John Carpenter's iconic horror classic returns in a new incarnation from Anchor Bay, replacing the label's two older full screen/widescreen flipper discs, and the THX-mastered 1999 edition (released separately, and also as a limited edition set, with the extended TV version on Disc 2). Remastered in the label's new Divimax High Definition video standard, the print looks very nice, with sharp details, and vivid shades of nighttime blue that dominate the evening cinematography.
The Dolby 5.1 audio mix has been ported over from the 1999 release, and it's a good, atmospheric blend, with modest surround trickery. There's also an effective Dolby stereo track, and the film's original mono mix. Unique to the Criterion laserdisc, however, is the isolated score of John Carpenter's mono soundtrack.
When Criterion released the film on CAV laserdisc back in 1994, the deluxe set contained one of the best commentary tracks for a film, intricately interweaving comments from Carpenter, writer/producer Debra Hill, and star Jamie Lee Curtis. It's taken some time, but now the missing link is finally on a DVD release. Best summarized as a chronicle of a coupe of “kids” making a no-budget movie, the trio do a good job of covering the film's inception, production and final release, and offer some good background material using the film as a benchmark in their respective film careers.
Carpenter's solo commentaries tend to be painfully literal descriptions of onscreen action, and with good editing, Criterion trimmed things back and added comments from co-writer/producer Hill, and a lively Curtis; it's a blend of sedate, matter-of-fact, and ebullient personalities that will engage listeners for a full ninety minutes, with little repetition.
Extra production info initially appeared in text and graphic form on the laserdisc, and for the second flipper DVD, Anchor Bay produced a “Halloween Unmasked 2000” documentary. The new doc in this set, “Halloween: A Cut Above The Rest,” adds material from some of the other actors and producers, and there's not as much overlap as expected (though given its length, the doc really should have been chapter-indexed).
Tightly paced with a multitude of visuals including rare on-set interviews and behind-the-scenes footage by the BBC. As a whole, the doc adds several new points on how the Compas people strategically marketed the film after complete and utter disinterest from major studios, and the film's meteoric success when positive word of mouth became undeniable.
There's also a great anecdote from Carpenter, regarding an ironic, critical jab from an alumnus, when the film was screened in front of a USC class in 1978, and the filmmakers weren't ready for the collegiate drubbing. Some very funny observations by the “Halloween” team also address the heady critical theories, involving Catholic guilt and sex-equals-death quotient, that were never considered by the savvy filmmakers themselves during the film's creation.
P.J. Soles takes us on a guided tour of the main “Halloween” locations in “On Location: 25 Years Later,” and Hill also appears in the featurette, discussing the homes and streets that effectively recreated the Midwest locale of her childhood.
The remaining extras concern the film's publicity assault, and from these elements, it's easy to see why “Halloween” is still considered a slasher film – the heightened fear and graphic violence are heavily implied - but the carefully paced tension and eerie mood are what makes the film endure as a horror classic.
Films in the Halloween franchise include Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween V (1989), Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), the seventh part, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998), the eighth part, Halloween: Resurrection (2002), and Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007).
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan