Halloween released October 25, 1978
Halloween is a 1978 American independent horror film set in the fictional suburban midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois, USA on Halloween. The original draft of the screenplay was titled The Babysitter Murders. John Carpenter directed the film, which stars Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis, Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, and Nick Castle, Tony Moran and Tommy Lee Wallace sharing the role of Michael Myers (listed in the credits as “The Shape”). The film centers on Myers’ escape from a psychiatric hospital, his murdering of teenagers, and Dr. Loomis’ attempts to track and stop him. Halloween is widely regarded as a classic among horror films, and as one of the most influential horror films of its era. In 2006 it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Halloween was produced on a budget of $320,000 and grossed $47 million at the box office in the United States, equivalent to over $150 million as of 2008, becoming one of the most profitable independent films. Many critics credit the film as the first in a long line of slasher films inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). The movie originated many clichés found in low-budget horror films of the 1980s and 1990s. However, the film contains little graphic violence and gore.
Critics have suggested that Halloween and its slasher film successors may encourage sadism and misogyny. Others have suggested the film is a social critique of the immorality of young people in 1970s America, pointing out that many of Myers’ victims are sexually promiscuous substance abusers, while the lone heroine is depicted as chaste and innocent (although she is seen smoking a joint). While Carpenter dismisses such analyses, the perceived parallel between the characters’ moral strengths and their likelihood of surviving to the film’s conclusion has nevertheless become a standard slasher movie trope.
- There are numerous references in John Carpenter’s movies, particularly in this film, that are taken from the area surrounding the town he grew up in – Bowling Green, KY. The performance of the film’s musical score is credited to “The Bowling Green Philharmonic.” There is no Philharmonic in Bowling Green. The “orchestra” is actually Carpenter and assorted musical friends. In one scene the subtitle depicts the location as “Smiths Grove, IL.” Smiths Grove is actually a small town of about 600 people located 15 miles north of Bowling Green on I-65. There are also numerous references in Halloween to street names that are major roads in the greater Bowling Green area.
- 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.
- Jamie Lee Curtis’ first feature film.
- Due to its shoestring budget, the prop department had to use the cheapest mask that they could find in the costume store: a Captain Kirk (William Shatner) mask. They later spray-painted the face white, teased out the hair, and reshaped the eye holes.
- The kids watch the opening of The Thing from Another World (1951) on TV. Carpenter would later re-make this film himself in 1982 as The Thing (1982).
- Halloween was shot in 21 days in April of 1978. Made on a budget of $320,000, it became the highest-grossing independent movie ever made at that time.
- According to screenwriter/producer Debra Hill, the character of Laurie Strode was named after John Carpenter’s first girlfriend.
- Tommy Doyle’s name was from Rear Window (1954) and Sam Loomis’ name is from Psycho (1960).
- Inside Laurie’s bedroom there is a poster of a painting by James Ensor (1860-1949). Ensor was a Belgian expressionist painter who used to portray human figures wearing grotesque masks.
- The film takes place primarily in Haddonfield, Illinois. Haddonfield, NJ is the home town of screenwriter Debra Hill.
- The performance of Halloween’s musical score is credited to “The Bowling Green Philharmonic”. There is no Philharmonic in Bowling Green. The “orchestra” is actually John Carpenter and assorted musical friends.
- All of the actors wore their own clothes, since there was no money for a costume department. Jamie Lee Curtis went to J.C. Penney for Laurie Strode’s wardrobe. She spent less than a hundred dollars for the entire set. She shot the film while on hiatus from the sitcom Operation Petticoat (1977) (TV).
- The character of Michael Myers was named after the European distributor of Carpenter’s previous film, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) as a kind of weird “thank you” for the film’s overseas success.
- Tommy’s Halloween costume is an Alphan uniform from “Space: 1999” (1975).
- The opening shot appears to be a single, tracking, point of view shot, but there are actually three cuts. The first when the mask goes on, and the second and third after the murder has taken place and the shape is exiting the room. This was done to make the point of view appear to move faster.
- The name of the sheriff is “Leigh Brackett”. Leigh Brackett was also the name of the screenwriter of Howard Hawks’ classic Rio Bravo (1959), which was the inspiration for John Carpenter’s previous film, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).
- Kyle Richards, who plays Lindsey Wallace, is the sister of Kim Richards, who appeared in John Carpenter’s previous film, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).
- Half of the $320,000 budget was spent on the Panavison cameras so the film would have a 2:35:1 scope. Donald Pleasence was paid $20,000 for 5 days work.
- Carpenter approached Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to play the Sam Loomis role (that was eventually played by Donald Pleasence) but both turned him down. Lee later said it was it was the biggest mistake he ever made in his career.
- Morgan Strode’s black Fleetwood (seen in the driveway when he is talking to Laurie early in the movie) belonged to director John Carpenter, while the Phelps Garage truck was owned by the company that catered for the film.
- Anne Lockhart was John Carpenter’s first choice for the role of Laurie Strode.
- None of the big studios at the time was interested in distributing the movie, so executive producer Irwin Yablans decided to distribute the film via his own company (Compass International). MCA/Universal produced and distributed the next two sequels in the early ’80s.
- Aside from dialogue, the script cites Michael Myers by name only twice. In the opening scene, he is called a POV until he is revealed at age 6. From the rest of the script on out he is referred to as a “shape” until Laurie rips his mask off in the final scene (which he never reapplies in the script). “The Shape”, as credited in the film, refers to when his face is masked or obscured.
- 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.
- John Carpenter provides the voice of Annie’s boyfriend, Paul, whom we hear on the phone talking to Annie.
- The original script, titled “The Babysitter Murders”, had the events take place over the space of several days. It was a budgetary decision to change the script to have everything happen on the same day (doing this reduced the number of costume changes and locations required) and it was decided that Halloween, the scariest night of the year, was the perfect night for this to happen.
- When they were shooting the scenes for the start of the film (all the ones seen from Michael’s point of view) they couldn’t get the 6-year old child actor until the last day, so the movie’s producer, Debra Hill, volunteered to be Michael for any scenes where his hands come into view. This is why the nails on young Michael’s hands look so well manicured and varnished.
- The cinematography for the Halloween sequence in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) was the inspiration for the look of Carpenter’s color scheme.
- Donald Pleasence did all of his scenes in only 5 days of shooting.
- When Dr. Loomis is talking to the doctors in the empty classroom, Dr. Loomis is sitting in seat #37.
- Sheriff Brackett was named after film-noir writer Leigh Brackett.
- According to Don Post Jr., President of Don Post Studios, the famous California mask making company, the filmmakers originally approached his firm about custom making an original mask for use in the film. The filmmakers explained that they could not afford the numerous costs involved in creating a mask from scratch, but would offer Post points in the movie as payment for his services. Post declined their offer, as he received many such proposals from numerous unknown filmmakers all the time, but suggested that they repaint/refurbish the “Captain Kirk” masks eventually used in the film, which eventually was done, and which netted Mr. Post a profit of less than $100. Post later estimated, after the film became a hit, that if he had accepted the original offer for points in the film in exchange for his creation of an original mask, his profit would have run well over $100,000.
- Yul Brynner’s robot character from Westworld (1973) was the inspiration for the character of Michael Myers.
- The song that is playing on the radio when Laurie and Annie are in the car is “Don’t Fear The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult.
- This was voted the fifth scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
- The “Myers” house was a locale found in South Pasadena that was largely the decrepit, abandoned place seen in the majority of the film. However, as the house had to look ordinary (and furnished) for the early scenes with the young Michael Myers, almost the whole cast and crew worked together to clean the place, move in furniture, put up wallpaper, and set up running water and electricity, and then take it all out when they were through.
- Much credit for the concept must go to its producer Irwin Yablans, who had the concept originally for a horror film called “The Babysitter Murders”. Upon further research, Yablans discovered to his surprise that no previous film had been titled “Halloween” and thought it would be a great concept to set these “babysitter murders” on the holiday. With these ideas, Yablans convinced an excited John Carpenter to write and direct a film around them.
- The wealthy film producer Moustapha Akkad had admittedly little interest in this film and helped make it primarily due to the enthusiasm of John Carpenter and Irwin Yablans. However, when the film turned out to be a huge box-office smash, Akkad saw an opportunity and has since facilitated every ‘Halloween’ sequel.
- The adult Michael Myers was portrayed by Nick Castle in almost every scene, except for some pick-up shots and the unmasking scene, where he was replaced by Tony Moran. Castle was a school-buddy of John Carpenter and was thought of by Carpenter because he was tall and had what Carpenter considered an interesting walk. Castle admitted he was disappointed to not be the face shown, but understood that Carpenter wanted a more “angelic” face to juxtapose with Myers’ ghastly deeds. Castle has gone on to become a successful director.
- John Carpenter was quite intimidated by Donald Pleasence, of whom he was a big fan and who was easily the oldest and most experienced person on set. Although Pleasance asked Carpenter difficult questions about his character, Pleasance turned out to be a good-humored, big-hearted individual and the two became great friends.
- Of the female leads (all the girls are supposed to be in high school), only Jamie Lee Curtis was actually a teenager at the time of shooting.
- The long tracking shot at the beginning was inspired by the tracking shot in Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958). The shot would have been impossible to achieve on the film’s budget if it wasn’t for the recent invention of the steadicam tracking system.
- P.J. Soles says the word “totally” eleven times.
- Before Don Post became involved, Michael was going to wear a clown mask.
- Laurie remarks that she would rather go out with unseen character “Ben Tramer”. The name came from Bennett Tramer, an old college friend of director John Carpenter. The real Bennett Tramer has also had a career in the motion picture industry as a writer and producer.
- A young Jamie Lee Curtis was so disappointed with her performance that she became convinced she would be fired after only the first day of filming. When her phone rang that night and it was John Carpenter on the phone, Curtis was certain it was the end of her movie career. Instead, Carpenter called to congratulate her and tell her he was very happy with the way things had gone.
- The Halloween theme is written in the rare 5/4 time signature. John Carpenter learned this rhythm from his father.
- The scene where The Shape seems to appear out of the darkness behind Laurie was accomplished by using a simple dimmer switch on the light that slowly illuminated the mask.
- One of the characters is named “Marion Chambers”. Marion was the first name of the female protagonist of Psycho (1960), and Chambers was the last name of the sheriff in that movie.
- That Michael Myers could drive a car despite having gotten committed to an asylum at the age of six inspired many guffaws. The first movie novelization came up with a simple but effective explanation: when Doctor Loomis drove Michael to sanity hearings over the years, Michael simply watched very closely and carefully as Doctor Loomis operated the car. Remember, even if Michael sat in the back seat and there was a screen of bulletproof glass partition, Michael could still look over the Doctor’s shoulder without Loomis realizing the significance.
- According to an additional scene in the extended television version, Michael Myers’ middle name is Audrey.
- Carpenter wrote the part of Lynda for P.J. Soles after seeing her performance in Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976).
- Although Nick Castle plays the part of Michael Myers throughout the film, when his mask is removed by Laurie at the climax, another actor Tony Moran was used.
- The opening POV sequence took 2 days to film.
- Carpenter composed the score in 4 days.
- For its first airing on television, extra scenes had to be added to make it fit the desired time slot. Carpenter filmed these during the production of Halloween II (1981) against his better judgment.
- Donald Pleasence confessed to John Carpenter that the main reason why he took the part of Loomis was because his daughter Angela loved Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).
- 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).
- Carpenter’s intent with the character of Michael Myers was that the audience should never be able to relate to him.
- Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill have stated many times over the years that they did not consciously set out to depict virginity as a way of defeating a rampaging killer. The reason why the horny teens all die is simply that they’re so preoccupied with getting laid that they don’t notice that there’s a killer at large. Laurie Strode, on the other hand, spends a lot of time on her own and is therefore more alert.
- As the film was shot out of sequence, Carpenter created a fear meter so that Jamie Lee Curtis would know what level of terror she should be exhibiting.
- Debra Hill wrote most of the dialog for the female characters, while Carpenter concentrated on Dr Loomis’s speeches.
- As the film was made in spring, the crew had huge difficulty in procuring pumpkins.
- Production designer Tommy Lee Wallace picked the iconic mask in a dime store. It was a mask of Captain Kirk and cost $1.98. Wallace spray painted the eyes to change the appearance (and also to avoid the risk of litigation).
- From a budget of $325,000 the film went on to gross $47 million at the US box office. In 2008 takings that would be the equivalent of $150 million, making “Halloween” one of the most successful independent films of all time.
- Prior to the movie, a book was written by Curtis Richards, and reveals more of the story behind Michael’s rage. However, the book is very rare.
- Nancy Kyes (Annie Brackett) starred in at least three other Carpenter films, one being another of the Halloween franchise; Halloween III: Season of the Witch. The others are The Fog and Assault on Precinct 13.
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