Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Funko Mystery Minis: An American Werewolf in London (Horror Classics Series 2)

I only watched An American Werewolf in London a couple of months ago, around Halloween. But given my penchant for all things Lupine (pls refer to the name of the blog), it should come as no shock that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was quite different to my expectations. Though quite gory, violent and disturbing in parts, it’s actually quite a funny film. Yet it doesn’t really move into Evil Dead territory; it manages to retain a lot of poignancy, particularly with the tragic ending.

John Landis really got it right with this one, and I can’t help but think that it would have a difficult time getting made today. Hollywood and filmmaking have always been heavily influenced by the prospect of making money; I’m not going to try and pretend that there was some golden era in the 1970s/80s where everyone was just making art for art’s sake. But it does seem like studios were a little more confident to let a movie find an audience over time, rather than freaking out and yanking them from circulation just because it didn’t make thirteen trillion dollars in the first weekend.*

Of course the titular Werewolf (sometimes called the “Kessler Wolf”) is the biggest star of the film. You don’t really get a good look at the fully transformed beast until right at the end of the film, but the David Naughton’s transformation has rightly gone down in cinema legend.  

This is not a bad thing. Seeing any villain too much tends to reduce its effectiveness, and impressive as the creature design itself is, seeing too much of a (presumably) limited puppet could have done more harm than good to the film. As it is, it retains its B-movie sensibilities without ever getting too camp – that subway scene is genuinely frightening. And when he escapes the cinema, it’s brutal (confident in calling that one NSFW).  

So, naturally Funko has decided to turn this violent supernatural beast into a cutesy collectible. It’s actually kind of difficult to find reference photos of the Kessler Wolf from the film – there are a few collectibles and replicas out there, but a lot of them look a little off to me. This can probably be attributed to a couple of factors; there are usually at least two or three different puppets of a monster on a film like this. This provides the filmmaker with different options for long shots, close-ups, stunts, and simply to allow for wear and tear. All of these can have subtle – or sometimes drastic – differences between them, which in turn means that there isn’t always a definitive version to refer to when it comes time to make merchandise. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is a classic case in point – the main suit is different from film to film…then you have the underwater suit…plus the mask that was used to generate the breathing effect in the first film. But there are lots of films like that. It’s compounded by the fact that people didn’t anticipate that someone would still care about the film decades later, so reference photos may be in short supply or simply non-existent. Not to mention that the suits and puppets themselves tend to succumb to age pretty quickly.
But on the whole, this figure isn’t a bad likeness considering its stylised nature. I think the face should probably be a bit lighter, but its somewhat generic nature means it also serves as a good werewolf sculpt for anyone who wants to mix and match with a compatible series of Mystery Minis –  like Funko’s Walking Dead Mystery Minis. Let’s see you crossbow your way out of that one, Daryl!!!

This figure, like Cthulhu, is packed at a 1/24 ratio. He’s an absolute pain in the bum to find – in trying, I drew three Eds (I must be the only person in the world who didn’t like Shaun of the Dead) and three Cthulhus, two of which were the glowing variant (more on that another time). So I can’t offer any grand insights into how to find him. I ended up caving and ordering him on eBay for slightly more than I would have liked to paid, but not a totally outrageous amount either.
Overall, he’s a fun figure, and probably the figure I wanted most from this series after Cthulhu. Just don’t let his apparent rarity trick you into paying a fortune – with the film’s 35th anniversary next year, I’m hoping NECA or someone will pick up the license and do an exceptional take on him.

*Things are not quite that simple, of course – back then the idea of a blockbuster was still pretty new, having been pioneered by films like Jaws and Star Wars only a few years before. You only had one or two of those films a year, whereas now there are a HUGE amount competing for attention and dollars. In 2015 alone, we’ve had Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Furious 7, Jurassic World, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed! This doesn’t even include outrageously high grossing films that we might not consider traditional blockbuster films, like Fifty Shades of Grey or Magic Mike: XXL. See how a more…ah…offbeat film like An American Werewolf in London might have some issues standing out in a crowd like that? Back in 1981, it only had Raiders of the Lost Ark and Superman II to compete with – on that front, anyway.  

Likewise, thanks to increased instances of downloading and piracy, it’s harder for films to recoup costs – or continue to generate revenue – on home media. Plenty of now-famous day cult films were seen by about three people in cinemas, but eventually found their audience on VHS or DVD. Not to say that can’t happen now, just that it’s more difficult.        

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