Landis was in top form when he directed this quintessential horror-comedy starring Naughton (previously known for dancing in Dr. Pepper commercials) as an American traveling through England on foot who is nearly killed by a werewolf. (He never made a better movie, unless your cup of tea is a comedy starring a former SNL member. As we all know, Landis was behind "Animal House," "Trading Places," etc.)
After shacking up with a gorgeous nurse Naughton meets in a London hospital—and having sloppy, passionate sex with her in a shower—he finally transforms into a werewolf during a full moon. Or is he really a werewolf? Could he just be hallucinating? Naah. He's a real werewolf. Rick Baker supplied the Oscar-winning make-up effects, which included a painful transformation scene and frequent appearances by the spirit of Naughton's dead friend (Griffin Dunne), who had also been mangled by the werewolf. With each appearance, he looks more and more decomposed.
Another stand-out scene is a nightmare sequence where Naughton sees his entire Jewish family being gunned down by monster Nazis designed by Baker. It's a terrifying moment, which would have been ruined had it been put in a film today: CGI effects would have destroyed the impact. Truth is, no studio would ever allow such a scene to put into a movie today. It just wouldn't happen.
Both shocking and genuinely funny—with an incredible oldies soundtrack (featuring songs like "Blue Moon" and "Bad Moon Rising")—Landis' film is a horror masterpiece and he never came close to making as good a movie ever again in his career. His next horror film, "Innocent Blood," reeked. "American," on the other hand, is not to be missed under any circumstances. A sequel followed more than 15 years later, but it didn't come close to the original pic's brilliance.