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An American Werewolf In London

SFX Werewolf Transformation Head

One of the most important and memorable special effects sequences in the history of horror films is the transformation of David Kessler played by David Naughton into the titular werewolf of An American Werewolf in London. The scene was most striking in that, for the first time, it was filmed in a brightly lit setting. All the effects seen are real physical workings created by master SFX technician Rick Baker. The sequence was so well received that the academy recognized the achievement with the very first regularly awarded Oscar. It has been awarded every year since with Baker winning a further 5 times to date.

This is one of a series of heads that were created for the central element of that shot. Sadly the distinctive skin and fur have long since rotted away but that does give us an insight into an elaborate set of mechanisms specially designed to bring the transformation to life. The forehead and cheek sections move outwards, controlled by air through syringes. Perhaps most impressive and certainly the most unforgettable element of the creature is the jaw section, which opens and moves forward to transform the human face into that of the lycanthrope.

The skull and shoulders are made from fibreglass and there is still evidence of some wolf hair and the original foam skin. The teeth are much larger and more threatening than human teeth but still not as large as the final werewolf teeth. The puppet is still fully functional providing a remarkable reference into one of the greatest moments in horror history and the genius of one of cinema’s greatest special effects men. He stands on a wooden workshop base and measures approximately 40 cm wide and 35 cm tall.

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