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…or an english werewolf in barry!

Having a rare (very rare!) day of indolence I took the chance to rewatch An American Werewolf in London for the first time in years and was struck by its influence on Being Human.  Creator Toby Whithouse answered bloggers questions on the BBC Being HUman Blog in January 2010 and when asked about his influences he said “Films… well, American Werewolf is clearly an influence”.  The combination of darkness, horror and humour is there and it seems generally acknowledged that the transformations from human to werewolf are very similar.   There are lots of other references that made me smile and compare it to my current favourite show although I should say that the film is as good as it ever was and it hasn’t dated badly at all!  (Apart from Jenny Agutter’s Fair Isle knitwear…)  If you haven’t seen it you really should take a look.

So what have we got?

A Jewish holiday maker attacked out of nowhere by a werewolf.  (Although we only have Nurse Gallagher’s assurances that David is Jewish… she did check! )

New werewolf has a love affair with a nurse – and another paragon of efficiency, although Jenny Agutter got a much nicer uniform than Nina’s scrubs, all starched apron and frilly hat!

David’s dead friend, killed by the werewolf, keeps popping in for a chat.  He gradually decays and rather brings to mind Sasha the zombie.

The curse of the werewolf, transmitted by being scratched by a werewolf.  There are some major differences, in American Werewolf the curse extends to the victims – the wolf kills and eats humans which (despite George’s worries) doesn’t happen in Being Human.  Not saying it couldn’t but a fresh stag seem to suffice… or an odd vampire…  David’s victims are doomed to walk the earth undead – and gently decaying – until the wolf’s bloodline ends.  This leads to Jacks’ constant instructions that he should kill himself, in between watching porn and stealing David’s toast.  Werewolves killed in wolf state – which lasts for more than one night – are revealed as human immediately.  This could well be the case in Being Human as we haven’t seen a werewolf die.  Yet.

There’s a great soundtrack, just like Being Human.  All the songs have the word ‘moon’ in the title, so we get Moondance, Blue Moon, Bad Moon Arising and so on.  I read (and I don’t know how true this is) that Cat Stevens refused permission for John Landis to use Moon Shadow as he disapproved of the film’s subject matter.  Interesting that Can’t Keep It In was then used for the S3 trailer of Being Human!

The agony of the transformation to a werewolf is there – although coupled with a sensible excuse for getting naked.  David is burning up when he first starts to change, whereas I always think that George just needs to make sure his clothes are folded neatly before he gets started!  The effects are not as advanced as in Being Human but the extension of the claws and the jaw are so familiar.  There is also that characteristic post-wolf pose – stark naked, cheeks clenched and dangly bits carefully clutched!  Although I suppose that may well be the general ‘naked man in public’ pose rather than werewolf specific…

If you are wondering where the post title came from, when David woke up after his first night as the wolf he was in the wolf pen in London Zoo, naked and with the wolves!  His only cover came from a fortuitous encounter with a schoolboy carrying a bunch of multi coloured balloons, promptly purloined in a version of the balloon dance!  The child explained to his puzzled mother “A naked American man stole my balloons…”  Not something you get to say everyday!

What I had forgotten about the film is that the horror is quite hard core compared to Being Human and it really is pretty gruesome at times.  The crash scenes are really bloody and my memory had obviously blanked them so it was all a bit startling!  Probably the starkest filing of multiple crash injuries that I’ve seen – Casualty take note.  Or maybe not…  The chase through the tube tunnels totally creeped me out when the film first came out and I still think of it when I’m alone in those weirdly deserted bits of the tube system!  There is no way of excusing the wolf’s behaviour – we see the victim torn apart and the bloody results.  Being forced to face your victims as David has to is very Being Human.  Lets face it, if he had to face them all Mitchell could have filled every seat in that ‘adult’ cinema and still had a queue out the door…

Inevitably there could be no good end for David.  His wasn’t a werewolf that could live inside the system.  His wolf was a killer and I doubt it could ever have been contained in the way that George and Nina have learned to contain their one night a month transformation and stay safe.

Such a sad end though, with David’s wolf recognising Alex, just as George did Nina way back in series one.