The Boogey Man Is Coming: Michael Myers Slashed His Way Through Movie Theaters On This Weekend In 1978
The classic horror film "Halloween" made it's debut in theaters 36 years ago (October 17th, 1978). Much like Michael Myers' victims no one, even the people that actually made the movie, could see what was coming next.
This little film with a shoe-string budget about a soulless serial killer was about to make movie history.
THE MOVIE: John Carpenter is an inspiration to anyone with an idea and a dream. In 1978 he was a relatively inexperienced director who was given a tiny budget and very little time to make a good movie.
The first step was for him to sell the idea to someone with money. That was financier Moustapha Akkad who later told Fangoria, "Two things made me decide. One, Carpenter told me the story verbally and in a suspenseful way, almost frame for frame. Second, he told me he didn't want to take any fees, and that showed he had confidence in the project." With that confidence Carpenter was given a budget of just $325,000 and four weeks to make horror magic.
Carpenter went in with the mindset that he was going to make that magic but is was going to have to be without the highly-expensive special effects and "A-List" actors. He was going to have to get creative....Very creative.
Watch the original "Halloween" movie and you'll see very little blood and violence. What you get instead is a "Hitchockian"-like suspense building throughout the movie with just the right camera shots, just the right lighting, just the right timing and a simple but spine-tingling score created by Carpenter himself.
And then there is the mask. A William Shatner/Star Trek mask for two bucks at the local costume store. They removed the sideburns, made the eye holes bigger, spray painted it white and messed the hair up just right. The result was and still is one of the creepiest masks of all time. It's lifeless, emotionless, dark and completely frightening.
By the end of it's theater run in the fall of '78 Carpenter's little movie would slash it's way to a total of $70 million worldwide and spawned a long-running series of sequels and reboots.
MY FIRST "HALLOWEEN" EXPERIENCE: I first saw "Halloween" somewhere around 1980 or 1981. I was about 8 or 9 years old and the movie was being played on HBO pretty much every day and night in October that year. My older brother Marty loved the movie. He talked about it all the time. He would sing that iconic piano theme out loud with his friends. Finally he talked me into watching it with him one night that October. There couldn't have been a more perfect night to watch it too. The wind was kicking the dry leaves across the sidewalks and roads outside our house with fury and delivered a creepy howl.
I watched the whole movie that night with one eye open in suspense, the other eye covered by my hand in fear. When it was over I tried to go to sleep right afterwards. Bad idea. I didn't sleep for more than a few minutes that night. I used to always keep the crack of my bedroom door open slightly whenever I went to bed. On that night I could have sworn I saw that creepy pale beaten-up Michael Myers mask staring at me through the crack of the door. When I turned over to avoid the door I would then be staring at my bedroom window. Again, there was Michael standing outside my window!
Now here's where you would probably think that after that horrifying experience I'd never watch the movie again. Not so. I've seen that movie hundreds of times ever since. In fact, I own every "Halloween" movie that Michael Myers was in....All nine of them. By the way, I refuse to watch "Halloween III". There was no Michael Myers in it. The initial idea was to make a series of "Halloween" films with different characters but when the box office numbers from part three went down the tubes so did that idea. I've said it before and I'll say it again: No Michael, no way I'm watching it. I've had friends try tell me it's a good movie. Not gonna do it. I have a loyalty to my man Michael. I can't let him down.
I had the fortune of meeting one of the actors who played Michael a.k.a. "The Shape" in that original film from '78. His name is Tony Moran. He's in the classic scene at the end of the movie where Jamie Lee Curtis tears the mask off of Michael's face. That face is Tony's. He was at a horror fest held in Waterbury a few months ago and I had the opportunity to chat with him and get a photo of us too.
So in honor of the 36th anniversary of "Halloween" I'm gonna pop in my DVD copy this weekend and enjoy it as much as I did the first time I saw it. Thankfully I live in a third floor apartment these days. There's no way Michael could be standing outside my window......Or could he?
"HALLOWEEN (1978)" TRIVIA
THE MASK: Due to its shoestring budget, the prop department had to use the cheapest $2 mask that they could find in the costume store: a Star Trek (1966) William Shatner mask. They later spray-painted the face white, teased out the hair, and reshaped the eye holes. Shatner admitted that for years he had no idea his likeness was used for this film. It was only during an interview that someone mentioned his mask was being used. He has since stated that he is honored by this gesture.
DR. LOOMIS: Carpenter approached Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to play the Sam Loomis role but both turned him down. Lee later said it was the biggest mistake he had ever made in his career. Donald Pleasence ended up taking the role and was paid $20,000 for 5 days work. He did all of his scenes in only 5 days of shooting. The total duration of his scenes is just over 18 minutes.
THE PSYCHO CONNECTION: Dr. Sam Loomis is Michael Myers' psychiatrist. Sam Loomis is also the name of Janet Leigh's secret lover in Psycho. Also, John Carpenter considered the hiring of Jamie Lee Curtis as the ultimate tribute to Alfred Hitchcock who had given her mother, Janet Leigh, legendary status in Psycho (1960).
AUTUMN IN CALIFORNIA: As the movie was actually shot in early spring in southern California (as opposed to Illinois in late October), the crew had to buy paper leaves from a decorator and paint them in the desired autumn colors, then scatter them in the filming locations. To save money, after a scene was filmed, the leaves were collected and reused. However, as Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter note on the DVD audio commentary, the trees are quite full and green and even some palm trees can be seen, despite that in Illinois in October, the leaves would probably be mostly gone and there would be no palm trees due to Illinois cold climate - the state is mostly full of deciduous trees.
BLUE OYSTER CULT: When Laurie and Annie are driving in the car they are listening to "Don't Fear The Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult. This is on while Michael Myers is driving behind them.
THE SCORE: John Carpenter composed the movie's theme score in just four days.
MICHAEL'S CAR: John Carpenter told production designer Tommy Lee Wallace to go out and find a "government-looking" car to be used by Dr. Loomis and Marion in the opening scenes, which Michael Myers ultimately steals and uses throughout the film. Wallace went to the nearest car-rental agency and a 1976 Ford LTD station wagon was the only car there that looked the part. Wallace hired it for two weeks, installing a wire-mesh divider between the front and rear seats, and slapping Illinois state decals on the front doors. Carpenter loved it, and the car-rental agency had no idea of the LTD's use in the film.
HADDONFIELD: The film takes place primarily in Haddonfield, Illinois. Haddonfield, NJ is the home town of screenwriter Debra Hill.
DENNIS QUAID: P.J. Soles was dating Dennis Quaid at the time of filming, so John Carpenter and Debra Hill wanted to cast him in the role of Bob. Unfortunately, Quaid was busy working on another project and John Michael Graham was cast in the role instead.
THE FINAL SCENE: Originally the script had Dr. Loomis having a surprised reaction to the disappearance of Michael Myers's body from the lawn at the end of the film. Donald Pleasence suggested his character's reaction should instead be an "I knew this would happen" look on his face. They shot it both ways and ended up using Pleasance's idea.
SCARES OVER BLOOD: The only blood seen in the movie is when Judith Myers is killed and the body of the man Michael killed for his clothes after Loomis makes the phone call along the railroad tracks. It is also see on Laurie's hand and arm after escaping from Michael.
THE "HALLOWEEN" MOVIES BY YEAR:
Halloween II (1981)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
(*)Halloween II (2009)
(*): Rob Zombie rebooted the "Halloween" franchise in 2007 and followed with a sequel in 2009.