20th Anniversary DVD Suppliment Gets Theatrical Release
What began as the province of on-set assistant directors who would take some B roll footage and a few talking head interviews and then slap’em together and label it as a “featurette” the making-of documentary industry has grown into a sizable and respectable business, producing a number of substantial and respectable feature-length works that are “distributed” via the DVD and Blu-ray market, where they are usually billed as “bonus” or “supplemental” materials. Such is the case with Paul Davis’ Beware the Moon: Remembering An American Werewolf in London, the new documentary about John Landis’s darkly comic monster movie from 1981. The film will be released “wide” on September 15 as part of Universal’s new An American Werewolf in London: Full Moon Edition 2-Disc DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
Paul Davis, an aspiring filmmaker from England, had been a big fan of "An American Werewolf in London" (which will be referred to from this point on as AWIL) since he first saw it on VHS in 1984 when he was three-years-old. The film made quite an impression on him and, years later, he found himself exasperated by the lack of a substantial making-of piece on Universal’s 2001 Collector’s Edition DVD of the film.
“I’ve been a fan of in-depth, retrospective documentaries ever since I saw the BBC produced doc on the making of The Exorcist in 1998, and while writing a 25th Anniversary article on AWIL for HorrorHound Magazine at the tail end of 2006, it struck me that there are so many classic horror movies that have had the documentary treatment, why not AWIL?” Davis said in a recent interview. “In fact, AWIL hardly had anything done on it—yet in my opinion, it’s more than deserving [than] some of those that had.”
Davis eagerly kicked into action at the close of 2006, starting up a production company with his then-partner Romy Alford (Kesslerboy Productions Ltd., named after AWIL’s main character) and working on an outline of “what it was I wanted to do and the story I wanted to tell.” Fellow filmmaker Anthony Bueno came on board next as cinematographer and editor, bringing along all the equipment necessary to fulfill the functions of his roles.
By the beginning of 2007, co-producer Alford (who also functioned as production manager, assistant director and location manager) was hard at work attempting to secure original locations from the film so that Davis, who cast himself to host and narrate the doc, could appear in front of AWIL original landscapes and backdrops. Davis’ primary objective for the production was to track down as many members of AWIL’s cast and crew as possible, a daunting-sounding task but one that proved to be manageable.
“It was remarkable how simple if was to track down a majority of the interviewees we ended up with in the project,” David said, referring to the more than two dozen cast and crew members who made a contribution to the finished film. “I initially figured that since a lot of the cast and crew were no longer active in the industry, the chances of finding them were slim to zero. But thank god for Guilds! We got a majority of the crew through the various Guilds in the UK, and regarding the cast, there was always an agent who had a friend who knew the person we were after. So we were very lucky.”
Among the many AWIL talents that Davis interviewed and included in Beware the Moon are stars David Naughton, Griffin Dunne and Jenny Agutter, make-up effects artist Rick Baker, production designer Rick Dilley, cinematographer Robert Paynter, first assistant director David Tringham, editor Malcolm Campbell, producer George Folsey Jr. and, of course, writer/director Landis, who supported the project from its earliest stages and helped Davis secure several key interviews. He helped the young filmmaker begin his initial communication with Universal concerning the issues of rights and licensing film clips.
Fourteen months and $14,000 later, Davis and company completed their first cut of Beware the Moon, at around that same time that Landis contacted Davis to inform him that Universal was planning a Blu-ray release of AWIL for the fall and that they wanted to see a workprint of Beware the Moon. The studio apparently liked what it saw, because after seven more months of waiting and rights-wrangling, Davis and Alford were flown to Los Angeles in November 2008, a deal was signed and the documentary was sold to Universal Studios Home Entertainment—with a final cut approved by Landis.
Unlike most making-ofs that appear on digital home entertainment, Beware the Moon received an “international” theatrical premiere in London in August as part of the UK’s popular Film4 Frightfest, and another premiere in L.A at the New Beverly on September 14, a day before the AWIL DVD and Blu-ray hit the street.
If anyone had said to me three years ago that any of this would have happened, I’d have laughed at them," said Davis.