Luke Owen reports on a special Halloween screening of An American Werewolf in London courtesy of Volkswagen’s “See Film Differently”…
Last Sunday, on Halloween, I was invited to the first instalment of Volkswagen’s ‘See Film Differently’ programme – a project that aims to “turns the camera on the locations” by screening films in the places they were shot. Their first stop? London Zoo. The film? John Landis’ 1981 horror classic, An American Werewolf in London.
When I first heard about See Film Differently, I thought the idea was genius. I’ve always been a big fan and supporter of filming on location rather than sets and felt the idea of screening films in those locations would be a great experience. With some props, tours and insider knowledge thrown into the mix, it would be a great evening and a once in a lifetime experience.
I was very excited.
Upon arriving at London Zoo’s entrance, I was immediately impressed with the sign for The Slaughtered Lamb hanging up outside. I knew that I would be getting authentic props from the film and this was a great way to kick things off. It was only a small touch, but it really set the bar for the evening.
We all signed in and were handed our itinerary for the events that would follow – a 60 minute tour of the zoo (including locations), an introduction to the project, an hour and a half exhibition and the screening to follow. So, a packed evening – excitement levels were rising.
After being split into two groups, the tour began. I say tour, but that’s not what we got…
Alarms bell started to ring when our “tour guide” asked if any of us had ever been to London Zoo before, upon answering, “yes” he replied with, “oh good, I’ve never been here before so maybe you’ll be able to show us round”. That’s right, our tour guide had never been to the place he was showing us round.
Amused I was not.
The alarm bells turned into very loud warning noises when he then asked, “has anyone here seen the film? Because there is a film location around here and I don’t know where it is”.
Worried I was getting. I was frankly annoyed by this excuse for a “tour guide” who was being paid for not knowing anything. He seemed far more interested in looking at some animals and taking pictures than showing us round the locations. This was not a good start.
What followed was, thankfully, not a full hour’s tour of London Zoo. Because the place was closed for the day, most have the animals had been moved to their respective confinements and homes – which meant we were treated to a Jurassic Park-esque look at empty cages and pens hoping to see some animals but ended up seeing nothing. The tour was a disaster; our tour guide bumbled around trying to find things for us to look at and coming up short. And what made matters worse is that we didn’t see any locations – which I’m fairly sure was the whole point of the tour. We didn’t go to the wolf enclosure, we didn’t go to the point where a naked David Naughton jumps out and greets a frightened Elizabeth Bradley and nor did we see the bush from where he steals the balloons off the little boy. The only “location” we did see was a park bench that David runs past and grabs an old ladies coat from.
Skip to 1:01 for the “location” how it was in 1981
My confidence in the evening had been knocked – but things were about to pick up.
At Mappin Pavilion, where the bench was situated, we were greeted by Wainwright (or Wayne Wright – a topic of great discussion among some of the people in attendance), a ‘London Zoo keeper’ who told us about the history of the bench. He had this great spiel talking about how in 1981 a naked American man ran around the zoo stealing balloons and coats, which added a great sense of novelty to the proceedings. He was a very entertaining man and a brilliant way of bridging the gap between the “tour” and the exhibition.
Welcomed in warmly with free booze, popcorn and pretzels, we walked into the See Film Differently exhibition and viewed upon some great props, storyboards and behind-the-scenes photos from the production – they a great job of presenting them and should be highly applauded for their efforts. The highlight of it all was the “Change-o-Head”, used in the first transformation scene, in full operation and glory.
If I was to criticise the exhibition portion of the evening, I would have to say that an hour and a half was far too much time to look around – seeing as you could clear every prop and picture, take a photo of each and read all the factoids in about 20 minutes. But, it was a huge step up from the tour that had preceded it.
The screening itself was an absolute joy. We were provided with a small meal (fish and chips in a cardboard box), more free drinks and a great introduction from Paul Davis, director of Beware The Moon – a fascinating and detailed documentary about the film (which can be found on the 2 disc edition DVD). The film was presented on a digital format, something I was almost disappointed by as I was hoping for a film print version – however, according to the event organisers, Landis only likes his films to be shown digitally nowadays. This was not a hindrance at all though; it was an excellent screening.
I’d had a really good evening. While it wasn’t perfect, it was really enjoyable. The idea is there for ‘See Film Differently’ and I can forgive them for a few hiccups here and there because this was the first screening of project. I am fully behind and supportive of Volkswagen and hope to see more of this programme in the future. I would also recommend people go to one if they ever get the chance.
Continue on to the review.
“The wolf’s bloodline must be severed; the last remaining werewolf must be destroyed. It’s you, David.” – Jack Goodman, An American Werewolf in London