing a couple of popular Batman stories - The Long Halloween and Hush. And now the circle is complete. One of his mediocre comic stories is now an animated movie. The really interesting thing about this release is the return of voice actor Kevin Conroy as Batman. He was the voice of Batman in the innovative Batman Animated Series from the 1990's.

Batman had been in a variety of cartoons throughout the 60's, 70's and 80's but it wasn't until 1992 that they finally got it right. With a unique visual style from artist Bruce Timm and a team of excellent writers lead by Paul Dini, the series was darker than most cartoons out there and was leaps and bounds better than the live action movies that Warner was releasing into theatres at the time (cough Batman Forever, Batman and Robin cough). It was such an innovative series that several characters created for the cartoon had made their way into the comics and a permanent part of Batman's lore like Joker's girlfriend Harley Quinn. Warner soon brought in a variety of superhero and various spin offs - Superman, Justice League, etc. And then Warner replaced the series with a dumbed down kid friendly version called The Batman in 2004.

Pick of the Day: Jazz & Juice

The title of this Regina Symphony Orchestra event at the Hotel Sask tonight shouldn't be taken literally. Yes, if you decide to attend (tix cost $50), you will be treated to some fine jazz courtesy of the Nigel Taylor Trio (Taylor, by the way, plays trumpet for the RSO. He's also a member of the agri-funk band the Nancy Ray-Guns).

But the "Juice" part of the title conjures up images of impeccably dressed servers at the hotel circulating through the audience with silver trays of McCain's drinking boxes. That most assuredly will not happen. Instead, patrons will be feted with fine wines and gourmet foods while they're being entertained by Taylor and his colleagues.

Whoever thought up the title for this shindig did a reasonably good job. "Juice" as slang for alcohol does evoke thoughts of the Prohibition era when the production and sale of booze was outlawed, and jazz was at its peak in terms of popularity. Indeed, the 1920s were known as the Jazz Age.

As a salute to the era, here's the trailer for The Roaring Twenties -- a classic 1939 gangster flick starring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. (YouTube)