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Halloween – Collector’s Edition

 

Halloween

Halloween – Collector’s Edition

Anchor Bay Entertainment – 1978

Directed by John Carpenter

Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill

 

Starring
Donald Pleasence
Jamie Lee Curtis
PJ Soles
Nancy Loomis

I had to take a step back and collect my thoughts before tackling this masterpiece. It’s one of my two favorite films, so I hope my words can do it justice. In 1978, this film was released upon the unexpecting world. It was originally panned by the critics, until the Village Voice saw it for what it is, 90 minutes of unrelenting suspense. That review critically turned the tide for the entire country and HALLOWEEN started picking up steam to eventually become the most successful independent film ever made.

I remember the first time I ever came across anything to do with the film. I was thirteen years old, flipping through the Seattle Times newspaper and I saw the poster ad with the horrifying image of a pumpkin holding a large butcher knife. It was so scary I remember not wanting to look at it very long. There was something frightening about seeing an image we associated with trick or treating now looking like death. It clearly represented the film and is a brilliant movie poster. Simple yet completely effective, the same can be said of the film.

For those of you who don’t know, HALLOWEEN is about a six year old boy named Michael Myers, who kills his sister with a butcher knife on Halloween night 1963. He’s put away into Smith Grove-Warren County Sanitarium where Michael waits patiently for the right moment to break free. October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, Michael Myers makes his escape. He steals a car and heads straight for home, Haddonfield, Illinois.

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is the kind of good girl every parent would hope to have. Straight laced, focused on school, she excels at what most consider boring and not fun. Laurie’s father is a real estate agent and on Halloween morning, he asks Laurie to drop off a key at the old Myers house. He says someone wants to see it. Laurie does the favor for her father, but little does she know someone is already in the house. As Laurie puts the key under the front door mat, a dark shadowed man with heavy breathing puts his head into frame to look at her. It’s Michael. This is the first of many instances where John Carpenter uses the foreground and background with impact. As Laurie walks away down a sidewalk, Michael takes the opportunity to step into frame into the rest of her life.

Later that day, as Laurie is sitting in class, she looks out the school room to see a pasty faced man staring at her from across the street. The man doesn’t move as he stands fixated on her. Laurie gets asked a question, which she answers. When she looks book to the window, the man and his car are gone. This begins a string of situations where the white faced man follows Laurie around, always making himself seen and then disappearing. This cat and mouse game makes Michael Myers seem almost supernatural, which works tremendously well because it’s not hard to think of him as the Boogeyman.

Laurie agrees to babysit Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews) that night and her friends Annie (Nancy Loomis) and Lynda (PJ Soles) hook up with their boyfriends. Amazingly in the second half of the film, the three girls are placed across the street from each other, but unfortunately Mr. Myers is there too. Carpenter shrinks the distance down to two neighboring houses which is one of his trademark moves. Carpenter likes to confine his characters to tight spaces and put them under attack. You’ll see this if you look at any one of his films. It’s a stroke of genius, because it puts the film crew in one location (no wasted time traveling) and all of the characters are in immediate danger.

The other character heavily involved in the story is Michael’s doctor, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Dr. Loomis, who carries a gun, pursues Myers the entire film and is the only one who understands what Michael is capable of doing. He has been watching Michael for fifteen years and he knows what is inside Michael is “purely and simply, evil.” Donald Pleasence is very important to HALLOWEEN‘s success. He is the voice of experience and wisdom. Donald Pleasence will always be remembered playing this character.

John Carpenter made a huge mark in the industry with HALLOWEEN. Carpenter gets honest performances from each of his actors and he can thank Debra Hill for selecting Jamie Lee Curtis for the lead role. Carpenter’s visual approach is awe-inspiring. The visual precision is so economical, yet ambitious at the same time, it’s a blue print for any aspiring director. The lenses Carpenter picks make full use of the widescreen format and show off Dean Cundey’s stellar lighting. There are many visual moments in the film that will burn right into your head and you will never forget them; Annie on the phone in foreground, while Michael stands behind her, Annie stuck in the window of the laundry house with Michael staring into the window behind her, Tommy Doyle’s POV seeing “The Boogeyman” standing in front of the Wallace house across the street, Michael’s long walk across the street coming right at us, Michael smashing into the closet, Michael sitting straight up behind Laurie as she sits in the doorway at the end. The one that really got me when I first saw the film was when Michael’s white mask slowly appears out of the dark closet, right before he slices Laurie’s shoulder with the butcher knife. I still can’t fully shake that nightmarish image.

Carpenter also made an unforgettable music score. His music conjures up the atmosphere of a small Midwestern town, during the autumn season. The main HALLOWEEN theme is so identifiable that the minute you hear it, you can’t help but think of Michael Myers.

Nick Castle’s performance as Michael Myers or “The Shape” is very special. It’s not often that an actor wearing a mask will make such an impression. You would think just about anyone could throw that white mask on and become Michael Myers. But if you look at the sequels, nobody has come close to recreating the William Shatner mask and no other actor moves like Nick Castle. Castle gave The Shape a touch a grace. All of the other actors playing Michael are clunky and stiff.

I understand that Anchor Bay’s first DVD release of HALLOWEEN was not well received. With this you can rest assured that you will be completely satisfied. Anchor Bay with the supervision of Lucasfilm has struck a new 35mm interpositive (made from the original camera negative) transfer that is THX-Certified and brings HALLOWEEN to DVD with startling visual power. The picture is super clean without scratches. The colors are practically life like and black runs deep.

Anchor Bay put a nice effort into the supplement section. Halloween Unmasked is a new 26 minute documentary that chronicles how HALLOWEEN was made. Most important cast and crew speak out (except the late Donald Pleasence) about how they went about making HALLOWEEN. There are neat details exposed and they show you how some of the film locations look today. Most fans will want to have this just for this documentary.

The still gallery is packed with photos, advertising material and more. The audio commentary which was on the Criterion laser disc is missing, but that would be my only complaint.

I wouldn’t go another day without this DVD.

www.anchorbayentertainment.com

The Terminator – Special Edition

 

Terminator

The Terminator – Special Edition

MGM Home Entertainment – 1984

Directed by James Cameron

Written by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd

Starring
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Michael Biehn
Linda Hamilton
Paul Warfield
Lance Henriksen

THE TERMINATOR hits the screen with a full out assault on your cinematic senses. Between the excellent acting, photography, editing, music and special effects, this is a powerful directorial attack from the brilliant mind of James Cameron. THE TERMINATOR’s greatest strength lies in its circular story that presents a narrative structure that few films will ever achieve. It’s the way Cameron has connected the future with the past and the resulting action that comes from it.

A muscular cyborg, THE TERMINATOR (Arnold Schwarzenegger) travels through time to present day (1984) Los Angeles. THE TERMINATOR’s mission is to find and kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) who will mother a child, John Connor, who will lead a fight against the machines in the future.

Simultaneously, John Connor sends back a resistance fighter named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to stop THE TERMINATOR from killing his mother. Even more amazing is the fact that Kyle Reese ends ups getting Sarah pregnant, which means John Connor sends back his father, so that he will be born. It’s a full circle that has no end. That is unless THE TERMINATOR can break the chain.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been better. In fact, I don’t believe he will never top this character. Between his massive build and his vocal delivery, he is THE TERMINATOR. Arnold gives the character great body movements as he jerks his head and moves in a somewhat robotic manner.

Michael Biehn is unforgettable as Kyle Reese. Undersized compared to Schwarzenegger, Biehn battles Arnold and is utterly believable as a futuristic warrior and man who loves Sarah Connor. The romantic link between Kyle and Sarah is beautiful, convincing and will touch your soul. It’s the love story between these two characters that lifts this film far above the more technically proficient sequel T-2 and other Sci-fi action films.

Adam Greenberg’s cinematography is really wonderful. He is a master at creating ominous lighting that helps sets the mood of THE TERMINATOR and brings the apocalyptic future onto the screen.

Brad Fiedel’s score is inspired collection of dark keyboard lines, big pounding drums and metallic clangs. It’s war music that symbolizes the story.

Editor Mark Goldblatt must be mentioned. His aggressive cutting joins Cameron’s story together, never letting things slow down, except where the film needs to.

MGM has gone all out to put together a supplemental section that will make any TERMINATOR fan happy. We get two documentaries about the making of the film. Other Voices is a brand new feature that covers the entire creation of the film with the thoughts and testimony from nearly every major contributor from the film. It’s fascinating hearing how the film was created. While James Cameron was in Rome, Italy working on PIRAHNA 2, he became very sick and during his illness, had nightmares about a large robotic man rising up from an inferno. This image was the genesis of this landmark film. The second documentary The Terminator – A Retrospective was recorded in 1991, around the time of T-2 and features Cameron and Schwarzenegger speaking out about their work on THE TERMINATOR.

Originally Cameron was going to cast Lance Henriksen as THE TERMINATOR. During the audition process Henriksen dressed up as the character, walking into the room in full costume and even metal teeth. Eventually Cameron had a meeting with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had hopes of playing the hero Kyle Reese. But Cameron could see that the “Austrian Oak” was perfect for the villain and asked him to re-consider roles. Cameron made a clear observation stating, “This role will be the biggest of your career and it will put you on the map as an actor.” Schwarzenegger read the script and agreed with Cameron.

There is also a massive collection of photos from the film as well as revealing behind the scenes photos.

We also get a bunch of trailers and ad spots for television. There are deleted scenes with audio commentary from James Cameron. It’s really nice to see the footage that never made it into the film, but you can certainly see why Cameron cut it out.

The DVD case itself is pretty darn cool. The powerful imagery conveys what the movie is all about. The picture quality looked cleaner than the print I first saw in 1984. The sound is leaps and bounds better than the original mix, as now the film is in stereo with aggressive use of surround channels.

One of the neatest things I found is being able to read the screenplay as A Script To Screen feature. You can look at how much Cameron ended up getting in principal photography, the differences in dialogue and on screen action. Cameron’s original complete treatment is also available and it’s surprisingly close to the final film.

I must not forget to mention Stan Winston’s special make-up effects. Winston and his crew turned Arnold into the metallic man and the full endoskeleton is one of the coolest looking things put on film. The CGI stuff today can never live up to high quality make-up effects, like the work Winston did on this film.

I can’t say enough about THE TERMINATOR – Special Edition. MGM Home Entertainment has done their job and delivered an awesome DVD. I’d find the closest DVD outlet or go online to buy this DVD immediately.

www.mgm.com/dvd

 

Jeepers Creepers – Special Edition

 

jeeperscreepers

Jeepers Creepers – Special Edition

MGM Home Entertainment – 2001

Written and Directed by Victor Salva

 

Starring
Gina Philips
Justin Long
Jonathan Breck
Eileen Brennan

MGM Home Entertainment is putting out some amazing special edition DVDs. JEEPERS CREEPERS – Special Edition is from top to bottom, one of the finest DVDs I’ve seen. A great deal of care went into the special features and I wasn’t surprised to see that Victor Salva was in on the construction of Behind The Peepers. Tom Tarantini co-created this outstanding look behind the film. This making of documentary explodes with dazzling use of behind the scenes footage, still photos and Bennett Salvay’s incredible music.

The first section is called Finding Trish And Darry.  Producer Tom Luse and Victor Salva explain how they went about casting the two lead characters. We even get to see Gina Philips and Justin Long’s impressive first auditions. It’s in this section that Victor Salva admits that he made JEEPERS in response to seeing THE BLAIR WITCH and THE SIXTH SENSE. After seeing those films, he said it inspired him to go back and make the kind of film he made in during high school the only kind he always wanted to make. Salva grew up watching the old Universal “Monster” movies and JEEPERS CREEPERS came out of that.

 In Designing The Creeper Brad Parker Designer/Illustrator tells how he immediately could visualize Salva’s script. Parker grew up in Nebraska and says The Creeper is a classic Midwest bogeyman. He said he could totally relate to the wide open spaces with trees by themselves and old abandoned buildings left along the roadside. Cars And Trucks is the segment that shows how The Creeper’s old beat up truck was designed. Victor Salva says as he was putting together the opening 30 minutes of the movie, he realized that he was making DUEL, which he saw when he was thirteen years old. The Creeper Comes To Florida Jonathan Breck who played The Creeper, details how he played the mysterious character. Included is his audition, the sniff test scene, which is he performs amazingly similar to the final film. You can easily see why Breck won the role. In Night Shoots you will learn about how the film was shot at night and what the crew did to pull off the tricky stunt work. Composed By Bennett Salvay is the last section, which details how Salvay created the amazing score. We get a few sections of the film with isolated score and we get to see Salvay working with the different orchestras to get the music for the film. 

In all, the quality of the documentary interview footage, which is letterboxed and the audio and editing is pure dynamite. I haven’t seen a better behind the scenes documentary. Other supplements include: Deleted and Extended Scenes including Alternate Opening and Ending Sequences, Victor Salva’s audio commentary, a beautiful photo gallery and trailer.

I loved this movie. It is very well made by someone who is obliviously a horror movie fan. Victor Salva’s choices are mature and stylistically impressive. The first 30 minutes are as intense as any film I’ve ever seen. It made me think of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and DUEL. Salva doesn’t rush things and lets things unfold at an old fashioned rate. The way things should be when you are telling a monster movie or suspense piece.

A brother Darry (Justin Long) and sister Trish (Gina Philips) driving home, are almost run over by someone driving menacing looking truck. A short time later they see the truck and spot the man dumping what looks like bodies into a sewer pipe. The man doesn’t take kindly to their spying eyes viciously chases after them in his supped up, tattered truck. After almost getting killed by the maniac in the truck, Darry convinces Trish to go back and see if someone is still alive. This is a big mistake as it unleashes a chain of horrifying events, each more ghastly than the other. I was very impressed with the two young lead actors. Not only are they convincing as siblings, but are both able to project sheer terror believably. You are going to see Justin Long and Gina Philips again, that I’m sure of. It’s stroke of genius keeping The Creeper hidden for most of the movie. It makes you constantly guess who and what he is. An old man, a demon, Victor Salva lets your imagination come up with what you fear the most. Some people have complained that they didn’t like the ending because it reminded them of other movies. When I really think about it after watching this film again, I don’t think he made a bad choice. I think the medium character Jezette Gay Hartman (played by Patricia Belcher) was out of place but everything else was a progression of where the story was going. Salva wasn’t afraid to put his foot down in the end and really let you see The Creeper for what he is, a monster.

www.mgm.com/dvd