A favourite movie of mine that I have watched numerous times on DVD and before that on a copied VHS version recorded off the TV many moons ago, John Landis’ seminal werewolf movie is still as shocking and, well, fun as it was when it was first released back in 1981.
A horror/comedy that combines the best of both without being trite, cliché or corny, Werewolf is a film that has endured, thanks to a superb fast-paced script, terrific pacing, and special effects (especially the transformation scene) that after nearly 25 years still stand the test of time. It is still the film that all other werewolf movies are compared to.
With a simple plot involving two hitchhiking American students and their off-road travel in the Yorkshire Moors (which for the most part is actually Wales) the movie grabs you by the throat instantly. From the entrance into the Slaughtered Lamb pub to a barrage of silence from the locals and the savage primary attack, the film is relentless in its insistence of moving the plot along. And while we don’t get to see the actual classic werewolf transformation until well over half the movie, the build up of vivid dreams, apparitions of decaying friends trapped in limbo and evil Nazi demons nightmares means you are not twiddling your thumbs waiting for that all important stretchy hand bit.
While it is a film I have seen many times, watching Werewolf in high-def is a very welcome experience. The first thing you notice, of course, is the picture, which is superb, pin sharp and lusciously filled with colour. Even the muddy, quickly cut scenes towards the end of the film where David, fully transformed into a wolf, goes on the rampage in Piccadilly Circus, look fantastic. The bus crash, stunt motorcycle accident and the severed head effects all look even more impressive then they did originally.
This is also true with the rest of the movie, whether it’s the clinical halls of the hospital, or the dream-like sequences of David running hunting through the forest, everything looks brand new. I am also loathed to say it, but it has to be mentioned as it is a classic scene and as it stars one of Den Of Geek’s favourite actresses: yes the ‘blue-moon’ naughty bits also look beautiful, with the 1080 image making Jenny Agutter look even more gorgeous.
It’s not just the actors, scenery and Ms Agutter’s shapely form that looks superb; the work of Rick Baker also looks fantastic. In an age where CG was being developed in labs by people like Ed Catmull and tested on audiences in films like Tron, it was up to the special effects guys with plastic, paintbrushes and infinite patience to impress us with their work and Werewolf, even without the assistance of HD, still impresses.
However, with the increase in clarity every hair, warped facial expression and stretched and twisted limb in the classic transformation sequence can be seen in all its glory. This also goes for the ripped up visage of Jack in his return from limbo. From the dripping oozing still fresh scars of his first hospital appearance to his continued decay and the adult cinema scene where he introduces David to his victims, each and every effect is highlighted and shown off to its very best. And, while the puppet of Jack’s final appearance looks like a puppet, it doesn’t matter as the work, detail and care this cadaverous masterpiece has just looks fantastic.
With the emphasis on the special effects, the extras also highlight the detail and work that the visual effects team put into Werewolf. A new documentary called ‘Beware the Moon’, a commentary and back-stage documentaries are stitched together to create a great set of extras pulling in both newly shot documentaries and content. While some of the aspects you may have seen before from the DVD, the documentary provides hours of test footage, explanations about how the effects were achieved and comments from David Naughton and Griffin Dunne about how long they had to spend in make-up chairs, under fake floors or having casts of their faces done. Increasing credit heads in the direction of helmer John Landis who, it seems, kept the humour and morale up across what appears to have been a tricky shoot.
With details of Rick Baker’s make-up, the conflict with The Howling (also released in 1981)and some great scenes with John Landis and the stars of ‘See you next Tuesday’, there is a lot of cinematic treasure to go through in the special features with some being nearly as entertaining as the film itself.
With everything being presented in 5.1 sound, this really is a great disc and shows, with care and attention, classic films from yesterday can really benefit from the high-def treatment and look nearly as good as their modern digitally filmed counterparts. A great film and a superb transfer this is a Blu-(moon)ray disk you should really pick up.
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