Jul 11, 2014
While Hollywood is probably inhabited by more odious and degenerate individuals than anywhere else in the world, pseudo-funnyman filmmaker John Landis (The Blues Brothers, Beverly Hills Cop III) is certainly in his own league in terms of distinctive loathsomeness, as a man that seems to have the soul of a psychopathic vaudevillian clown and who always brings abject disgust to my stomach when I hear his grating voice and conspicuously contrived humor in interviews. Aside from being once charged with involuntary manslaughter due to his involvement in the deaths of actor Vic Morrow (the father of Jennifer Jason Leigh) and two prepubescent Chinese girls while directing his segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) and neglecting to accept culpability, let alone apologize, for his actions (against the advice of various crew members, the director decided to have a helicopter fly a little too close the actors, thereupon resulting in their tragic deaths—a move deemed so scummy that even Steven Spielberg cut ties with him), Landis has carelessly contaminated the world with his patently deplorable personality and his uniquely, aesthetically repugnant and intrinsically impotent films. Indeed, aside from the filmmaker’s kindred spirits/kinsmen Friedberg and Seltzer (Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans), when it comes to crude kosher comedy, you can do no worse than the one-note schtick of super schmuck Landis. Of course, as someone who likes to give credit where credit is due, even where my most hated directors are concerned, I have to admit that Landis has directed at least one notable film, An American Werewolf in London (1981), though I probably like it for all the wrong reasons. Originally penned by Landis all the way back in 1969 while he was living in the now-defunct hellhole formerly known as Yugoslavia while working as a production assistant on the goofy WWII satire Kelly's Heroes (1970) and heavily inspired by the director’s happenstance encounter with a group of exceedingly superstitious gypsies who were performing rituals on one of their dead comrade’s graves so that he would not ostensibly “rise from the grave,” An American Werewolf in London (undoubtedly, An American Jewish Werewolf in London would have been a more accurate and fitting title) is a thematically and aesthetically schizophrenic cinematic work that is half classic horror, half sleazy Hebraic humor, though it would probably be a mistake to describe it as a traditional horror-comedy. Oftentimes recognized as Landis’ greatest and most personal film to date, this loony and sometimes cartoonish yet also somewhat violent lycanthropic movie is riddled with rather bizarre personal Judaic references from the writer/director, including yid-exterminating Nazi mutant werewolf soldiers and a random and ultimately pointless reference to the fact that the sick Semitic tradition of male circumcision is quite vogue in the United States, where Jewish doctors have largely replaced the Catholic doctors that once dominated the now conspicuously corrupt medical industry. Indeed, one could even interpret the film as an allegory for the supposedly hostile environment a Jew faces when in a foreign land, especially of the Western European sort. Made in the wake of the relative success of Joe Dante’s The Howling (1981) and the environmentalist-friendly Whitley Strieber adaptation Wolfen (1981), An American Werewolf in London tends to be regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, lycanthropic movie ever made, yet the film seems to be more about Landis’ ‘anti-philistine’ (aka anti-gentile) sentiments and idiosyncratic blend of post-holocaust paranoia and Philip Roth-esque Shiksa-fetishizing than the standard cinematic wolfman affair.
American Jewish college students David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) have opted for backpacking across North York Moors in North Yorkshire, England as opposed to taking a birthright pilgrimage to their spiritual homeland in Israel like most Hebrews their age and rather symbolically, they arrive in the area in the back of a pickup truck with a bunch of sheep. Like a lot of good Jewish boys, the two friends love to make cynical jokes and insult one another’s girlfriends, with David stating of his friend’s current love interest, “I think Debbie Klein’s a mediocre person with a good body.” Of course, as the film will soon reveal, David is more into Nordic chicks as they tend to be more beauteous and less annoying than the typical complaining Jewess. Not long after landing in heather moorland, the two wisecracking Israelites happen upon an ominous local bar called “The Slaughtered Lamb” in a scenario reminiscent of Dracula/Nosferatu where local superstitious hicks express their fears regarding their local phantom(s). After some of the locals discuss how horrendous they think the John Wayne movie The Alamo (1960) is and another local makes a ‘racially insensitive joke’ involving a Texan throwing a Mexican out of a airplane while yelling “Remember the Alamo!,” Jack remarks to David regarding a mysterious 5-pointed pentagram on the pub wall, “Lon Chaney, Jr., in Universal Studios maintained that’s the mark of the Wolf Man.” Needless to say, when Jack gets the gall to ask the local yokels about the pentagram in the pub in a scene of classic kosher comedic awkwardness, they find themselves no longer welcome, though some of the patrons seem worried about letting the boys walk around on their own on the moors, as it is apparently not a safe place to be at night, especially if you're a stupid American. While David and Jack are warned that they should stay on the road and keep away from the moors, the two Semitic subversives naturally do the exact opposite of what the Aryan hillbillies advise them to do. Before they know it, Jack is mauled to death by a werewolf, which also bites David, though some of the patrons from the bar ultimately save the latter young man from a very certain violent death. After being shot by the peasants, the killer lycanthrope transforms into an unclad, balding middle-aged man and dies, though David temporarily forgets all of this after falling into a coma. Of course, little does David realize that he will be taking his friend Jack's furry killer's place as the only living werewolf in London.
While David is at a hospital recuperating in his bed while unconscious, a slightly overweight nurse named Brenda Bristols (played by porn star Linzi Drew, who starred in a couple Ken Russell films) remarks to her fellow nurse Alex Price (Jenny Agutter) that she “had a look” at the American’s member and that she thinks that he is a member of god's chosen tribe. After Alex remarks that circumcision is “common practice now” in the barbaric United States, an assumedly Jewish physician named Dr. J.S. Hirsch (John Woodvine) verbally berates Brenda for discussing the patient’s butchered penis. When David finally awakens from his slumber after being unconscious for three weeks, he is told by a humorless and quasi-fascistic cop named Inspector Villiers (Don McKillop) that he and his friend Jack were attacked by an escaped mental patient. While David fails to remember what happened to him and his deceased homeboy Jack, he finds the mental patient story to be quite questionable and he becomes rather enraged, arrogantly asking the cops, “Who are you people? What’s going on here? Where’s Jack?,” as if the men in blue are members of some sort of British neo-Gestapo. While David does not take too kindly to the police, he develops an instant affection for the sweet maternal qualities of nymph-like nurse Alex, who spoon-feeds the young Hebrew some assumedly non-kosher food. Meanwhile, David begins to have a series of bizarre and seemingly unending nightmares-within-nightmares, including an absurd scenario where a group of mutant Aryan Nazi lycanthrope soldiers blitzkrieg their way into his quaint American home and liquidate him and his entire family and proceed to burn the house down. Indeed, it seems director Landis' greatest nightmare is having a SS Einsatzgruppen brigade of undead Teutonic wolfmen drop by his safe American Jewish home and provide him with a rather rude awakening.
Somehow, Jack, who is now a mangled undead corpse, appears in David’s hospital room and warns his friend that he, “now walks the earth in limbo until the werewolf’s curse is lifted.” Indeed, as Jack explains, “The wolf’s bloodline must be severed. The last remaining werewolf must be destroyed,” with David being the last werewolf in London as a result of being bit by a limey lycanthrope. Ultimately, Jack wants David to commit suicide to lift the curse, but he is not really interested in self-slaughter because he has found a new lady love in the form of sensual nurse Alex. After Jack is discharged from the hospital, Alex invites him to stay with her at her apartment where the two love birds develop a decadent miscegenation-based romance. One night after a full moon appears, David painfully morphs into an exceedingly hairy kosher wolfman in what is easily the most painful lycanthropic transformation in cinema history. Ultimately, David hunts and stalks six degenerate Londoners and finds himself waking up naked in the wolf section of the London Zoo with no recollection of his carnage-filled carnivorous behavior the next day. After failing to get himself intentionally arrested so that he will not kill again (the Hebraic werewolf states to a cop, “Come on. I want you to arrest me, you asshole! Queen Elizabeth is a man! Prince Charles is a faggot! Winston Churchill was full of shit! Shakespeare’s French! Fuck! Shit! Cunt! Shit!” in the desperate hope that he will be put behind bars), Jack goes to watch a vintage blue movie at an underground porn theater and he is once again visited by undead Jack, who is now almost completely decayed and who introduces his werewolf friend to some of his victims, who are now also quasi-zombies with a knack for goofy British-flavored comedy. While at the adult theater, David once again transforms into a werewolf and goes on another marvelous murder spree, even biting off authoritarian asshole Inspector Villiers’ head in the process. In the end, Werewolf David is cornered by the police in an alley where he is shot and killed after attempting to lunge at the cops. Although Alex tries to save David by expressing her love for him, she is too late.
In his rather intriguing, if not scientifically dubious, work Man Into Wolf: An Anthropological Interpretation of Sadism, Masochism and Lycanthropy (1948), Robert Eisler—a rare Austrian Jewish intellectual who was a Jungian as opposed to a Freudian and who survived internment at both Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps—argued that werewolf legends were spawned from the belief that certain tribes of men, namely of the carnivorous and war-like sort, began to imitate the predatory nature of wolves and other beasts of prey around the time of the ice age, with Teutonic man being especially prone to lycanthropic proclivities. Eisler also argued the National Socialists were modern descendents of these werewolves who had tapped into their atavistic qualities of the German Volksgeist, writing in Man Into Wolf, “The uncanny word was resuscitated in Germany in the secret terrorist and para-military ‘Organization Werwolf’ after the first World War, and again in Himmler’s rabid speech on the new Volkssturm of 1945 destined to harass ‘like were-wolves’ the allied lines of communication in occupied Germany. It was of were-wolves that Hitler was thinking when he said in his programme for the education of the Hitler Jugend ‘You must be indifferent to pain’. There must be no weakness or tenderness in it. He wanted ‘to see once more in the eyes of a pitiless youth the gleam of pride and independence of the beast of prey’ and to ‘eradicate the thousands of years of human domestication’.” While it is questionable as to whether or not John Landis had read Eisler’s work, it seems indisputable that both men shared the same sort of quasi-mystical line of thought in terms of their perennial enemy: the Europeans, especially of the Germanic sort. Indeed, An American Werewolf in London would have certainly been more effective had it been set in Germany (especially in Lower Saxony in northwestern Germany where the Hermann Löns' novel Der Wehrwolf (1910), which is where the Nazi resistance group ‘Werwolf’ derived their name, is set), but of course Landis, as a rather proud Jew, was probably too afraid to have made the film in the land of the Teutons. Indeed, as the director described in the featurette John Landis on: An American Werewolf in London regarding his personal identification with the protagonist of the film, “In WEREWOLF, he’s afraid he’s losing his mind, and so his dreams have to relate to his own experience, which is why he thinks of his family, where it’s safe. And because he’s a Jewish-American kid who grew up—He was my age at that time, so he grew up with images of the Nazis.”
Despite its innately darkly comedic tone, director John Landis vehemently denies his film is a horror-comedy, stating at the beginning of John Landis on: An American Werewolf in London: “AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is not a comedy. They keep calling it a comedy, it’s very funny, I hope. It is not a comedy. We meet these two boys in a truckload of sheep. This is not subtle. You know these boys are dead at the end of the movie. This is not a happy story. This is a horror film, and a pretty classic and traditional one. If anything, WEREWOLF is a throwback. I mean, I was trying to make a contemporary version of an old movie.” Indeed, in a sense, I have to concur with Landis as the film seems to be less of a horror-comedy than a distinctly American Hebraic take on the whole largely Germanic werewolf legend, with the original Universal Monsters The Wolf Man (1941) starring Lon Chaney, Jr. and Claude Rains, which is referenced throughout An American Werewolf in London, being penned by German-bred Hebrew novelist/screenwriter Curt Siodmak, who left Deutschland in 1937 after being rather dismayed by a less than philo-Semitic speech made by the little National Socialist doctor Joseph Goebbels. Rather unfortunately, Landis’ film is indeed one of the greatest werewolf films ever made, but of course, there are not exactly a large number of great lycanthrope flicks to choose from. Aside from classic horror flicks and his own trademark quasi-vaudevillian humor, Landis was also heavily influenced by the later works of Spanish surrealist master Luis Buñuel, especially The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), hence why An American Werewolf in London features a number of dreams within dreams. Of course, as one can expect from any decent horror flick, the film spawned a sequel 16 years later, An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), which in terms of horror and humor is about as potent as poodle excrement, which is largely a result of the fact that Landis had no involvement with the film. While I consider Landis to be a sort of Trotsky of horrendous Hebraic Hollywood humor (indeed, no other Hollywood director has been involved with so many deaths, be they inadvertent or otherwise), I cannot deny the curious staying power of An American Werewolf in London as the world’s most paranoid, incriminating, and highly personal Jewish werewolf flick ever made.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 12:55 AM
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