Made for $300,000 and grossing over $50 million, Halloween has nicely aged into a pioneering genre classic, setting the template for boogeyman-in-the-house films, and the machinations of a good slasher film - even though the filmmakers have consistently regarded the first movie as anything but a violent slasher flick (something the sequels slowly morphed into before Halloween H20 re-shuffled the format in 1998, with some character depth).
Prior to Halloween's debut on Blu-Ray on October 2, John Carpenter's classic horror film has been repackaged in a lower-priced single disc edition, although there are some significant differences between this THX-approved release from 2000 (original catalogue # DV-10896), and the 2-disc 25th Anniversary Divimax release from 2003.
The first Halloween DVD from 1997 was a bare bones edition, and was among the label's earliest DVD transfers, affected by some visible video noise and compression. In 1999, Anchor Bay released the film in a limited tin featuring the theatrical cut and extended TV cut on separate, THX-certified DVDs. The theatrical cut, accompanied by the full screen version on the B-side plus various extras, including a new 2000 documentary by Mark Cerulli, was also available separately, as was the extended TV cut in 2001.
The theatrical cut was eventually remastered in Anchor Bay 's new Divimax high-resolution system, and yielded a far sharper picture with less visible compression. The brightness was boosted, however, augmenting the film grain in darker shots, and reducing the colour saturation present in the prior THX release. The 2-disc Divimax edition, however, contained a wealth of extras, including the much sought-after commentary track from the old Criterion laserdisc release, and a new feature-length making-of documentary filmed in 2003.
The discreet Dolby 5.1 mix created by Chace Audio on both releases, however, is very dynamic, and contains lots of bass-friendly rumbling, and John Carpenter's iconic synth score. (The Criterion laserdisc did include an isolated music and effects mix, albeit in mono.) Both Divimax and THX releases contain additional Dolby 2.0 Surround Sound and original mono mixes.
This 2007 dual-layer disc basically contains the widescreen and full screen THX transfers of the theatrical cut from the prior flipper and limited tin releases, plus extras, some of which are not present on the Divimax release.
The most notable difference is the featurette “Halloween Unmasked,” directed by Mark Cerulli, narrated by Dee Snider (!), and probably the first meaty documentary on the making of the film. Tighter and more concise than the 88 min. doc on the Divimax release, Cerulli nevertheless had access to the film's main players, which includes director Carpenter, co-writer/producer Debra Hill, executive producer Irwin Yablans, production executive Joseph Wolf, financier Moustapha Akkad, production designer Tommy Lee Wallace, cinematographer Dean Cundy, and actors Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nick Castle, and a short bit with Brian Andrews, who played Tommy Doyle (the kid Curtis babysits that fateful night).
The Pasadena locations used to create the town of Haddonfield are also revisited (though in less detail than the 10 min. travelogue on the Divimax release), and the doc provides a good overview of the film's genesis, writing stage, casting, production, release, and reception.
The more interesting bits have Curtis proudly defending her role as a strong-willed woman; the creation of the Shape's mask; Carpenter noting the passing of the ‘real Michael Myers' (a UK distributor whose handling of Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 launched his directing career); and Carpenter's admission that the Shape was designed as “a force of Nature,” lacking a backstory to elevate the unstoppable foe into a legendary figure – which seems ironic now, in light of Rob Zombie's 2007 remake (or re-imagining) which attempts to fill in Michael Myers' backstory.
Portions of Curtis' interview material was integrated into the Divimax doc which otherwise includes wholly new interviews from 2003, and the THX release shares some of the Divimax extras excepting the aforementioned featurette, a re-release trailer, an additional (:10) TV spot, an extra radio spot, and twice the amount of stills/poster art. There's also a Trivia section, and 4 additional bios: financier Akkad, producer Hill, executive producer Yablans, and actress Soles.
Costing half the price of the 2-disc Divimax edition, this repacked version (with a holographic O-sleeve) offers a decent mix of extras, though the inclusion of the full screen version (a rather obsolete concept at this stage in DVD's history) takes away valuable space which could have ensured a much cleaner presentation of the still-worthy THX transfer.
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).
© 2007 Mark R. Hasan