“An American werewolf in London” turns 40: story of a masterpiece between horror and parody (with amazing special effects)

by time news

August 21, 1981. After the exploit (and the remarkable public success) of the memorable “The Blues Brothers”, released the previous year, director John Landis is awaited at the gate by critics and audiences who expect him to confirm his subversive talent / fake insane up to now exhibited (with “Animal House” however already firmly entered in the ranks of the classics of the genre). However, when his follow-up project, the Anglo-American co-production “An American Werewolf in London” (“An American Werewolf in London”), arrives in US theaters (in Italy it will be released, quietly, only in December), the effect is unsettling. A little because it is the third and last of three werewolf-themed films (all masterpieces) of that film year (the other two are the somewhat similar “L’ululato / The Howling” by Joe Dante, released on 13 March , and the shocking and unacknowledged “Wolfen”, the only fictional work by Woodstock director Michael Wadleigh, released – so to speak – not even a month earlier), partly because the absence of prominent stars on the bill (the producers at one point they proposed again the couple Belushi / Aykroyd, but Landis was adamant) weighs like a boulder on the hypothetical commercial success of the film. But above all because the proposal is so eccentric, so personal and so consciously alien to the possibility of being traced back to a genre (“Landis alternates the tones of the comedy with the horror ones, without turning – attention! – a comic horror” [P. Mereghetti]) to generate a kind of distrust in the mainstream public. The result at the American box office (thirty million dollars at the time against a budget of just under ten) certainly does not bury him in the flop category: but it is the aura of an authentic cult movie that has grown around it without giving up over the last four decades. place it firmly in that area of ​​the collective imagination populated by the nightmares and reflections of the great masters of the screen (such as Carpenter, Cronenberg, Romero, Hooper, Craven, Dante) who in the Eighties brought their theoretical discourses on cinema to the apex as place of mutation of the meat by celluloid interposer.

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