There are a handful of films that come to mind when thinking of the werewolf subgenre of Horror. Of course, 1941’s The Wolfman with Lon Chaney, but after that, chances are you will immediately jump forward decades to pick 1981’s An American Werewolf in London. Written and directed by John Landis, who prior had been making Comedy flicks such as 1978’s Animal House as well as 1980’s The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London would be his first exploration into the Horror realm. A risky career move, at the time, financers actually did not know what to make of Landis’ ideas; according to them, his concepts were either too frightening for Comedy, or too funny for Horror. Persevering, Landis secured funding through PolyGram Pictures and began filming An American Werewolf in London in early 1981.
Later released in August of 1981, the film became a hit in theaters, and over forty decades later remains one of the greatest werewolf films ever made. Clearly proving naysayers wrong, what executives failed to understand is that any good Horror film has a delicate balance of dark humor to offset the horrific images on screen; and honestly, this is a lost art in the Horror genre in 2022… but that is a story for another day. Anyway, An American Werewolf in London was effective for various reasons. Some would say it was the dark, damp England countryside, others would say it was the outstanding special make-up effects of Rick Baker, while most would agree it is a perfect combination of both, plus more. Either way it is no stretch to say An American Werewolf in London is a classic piece of Horror cinema that deserves to be celebrated. Doing just that, Arrow Video put out a 4K Ultra HD Limited Edition Set of the film back on March 15, 2022.
Now, it is arrogant to think that everyone has a 4K player, or even understands the technical differences. In short, 4K is supposed to offer significantly more detailed, deeper colored, and brighter imagery. Does it? Well, I guess that depends on who is watching or the transfer, but for the sake of this An American Werewolf in London set, there is certainly a noticeable difference. How so? Well, chances are if you are investing the money in this 4K Ultra HD set you have probably seen this film more than a handful of times; so, your eyes know the scenes backwards and forwards. That said, you have probably seen it either in the theater (if you were lucky enough), rented it on VHS, or owned it on DVD or Blu-ray in the past. These thoughts in mind, it is not lip service to say that Arrow Films did an excellent job restoring the original camera negatives into 4K for this set. For example, the opening scenes at night where David Kessler (David Naughton: Hot Dog… The Movie 1984, My Sister Sam series) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne: After Hours 1985, Who’s That Girl 1987) carelessly get lost in the moors, on their way to meet doom, are significantly crisper and brighter. Furthermore, the 4K treatment stands out in the unforgettable werewolf transformation scene; ultra-high resolution does not take away from Baker’s effects, and they still look 100% better than any cheap CGI lazily used nowadays.
Beyond the actual 4K transfer, which honestly is worth it, this set offers a great deal of bonus content that fans are going to want to have. First of all, it comes in a high-quality hard box with beautiful handcrafted artwork that is a collage of classic images from the film. Additionally, the set includes a double-sided fold-out poster (with new and original artwork), six double-sided postcard-sized lobby card reproductions, plus a 60-page book featuring new writing from Craig Ian Mann and Simon Ward, as well as some archival articles and original reviews. Not cheaply made, the poster, lobby cards, and most of all, the book is fantastic. Speaking of the book, it has some compelling essays discussing An American Werewolf in London, but is also brought together nicely by some great captures from the film.
Is this all enough to convince you to purchase this set? If you are still on the fence, there are also a slew of extras on the actual 4K disc which include interviews, plus every documentary about An American Werewolf in London you could ever want to view. In no way an exaggeration in order to sell a product, this is the definitive collection of this film for fans. And if you have not sprung for a 4K player yet, the Panasonic DP-UB420-K is a quality model that won’t break the bank. As far as this limited-edition set goes, there are actually still products available to purchase… and the price has dropped a little since the initial release; so, it would be recommended to grab it while the price is still low, because chances are it will be absurdly expensive on eBay in a few years. A perfect Halloween or Christmas present for yourself or a Horror loving friend, Cryptic Rock gives the 4K Ultra HD Limited Edition American Werewolf in London set 5 out of 5 stars.