Do you know how many times I’ve watched John Carpenter’s Halloween? Enough that when I watch the commentary track with Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter on the new 35th Anniversary Edition, I can listen to them talking about a scene and know it frame by frame. I can nearly do it blindfolded (but who would want to do that). When I was growing up I watched Halloween on a local network station during October. That meant that I had the privilege to enjoy the movie with all the Shot-For-TV scenes included. It also meant that my version was cut to ribbons, removing all the “good parts” (good parts henceforth defined as boobs, blood and curse words). My father had recorded it using our VCR, so my viewing experience of the first three movies, played back to back on consecutive nights, included the station identification, their Halloween themed bumper and several commercial jingles for domestic household products. It was my after school activity to come home and watch all three movies in sequence over and over again. I’d stop at dinner time and pick up the next day when I’d get home. This is the kind of thing that parents today strive to avoid using any number of parental locks or automatic timing software preventing screen time. I’m lucky enough to not have been hindered in my pursuit of the “night he came home”. Everyone has a story about why they love Halloween. When they got their first Michael Myers mask and went on a hunt for the William Shatner based original mask (that hadn’t been recreated when I was a kid). With that in mind, the Anchor Bay, 35th Anniversary Edition of Halloween holds a special spot in my heart because it includes things that were either very much a part of my childhood enjoyment of the movie Halloween or help to clarify what it is I have been watching and maybe why it wowed me say more than He Knows Your Alone or other film influenced by the Carpenter original.
The 35th Anniversary Edition is one gorgeous Blu-ray disc in slip sleeve packaging encased in a regal looking digibook that wraps itself around a handsome history of the great JC’s Halloween. The Shape appears prominently on the cover and includes copper foil embossed like a figurative crown over Michael’s head. It’s simple. Elegant. The stills or production shots inside tell their own story; each either makes light of an otherwise serious kill scene or gives life to the actors who may no longer be with us. To say that Halloween is a celebrated film is an understatement and this is indeed a sophisticated way to laud a film that helped to create the model for the iconic killer and on a meager budget.
Concerning content, the TV and radio spots as well as the original trailer are on the disc. That you’ve seen before on previous releases of this movie including the most recent Blu-ray edition. Where this edition really shines is the new documentaries and commentary as well as one of the most important pieces of the original Halloween that feels like it’s left out of some releases and truly exists to make Halloween a fuller movie.
The TV version footage is a must watch. The inclusion of this content is paramount for me as it is the version I watched growing up. In reviewing the full length movie formally, I made a note to pay attention to how the story changes when you know a little less about Dr. Loomis’ efforts to keep Myers locked up for the rest of his days. If you watch the original feature without the footage inserted for TV airing, you miss the interconnection between Loomis and Myers; that personal sense of knowledge that Loomis has firsthand about the evil that is locked up inside Myers waiting to escape. I understand why this footage was never permanently recut into the movie. That’s not the version most of you fell in love with, but it bears watching and studying for those of you for whom this footage may be new material. My only regret is that no option exists to include this footage the full length movie (though I realize that is somewhat of a pipe dream). Donald Pleasance comes alive in this footage.
The commentary track between John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis is updated and replaces the previous commentary track between JC, JLC and Debra Hill. This commentary is entertaining and informative and plays like two old friends remembering the best of times. When John Carpenter cares about a movie, his commentaries are full of anecdotes and insight into the film in question. This being a groundbreaking work of his and to sit down with the star of the picture means that he’s very active. This isn’t one of the commentaries where Carpenter takes a smoke break mid-way through, though it’s difficult to compete the the Kurt Rusell/Carpenter commentary tracks. As I said in opening this review, you can watch the commentary and hear every piece of dialogue in your head. Most likely you’ve seen this movie as many times or more than I have. Do yourself a favor and enjoy it.
The disc features The Night She Came Home, a documentary that follows Jamie Lee Curtis through her first (and only) horror movie convention experience at HorrorHound in November 2012 (despite what the date on screen tells you). For me this was bittersweet, having tried to attend the appearance and realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to shell out the price of the autography/photo op and make the flight/drive plus book a hotel room. There was simply no way to make it happen. Watching JLC interact with Sean Clark of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (featured in HorrorHound and on several Scream Factory’s releases) is magical. She may not be a horror movie fan, but she receives the admiration of her fans with a sort of regal demeanor. Read that as she’s one classy broad. Beyond the relevance to the movie Halloween, seeing some memorabilia and getting the first hand scoop on why she chose to do a convention after all this time, you get to see a celebrity from start to finish prepare for a rather taxing day at the races. Three days of a horror convention takes will power as a passive con goer much less as the person of main interest who has to sign, pose, meet and greet with a horde or fans. It’s about an hour long, and along with the commentary track are two of the best reasons to pick up this release.
The On Location: 25 Years Later featurette takes the place of what you might find in a segment of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark. The feature takes a look at various shooting locations as they are today and discusses them. You even get to watch the every gracious and totally gorgeous PJ Soles as she wanders through her old dying grounds on that fateful night. An opportunity to pay PJ Soles a compliment is my pleasure and absolutely necessary. She even brings her daughter and her friend around for the walk. This seems to follow the theme of the release where as you actually get to meet the people behind the movie, not as actors but as friends telling you a story about the movie and passing down wisdom.
Now concerning the quality of the new transfer as supervised by cinematographer Dean Cundey, it looks great. Simply beautiful. I’m no quality hound. Hell, I still watch movies on VHS, but you can tell that this is a superior release of the film. I’ve seen a website or two discuss the difference in warmth from the older release to new release, and all I can respond with is that this is the version of the movie that a master of the genre and long time Carpenter co-hort has supervised. He was the cinematographer on the original friggin’ release. It’s as perfect as he wants it to be, and quite frankly, the temperatue of the new release isn’t noticeable unless your directly comparing shots. To say that this release feels more bleak or darker simply doesn’t feel like a realistic assertion to make. I will say that I didn’t notice anything negative about the transfer be it grain or digital restorative smearing. Again, I’m not the quality expert, I just know what I see and what I see is as terrifying as I remember it but beautifully terrifying. Audio track is solid, though I’m at the mercy of 5.1 surround and not the 7.1 provided by the disc. I will amend this review if I should be able to find a viewing situation that allows for the 7.1 experience.
The 35th Anniversary Edition of Halloween on some rich new content, commentary and packaging that make it a must for the franchise collector, but that I believe is equally important for the ordinary fan. If you don’t buy Blu-ray, buy this one. If you own previous releases, buy this one. If you’re looking for something to watch in October that will scare you good and proper… you know what to do.
You can pick up the 35th Anniversary Edition of Halloween HERE available starting September 24th (but pre-order it now).