Two young American men are attacked on the North Yorkshire moors by a werewolf. One of them is killed, the other now burdened with a curse. This is ‘An American Werewolf in London’, the film for your ears.
Although I generally steer clear of the horror genre as many of you will have heard us admit to on the Unheard Nerd Betamax & Laserdisc podcast, I have a soft spot for the classic horror film from 1981.
I remember first seeing it at a very young age at a friend’s house. His mother recorded late night films for him but paused the recording whenever something occurred that she thought was inappropriate for her son. So my first viewing of the film was a crude homemade censored version.
Watching the film in its complete form at a later time, something really clicked with me and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps this is because the film has a strong element of comedy and isn’t just pure horror.
In 1997, here in the UK, BBC Radio 1 broadcast a radio adaptation of the film for Halloween. I never heard the original broadcast and if I did it sounds rather and frustrating as it was broken up into three minute segments, obviously a clever tactic to keep you listening to Radio 1.
I purchased the audio drama when it was released on two audio cassettes (and later on CD, copies of which are now very hard to come by) and wrote a review for my website back in 2000.
Thanks to the internet (clue: not me – cylinder. Insanely popular video streaming site), I recently come across a copy of this audio drama and as I hadn’t heard it I years, I gave it another go…and I’m glad I did.
For those who have never seen the film, the basic premise is that two American men, David and Jack, are backpacking their way through Europe. At the start of the film we see them in North Yorkshire, England, just outside a small village called East Proctor.
After unwittingly causing a small disturbance in the local pub, The Slaughtered Lamb, where they are due to sleep for the night, they are persuaded to leave. They are also given two simple pieces of advice, beware the moon and stick to the road.
Whilst cheering themselves up and walking further on, they fail to adhere to the two rules and are violently attacked by large creature. Jack is killed and David is severely wounded. When David regains consciousness he finds himself in a London hospital.
David keeps becoming infuriated when the doctor informs him that he was actually attacked by a mad man and not a wolf as he claims. Then the situation becomes even stranger when his friend Jack comes back from the dead as a fresh corpse and informs him of the curse he now carries.
This audio drama by the BBC was produced by Dirk Maggs, he has produced numerous radio dramas of which I am a fan of many. Other titles in his resume include Batman: Lazurus Syndrome, Batman: Knightfall and Independence Day UK.
Dirk has adapted the drama from the original script by John Landis who also served as a creative consultant. The audio recreation includes many extra scenes and moments and I do wonder if these are in the original script or created by Dirk.
These extra scenes flesh out the film a little more and include backstory to try and explain the appearance of the werewolf. For example this audio version opens with a scene set in an insane asylum. Here the current werewolf, Larry Talbot, is locked away but manages to escape after transforming and ripping apart the guard.
This will lead to further additional plot elements where it is revealed that Larry is related to the chess player at the Slaughtered Lamb pub who was played by Brian Glover both in the original film and this audio adaptation. Whereas in the original film he is listed as ‘chess player’, here he has been upgraded to George Hacket, East Proctor’s special police constable.
Further additional dialogue near the end tries to explain the werewolf mythology and how come in ended up in a small North Yorkshire village. Although interesting to hear, I felt was unnecessary for this adaptation. Especially as they decided to place this dialogue near the stories climatic moments.
As well as Brian Glover, other ‘An American Werewolf in London’ actors return to reprise their roles. Jenny Agutter returns as Nurse Price along with her superior Doctor Hirsch, once again bought to life by the unmistakable voice of John Woodvine.
William Dufris and Eric Meyers are great sound-a-likes for Jack and David and they blended in with the rest of the cast perfectly.
Dirk Maggs has put together an excellent production that I found surprisingly gory for an audio drama. The excellent use of sound effects and a new original soundtrack really bring the story to life for your listening pleasure. It’s a shame that for whatever reason they didn’t use the original werewolf sounds from the original film.
If you’re a fan of the original film or even just curious for something different to listen to, I recommend you try and source a copy of the audio adaptation of ‘An American Werewolf in London’.