Friday, October 29, 2010

Scene & Song: An American Werewolf in London and Bad Moon Rising


Looking back at things as I'm wont to do (my daughter and I inherited my mother's nostalgia gene, so I have an excuse), I noted it is almost two years ago today that I published my very first Halloween-dedicated blog post. Hard to believe I've been writing this blog for that long. Among the films noted within the piece, I celebrated one of my all-time favorite werewolf films:
"The 1981 An American Werewolf in London is first on the list. At only 97 minutes, director John Landis created one of the best werewolf films, ever. Effectively moody, and with great bits of American and British humor thrown about, it still holds up well in story, even after a good many years. The one thing about this particular horror genre, that goes back to the original, The Werewolf, is its tragic, sad nature. And, Landis, though remembered for a lot of excesses in his films, recognized this fact when he brought this to the screen. If you saw this in the theater (as I once did), many were more than a little stunned by its final outcome (especially since it's so easy to care for those plucky Yanks). The other wonderful thing about this film is its great soundtrack. Using many of the older, moon-themed songs, this really connected with the pop culture in a way seldom done before. If you've seen this movie, you know what I write about when you recall the use of CCR's Bad Moon Rising as the pre-cursor to Rick Baker's now famous transformation sequence of actor David Naughton. The year 1981 had another solid entertaining werewolf movie, The Howling. But, it is this one that I remember more dearly."
The rest of this post has been updated and moved to my current blog, found here.

24 comments:

  1. Excellent analysis of this pivotal scene! I like how you talked about some of the visual choices Landis made and the crucial use of music. Wow, this really makes me want to watch this film again. Good stuff.

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  2. Great article for a wonderful scene from one of my favorite films. I will definitely be thinking of this article next time I watch AWIL

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  3. Michael, first of all, congratulations on the advent of your second year anniversary blogging. 

    And secondly, what a great choice to focus on this Halloween-themed "perfect movie moment" (and thank you for the shout-out there!).

    I love American Werewolf in London, and the way that the old legend of the werewolf (which you rightly describe as being tragic character...) is revitalized here for the 1980s. 

    Off the top of my head, I can't think of a horror movie that makes better use of a rock-and-roll/pop/romantic soundtrack, and you describe this scene perfectly; and your discussion of it makes me want to watch the movie again. "Bad Moon Rising" -- and how it's used in the film, makes for a fascinating essay; the right song at the right moment indeed, and I particularly like how you parse that bit "it's bound to take your life." Nice.

    Great post!
    John

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  4. Great stuff - a pitch perfect analysis of a pitch perfect scene.

    And Happy 2nd Anniversary, may there be many more to follow.

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  5. Will Sheriff Alatorre be out and about this Halloween? :)

    I haven't seen much in the horror genre so I enjoyed your breakdown (and the previous post) but I thought I'd share that it was a bit horrific to watch REPO MEN (and the unrated version certainly qualifies as gory if not horror) but the soundtrack was awesome. Your chat about music in films reminded me that I want to buy the soundtrack.

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  6. Boy, American Werewolf In London is a classic. I've had it in my sites for some time to purchase on Blu-Ray.  You bring back the memories.  That old nostalgia gene is kicking in.  I have it too.  : )  That John Fogarty is quite good and I appreciate him more today than I ever did as a kid.  Strange.  The final episode of Stargate SG-1 unending employs Have You Ever Seen The Rain and it's simply beautiful in that final episode.  It has remained with me in much the same way this film has remained with us.

    Music and cinema is a real love for you and you combine and capture it beautifully.  Do you enjoy the werewolf films?  If so, I've never seen, but always wanted to see that French film The Brotherhood Of The Wolf and I'm curious if you recommend it.

    Well my friend, here's to many more years of heartfelt writing.

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  7. Thanks for the kind words, J.D. Yes, AAWiL is well worth seeing (especially this time of year).

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  8. Thank you very much, Colonel.

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  9. Thank you, my friend. It's great to see the amount of fans this films has, and its place around this time of year. For me, it's one of the great viewing pleasures that came out of that decade.

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  10. Thank you very kindly, Colin.

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  11. Yes, I'll be chaperoning my kids around the neighborhood as always. I have to check out Repo Men, Rachel. You got me curious about the film and its soundtrack. Thanks so much.

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  12. It's great to hear that this genetic trait is shared with a friend. You bring up a good point about CCR tunes and how they continue to make their way to TV and films through the decades. I'll mention another one. Author Robert Stone's Vietnam era masterpiece, Dog Soldiers (not to be confused with Neil Marshall's ferocious version of the werewolf tale), was adapted to film and make wonderful use of CCR's Who'll Stop the Rain. In the U.K., the film uses the original source title. Here in the U.S. they changed the name, ironically, to Who'll Stop the Rain.

    I have definitely seen Christophe Gans Brotherhood of the Wolf, and it is well worth catching! It is another reworking of the genre that makes for a splendid wild ride. Make sure to rent or acquire the director's cut. There is a Canadian 3-disc DVD from 2002, or a U.S. 2-disc Special Edition (2008) that are have the 151 minute rendering. Let me know how you like it.

    Always great to have your comment, SFF. Thank you very much.

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  13. A perfect match of song and movie here. Whatever Landis' faults, he sure knew when a CCR song matched his film since he also used CCR's Midnight Special for his Twilight Zone film.

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  14. Another excellent song/movie match, Naomi! Thanks.

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  15. Ah, after reading this, I watched this movie again~~it was always one of my favorites for this time of year. Great song and movie.  Love where he gets the visits from his dead buddy Jack.  Thanks for bringing back the memories ;)

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  16. Thank you very kindly, Moondancer. I also loved the song list you put together in your post.

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  17. Thanks leopard13~~I had fun with that. I hope you listen to some of the songs!

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  18. Sure did. Thanks.

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  19. I remember this as the first horror flick that I really enjoyed going to the movie theater to see.  Most times it felt like a waste of money to go to see the horror movies because I would hide my face and/or cover my ears most of the time.   :-P   AWIL's humor and the soundtrack, this song in particular to build the anticipation for the change certainly helped me get through this one.  (Loved the scene when Griffin Dunne's shredded ghost visits David)  

    Plus, not to be too girlie, but the wee crush I had on David Naughton probably added to my enjoyment of the movie.  ;)

    Great post

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  20. The scenes of Griffin Dunne's Jack haunting his friend David are some of the best scenes in the film. No question. They move the story along, but the interplay between the two, the old friend banter, is in high contrast to carnage being displayed. Shredded is such an appropriate term to use here, Christine.

    Now, did you have that crush on David Naughton before seeing the film, or after? I know I appreciated Jenny Agutter better after seeing her in this  ;) .

    Thanks, Christine.

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  21. Haha!  Yeah, the crush started before the movie. He was in those Dr. Pepper commercials and had a one-hit wonder called "Makin It"...total disco tune.  Did your crush on Jenny start with Logan's Run?  

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  22. Oh, yes. Between Logan's Run and The Eagle Has Landed, both in 1976, I definitely noticed Ms. Agutter. Thanks, Christine.

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  23. I think you'll like the music, and the funny combination of the songs' content with the action on the screen, but it's not a great movie. It's a shame, too, as it has some excellent potential but some bizarre and gaping plot holes plus some garden variety crap really ruin it. I noticed it's based on a book and so was thinking of trying that out.

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  24. I've added it to the old Netflix queue, Rachel. If you read the book, let me know how you enjoyed it. Thanks.

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