"US Werewolf in London": origin?

I am trying to find out where Landis got the idea for the film, “An American Werewolf in London”. I know he wrote it as a 19-year old gopher on the set of “Kelly’s Heroes”, but I need to know where the original idea came from.


“Here the director reveals American Werewolf is not a comedy but rather a classic horror film told in a contemporary fashion. Also, and something of which I had no clue, Landis reveals how he penned the idea back in 1969 while in the former Yugoslavia. Interestingly, the inspiration to do Werewolf came from an event that he, himself, had actually witnessed.”

From this review of the DVD. Perhaps it’s your best source.

In (I think 1974) Warren Zevon wrote a song called “Werewolves of London”. The song had no meaning - he was just jamming with a friend in London and one of them said something about werewolves, and the other one went, “you mean, Arooo!” And the song was fully written like 10 minutes later.

If Landis didn’t at least subconsciously borrow the title and/or concept from this song, that’d be a pretty big coincidence.

I have since found out that the event he witnessed was a Gipsy burial. From a Gipsy burial to the undead and werewolves?

Landis need not have been influenced by Zevon’s song (which I, for one, have always thought is a hoot). Nor is there much of a coincidence to explain.

Landis was, no doubt, influenced in at least some small degree by the old Universal horror film The Werewolf of London. This starred Henry Hull as a wealthy London botanist. At the begininng of the film he is in a remote valley in the Himalayas, searching for a rare flower which blooms only during the full moon. One night he is attacked and bitten by a large animal he cannot see clearly, but is able to fight off.

Returning to London he is approached by a Japanese doctor, played by Warner Oland, who is anxious to buy the flower he brought back with him. He tells them that after it blooms it will provide the only
known cure for lycanthropy. When Hull asks him if he seriously believe in the existence of werewolves, Oland replies gravely that he knows of two such unfortunates living in London right now…

This film is generally credited with having established the Hollywood story of the werewolf; werewolves in European myth were men who took on the physical appearance of wolves, not “wolf men”.

The film is a good deal of fun. It is based on a book (which I have not read) by the French novelist Guy Endore called The Werewolf of Paris. The makeup effects were by Jack Pierce, who had earlier designed Boris Karloff’s makeup for Frankenstein and for The Mummy.