Tag Archives: Rik Mayall

An American Werewolf in London #30DaysOfFright

A unique beast of a movie, An American Werewolf In London is something of a hybrid of a film. One moment it is laugh out loud funny and the next it is shriek out loud scary.

It’s hard to think of a film that has melded horror and comedy to better effect, although at the time of release apparently people didn’t really understand the shifts in tone.

london1

The film charts the journey of two American friends, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne), who are backpacking across the Yorkshire Moors. It’s a memorable trip for all the wrong reasons as one is killed and the other is savaged by a werewolf. David lives but keeps seeing Jack, in various states of decomposition, warning him that on the next full moon he too shall become a rampaging werewolf. David’s visions get weirder until, finally, he transforms in the middle of London.

london6Jack’s scenes are even harder to watch knowing that the year after this film was released Dunne’s sister was murdered by her boyfriend, she had just completed work as the older sister in Poltergeist.

In many ways this is a love letter to classic Universal horror, Director John Landis is certainly a fan, even though – pulling something of a Jaws – we don’t get our transformation scene until an hour into the film.

london3That Universal-feel is perhaps best felt when our two wandering Americans stumble upon The Slaughtered Lamb pub and it falls silent. It’s a classic moment in a classic film with its pentagrams, missed dart boards, an on the money Brian Glover and a young Rik Mayall.

The lack of a lycanthrope for that first 60 minutes doesn’t mean we don’t get plenty of scares that still leave scars. The initial attack on the Moors – if only they had stuck to the road as warned – is swift but shocking, especially as moments earlier they were laughing and joking.

london2Then we have the dream sequences, particularly the – never explained but no need to as everyone was too busy being scared – vampiric David in his hospital bed, looking like an extra from Salem’s Lot.

And then there is the scene of David back home with his mum and dad and his younger brother and sister. They are watching The Muppet Show (big at the time and Frank Oz AKA Missy Piggy and Fozzie Bear is also in the film) when the doorbell rings. David’s dad answers the door to be blasted away by Nazi werewolf monster thugs. It’s the scene WTF would perfectly sum up had it existed in 1981.

london12Left field, unexpected and downright disturbing leaving a mark on its viewers – in their pants probably – and mentally for decades to come. What’s great about this though is that when David wakes up his nurse, Jenny Agutter, goes to the window and is promptly stabbed by one of the Nazi beasts. Nearly pulling the Carrie trick midway through the film. Waking up a second time David exclaims ‘holy shit.’ Too right!

london7When the full moon arrives we are instore for a cinematic treat. The transformation scene is still the best committed to film and was all done practically and in camera. No wonder the rumour is that the best make up Oscar category was created specially to honour this film and Rick Baker. And it doesn’t take place in some dark alley, it’s in a fully lit living room.

As well as being a technical marvel it really conveys the painfulness of it all. To all intense and purposes this is David’s death scene.

And there’s something that is still brilliant about the scene knowing that it was all done on set and not one pixel at a time in a computer (take note Van Helsing and An American Werewolf in Paris – lame dogs both).

london8Post transformation we have a flurry of attacks, including one that makes fantastic use of the tube and you can’t fail to think about it next time you find yourself in an empty tube station at night or deserted escalator.

With its similar time-frame, a group of memorable British character actors, its UK. Setting, it’s denial of what is unfolding and its tragic ending I always saw it as something of a companion piece to The Omen in many ways.

london10Agutter is a compelling and a memorable love interest, but it’s Doctor Hirsch who I love most out of the supporting characters. Especially when he is in full investigation mode and travels back to The Slaughtered Lamb. He always seemed a bit like the David Warner character in The Omen to me.

Although David was cursed unlike the supposed curse of the omen this film was not, although it’s dedication in celebrating the marriage of Charles and Diana didn’t do them any favours.

 

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Hood do you think you are?

It’s been 25 years since Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves crashed onto UK cinema screens, and we all know that Kevin Costner and Errol Flynn donned tights and confounding archery trickery in the forests of Sherwood.

Dean Newman picks a quiver full of people who have also brought the world’s most famous outlaw to life, including a duck and Cheggers!

Daffy Duck

As featured in Robin Hood Daffy… (1958)

robinhooddaffyFollowing the same well drawn lines as his other alter ego Duck Dodgers, Daffy Duck, heads to Sherwood with fine support from Porky Pig as Friar Tuck. Directed by animation legend, Chuck Jones.

 Rocket Robin Hood

As featured in Rocket Robin Hood… (1968)

roket robin hood titlesThe series was high concept to say the least: in the year 3000, a descendant of the original Robin Hood reforms the Merry Men, complete with namesakes of the originals, to combat a new Prince John, despotic ruler of the National Outer space Terrestrial Territories, and the Sheriff of N.O.T.T.(National Outer-Space Terrestrial Territories).

While the bow and arrow was still Robin’s weapon of choice, almost everything else was updated. He now had rayguns, electro-quarter staves and rocket ships at his disposal…and jet-packs! Think Space Ghost style animation meets the original animated Spiderman.

Keith Chegwin

As featured in Robin Hood Junior… (1975)

RHjrCheggers plays pop-ular action folk hero in his Children’s Film Foundation classic (think the Robin Hood version of Bugsy Malone minus those custard pie guns and all that singing). A fantastically fun romp that deserves to be released on DVD with Keith Chegwin commentary!

Sean Connery

As featured in Robin and Marian… (1976)

Talking of Bond…one of the few Robin Hood’s to die on screen and indeed to show him in his twilight years. Slower paced and had a fantastic Guy of Gisbourne in the shape of Robert Shaw. Acting, of course, runs in the family and Jason got to step up to the plate in the third series of Robin of Sherwood as Robert of Huntingdon.

 John Cleese

As featured in Time Bandits… (1981)

There’s more than a bonkers feel to this Terry Gilliam film fest with Python face as perhaps the oddest choice big screen aloof Hood ever, in charge of some perhaps too Merry Men.

Michael Praed

As featured in Robin of Sherwood… (1984 – 1986)

robin of sherwoodFor me this was as much a part of early 80s Saturday teatime as Doctor Who. Still looks great nearly 30 years later and features a fantastic turn from Ray Winstone as the screens greatest ever Will Scarlet. Had a brilliant two-part opener that fused together would have made one of the best Robin Hood films ever! Famously full of mysticism, it was the first Robin Hood to take in the notion of the green man and introduce us to Herne the Hunter. It was also the first to introduce a Saracen character from the Crusades that has now – with Prince of Thieves and the recent BBC TV series – become the norm.

Praed bowed out after series two, succumbing to the Sheriff and his men, or in TV terms, moved to America to only be shot at his own wedding in Dynasty, surely the Hood equivalent of George Lazenby jacking in Bond after one film. Interesting fact: Neil Morrissey, from Men Behaving Badly and Boon, almost got to play the Hooded Man.

Patrick Stewart

As featured in Star Trek: The Next Generation… (1987 – 1994)

It’s in one of those dastardly Q moments that expertly lampoons the look and feel of Flynn’s Adventures of Robin Hood, albeit with a Klingon and an android, it also some brilliant knowing dialogue. Stewart also parodied the Sean Connery role in Prince of Thieves, complete with strong Scottish accent, at the close of Men in Tights.

Patrick Bergin

As featured in Robin Hood… (1991)

The ‘other’ Robin Hood of 1991, this Irishman played Robin Hood with a tache in what was released as a TV movie in America but theatrically over here in Blightly. Billed as gritty, it certainly rhymed with that, as it added elements into the mix that were just downright odd/dull. Uma Thurman made an interesting Maid Marian however. Not a lot really happens.

Cary Elwes

As featured in Robin Hood: Men in Tights… (1993)

“Unlike other Robin Hoods I speak with an English accent.” Cary Elwes showed he was good with a blade in The Princess Bride and actually would have made an impressive bonafide Hooded Man. Was actually born in England, which is something of a rarity for big screen Robin Hoods in Hollywood. Certainly not Mel Brook’s greatest film ever but has aged well and still manages to raise more than a titter.

Rik Mayall

As featured in Blackadder: Back and Forth… (1999)

One of those oh so special programmes produced for the millennium, indeed it was produced to be shown at The Dome, which generally means they miss the mark more than they hit with a parade of famous people trying to be oh so funny, also see Comic Relief specials etc, in the days before Extras. Blackadder’s very own Lord Flash heart managed to stuff himself in his tights and brought along Kate Moss as Maid Marian. Beware, not as good as the original series. Close, but no cigar, Darling.

Keira Knightley

As featured in Princess of Thieves (did you see what they did there)… (2001)

Before playing with Pirates this young moppet played Robin Hood’s daughter in this little seen Disney TV movie which also saw Malcolm McDowell as the scowling Sheriff. Directed by Peter Hewitt, who helmed both Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey and The Borrowers.