Twenty years- I hadn’t seen this film in more than twenty years. That’s no judgement on the film itself- I think I’d just seen it so many times on VHS when it was such a popular rental that I’d just worn myself out on it, I guess; indeed I never bought it on DVD, or Blu-ray until this new Arrow edition (boasting corrected audio and remastered picture, as well as boatloads of extras). Seeing an old film at its best, or better than previous formats managed, is always a temptation of course- its why so many of us get suckered into the dreaded double-triple-dip, especially when Amazon has a sale on.
So how did the film measure up over the years? Pretty damn well really. Of course its dated but that is all part of the charm of such films- character actors so familiar (particularly to us British viewers) looking so astonishingly young (I’d never realised, for instance, that a very young Rik Mayall featured in the early pub scene) and of course all those old cars in street scenes etc. Its almost looking at an old forgotten world.
Which is partly what amazed me about it: I was oddly fascinated by the decor in Nurse Alex Prices apartment, and in particular the small b&w CRT television sitting in a corner. Of course there was a time when televisions were small and not huge screens bolted onto walls, it seems almost cute and arcane, how things used to be. Nurse Alex was too busy in her career and didn’t have more than three channels and no video recorder either- what on Earth would she want with a big television anyway? Probably why she kept books and actually read them.
So when David is biding time while Alex is at work, he switches on that ancient artefact of what approximated a television back then, and of course as its the daytime, the BBC channel is transmitting the old test card. Wowza. Those were the days.
So anyway, that’s what probably amazed me the most, re-watching An American Werewolf in London– not the still-impressive Rick Baker transformation make-up or the gentle pace of the film, or the fact that the whole cast were pretty uniformly great, or that Jenny Agutter was as beautiful as I remembered and probably the best thing in the whole film, oddly enough- no, it was that old b&w television and seeing that old test card. Its a funny thing, watching old movies again (does An American Werewolf in London, released in 1981, even qualify as an ‘old’ movie? There’s a debate for another day).