Having finally begun to gain acclaim as a solo artist with his second album, Diary of a Madman, after leaving Black Sabbath some years earlier, Ozzy Osbourne’s 1982 tour would be plagued with a series of events that would place a strain on the thirty-three year old’s emotional state; from unintentionally biting the head off a bat that had been thrown on stage by a fan during a performance in Des Moines, to the tragic death of guitarist Randy Rhoads, whose plane would crash into a mansion and burst into flames on March 19th. Osbourne’s follow-up album, Bark at the Moon, would see Jake E. Lee stepping in as guitarist, who would co-write most of the material with bassist Bob Daisley.
At this time, Osbourne was a fan of An American Werewolf in London, John Landis’ 1981 horror comedy that saw backpacker David Naughton bitten by a lycanthrope whilst hiking across the Yorkshire Moors, later transforming into a wolf and running rampant around the city. The movie had proved to have a major influence on Michael Jackson, who had hired both Landis and his special make-up effects artist Rick Baker to help create his groundbreaking fourteen-minute music video Thriller two years later. Released at the dawn of MTV and ultimately becoming a landmark in the medium, Thriller would leave its mark on popular culture and would renew interest in both the werewolf and zombie genres. Osbourne had been similarly affected by An American Werewolf in London and, much like Jackson, had become the subject of speculation within the press as to his true nature. The monster that many perceived him to be would play a significant role in the developing of Bark at the Moon, which would see Osbourne also changing into a wolfman.
The early 1980s would become a prolific era for the werewolf; with An American Werewolf in London and Thriller being joined by Wolfen (not strictly werewolves but a similar mutation), Joe Dante’s The Howling, The Company of Wolves, Ladyhawke and the hit flick Teen Wolf. With Osboune undergoing a radical transformation emotionally, perhaps it was with a certain amount of irony that he would choose to adopt the werewolf image for the album. Osbourne would later confess that he was disappointed with the overall sound of the record, stating in an interview in 1984, “the songs were pretty good, but the mixing was a rushed job. You can record for months and months but it’s all down to the final mix, you know? There were a couple of songs on that album with real bad mixes, like Waiting for the Darkness.” Regardless, the album would be certified Gold in the US by February 1984, whilst achieving Silver in the UK. As of 2000, Bark at the Moon had gone Triple Platinum.
In order for Osbourne to create both a video and artwork for the album that would match up to the quality of Thriller, Osbourne’s first obvious choice to create the werewolf make-up was Baker, whose prior credits had also included the 1976 remake of King Kong and Larry Cohen’s cult classic It Lives Again. But Baker had vowed to take a break from special effects and declined the offer, forcing Osbourne to search elsewhere for an artist who would be capable of such a demanding task. He eventually approached Greg Cannom, another alumni of The Howling and zombie extra from the Thriller video, who around that time had signed on to lead the special effects for Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.
Cannom was given just one week to design two different werewolf suits; one for Osbourne to wear for the album cover and a more detailed one for the promo video. Although this would require twice the work, Cannom merely saw the cover as a trial run for what would no doubt be the most complex aspect, the shooting of the video itself. Osbourne would be subjected to a five-hour session in the make-up chair; in which Cannom and his team of artists would use prosthetics, artificial hair and contact lenses to transform the star into a wolf. Assisting Cannom on the designing of the beast was a rising young make-up artist called Kevin Yagher, whose subsequent work within the horror genre would include A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, The Hidden and Child’s Play. Yagher’s chief duties during the production would be the creation of Osbourne’s claws and teeth, although these relatively straightforward tasks would prove to be a far cry from his award-winning work on Face/Off and Tim Burton’s Sleep Hollow over a decade later.
The crew who would work together to create the creature would involve artists from both the United States and Britain. Josephine Turner, who had worked on the wigs for the Academy Award-winning classic Planet of the Apes in 1968, was another veteran of The Howling and had become the premier wig maker and stylist in Hollywood, whilst English artist Janice Barnes had the painstaking task of applying each hair to the prosthetics. Cannom would be instructed that Osbourne’s various tattoos must be visible through his make-up and hair, which would cause additional problems to the designing. The filming of the video would take place at two locations; Holloway Sanatorium in Virginia Water, Surrey, was first opened in 1885 and was used to treat the insane until its eventual closure almost a century later. The institution had been abandoned for two years when the cameras began rolling on Bark at the Moon and the production had free rein of the entire complex. Addition scenes would be shot at Shepperton Studios, also in Surrey.
During the making of the video, Cannom would encounter difficulties with Paramount Pictures, who had hired him for their latest Friday the 13th sequel. Although Cannom had claimed that he had been given permission to leave the production for a few days to work with Osbourne, the studio denied such an agreement and so, also frustrated that he was denied creative control over the designs of the movie’s antagonist, Jason Voorhees, decided to quit the project (Yagher would remain, however, whilst Cannom was replaced by Tom Savini, who had also worked on the original movie). Finally released in November 1983, Bark at the Moon would fail to become the hit that Osbourne had hoped (reaching number 109 in the US charts, his highest since Crazy Train three years earlier), the video would become a modest success and would receive regular airplay on MTV throughout the 1980s.