While original production and distribution firm Compass International Pictures used their Halloween profits on exploitation fodder like Tourist Trap (1979), Roller Boogie (1979), The Day Time Ended (1980) and Blood Beach (1981), director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill focused on more ambitious theatrical projects at Avco Embassy: The Fog (1980), a classic ghost story about a cursed bayside fishing community; and Escape from New York (1981), the futuristic prison escape actioner with Kurt Russell, Isaac Hayes, and Donald Pleasance.
Universal Pictures and producer Dino Dino De Laurentiis, however, managed to convince executive producer Moustapha Akkad and filmmakers Carpenter and Hill to fashion a Halloween sequel. Directorial chores were handled by newcomer Rick Rosenthal, but Hill and Carpenter supervised the film they wrote together again.
It was during the filming of Halloween II that the first film was sold to NBC for the substantial price of $4 million; for a studio film, that was a fair market rate, but for an indie slasher, it was just another feather in the cap of what had become the most financially successful indie production.
As bloodless as Halloween is, 1981 was still a year where specific elements couldn’t be shown on network TV. Just as early James Bond films or Richard Lester’s bawdy Three Musketeers diptych were shorn of low-level cursory words, sexually provocative behaviour, and certain detailed violence, Halloween had to lose the nudity (which meant all boobies), torment (utterly tame violence, really), as well as drug use (namely Laurie Strode and best buddy Annie Brackett) exchanging puffs from a joint in a driving scene) in order to fit the network’s conservative Standards and Practices rules.
NBC knew they had an ad revenue goldmine in airing a shocker hugely popular with a younger crowd, but the trims had to be compensated with about 10 mins. of extra material (which Carpenter calls "carpet footage"), which Carpenter and Hill scripted, and shot over a 3-day period during the Halloween II shoot, using most of the main actors for four scenes:
- Six months after the killing, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence protesting the transfer of Michael Myers to a low-security sanitarium to emotionally inert psychiatrists in an empty lecture hall.
- A direct follow-up scene where Dr. Loomis enters Myers' room and tells the boy, "You’ve fooled them."
- 15 years later, and the day after Michael’s escape from the sanitarium, Dr. Loomis enters Michael’s room, chides the nurses, and sees the word “sister” carved on the inside of room’s door.
- A scene where Lynda (P.J. Soles) enters Laurie’s home and comments on the creepy car (driven by Michael) that’s been following her around. She then asks Laurie if she can borrow a snazzy blouse, and during their exchange Annie calls, unhappy that she, like Laurie will be stuck babysitting on Halloween night.
These scenes were later archived on the 1994 Criterion laserdisc, although as worn full screen footage. For their 1999 limited (30,000 copies) 2-disc set, Anchor Bay paired the original theatrical cut (newly mastered as an anamorphic THX transfer) with an alternate expanded version that integrated the newly found 2.35:1 anamorphic TV footage, giving fans the opportunity to watch the film uncut, plus more scenes.
This version was not included in the 2005 Divimax 25th Anniversary Edition, but was reissued as a standalone disc, and has remained out of print until it was included in the 2008 30th Anniversary Commemorative Set.
Do the new scenes make a better film? No, because while Carpenter and Hill made good efforts to tie each scene to existing material, they largely feel like scenes that would’ve been cut out during the final edit phase. They slow down Carpenter’s pacing (which, like Assault on Precinct 13, starts off laboriously slow before kicking into gear for the final battle between good and evil), and repeat or add little new information that advances the plot.
The exception is the first new scene, where Dr. Loomis pleads with his colleagues to house Michael in a maximum security facility. The pacing is very slow (long wide shots hang for a while before the next edit) but Donald Pleasence is very, very good. It’s a rare moment where we see the character argue his case instead of spouting the usual mumbo jumbo about Michael being evil, people having no idea of his depravity, etc., and the film wouldn’t have been adversely affected by its inclusion.
The follow-up scene, where Dr. Loomis goes from the lecture hall to Michael’s cell and tells him “You fooled them,” has a great closing line, but by showing us a blank-faced Michael, it robs us of our own image of what evil looks like. The build-up from Pleasence’s desperate plea in the prior scene is quashed by showing us the face of a bland boy.
The remaining Loomis scene – the day after Michael’s escape – is dead weight and plays like a contrived cliffhanger before the next TV ad break, but it does introduce Carpenter and Hill's revision of Laurie as Michael Myers' sister - something completely absent in the theatrical cut. Given Halloween II was literally Carpenter and Hill trying to find a new way to retell and expand the Halloween mythos, it was rather clever to introduce that element in the TV version, which audiences would've seen before the theatrical release of Halloween II.
The same goes for the short scene where Lynda raps on Laurie’s door and tells her the car is still following her. In every instance where a character looks and reacts to something unsettling, Carpenter always cut to a POV shot, but he doesn’t in this scene, making it feel rough, if not incomplete. Laurie loaning Lynda her chic blouse ties into a later scene between Lynda and her beer-guzzling boyfriend, but it’s still a useless scene that doesn’t advance the plot.
The extended edit could be dubbed the Fan Cut, since only fans would be interested to see how the film would’ve played with the extra material. The transfer is clean, but the sound mix is mono – something that might be jarring to those used to their 5.1 THX DVDs of the theatrical cut.
It’s an okay mix, but there’s a perceptible drainpipe echo that’s probably reminiscent of the original mixer’s efforts to add some spatial depth to the mono material. One does wonder why, since Anchor Bay went to the trouble of cutting in the TV scenes (all dialogue heavy), they didn’t port over the stereo mix, since the dialogue would’ve been positioned in the center mono channel.
The DVD’s chapter menu identifies the new scenes, and there’s a short text recap of why the scenes were shot in the first place.
For fans, this version is important for the personal archives, but those wanting to see the film the way Carpenter intended should stick to the theatrical cut.
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, revised 2008, Mark R. Hasan