It is THE Halloween movie. Others followed but arguably never quite hit the mark in quite the same way, despite often considerably larger budgets (and we mean considerably larger).
Watching it now – yes, some of the acting is more than a little hammy. Yes, the sound in places is pretty poor to the point of being nearly inaudible. But the most important thing remains to this day, just shy of 40 years on. Tension. It builds very nicely from the start to the climax. Considering what the film makers were up against (did we mention the miniscule budget?) it’s almost miraculous that we are left with a classic horror film.
Here’s 10 of the the most interesting things you (probably) didn’t know about John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978)…
Due to having an extremely small budget, the prop department had to use the cheapest $2 mask that they could find in a costume store and ended up modifying a William Shatner mask, They spray-painted the face white, messed up the hair, and made the eye holes bigger as well as ripping out the side burns and eyebrows. The crew decided that this emotionless and featureless mask was suitably creepy and the reactions on set confirmed this was the right choice. The Michael Myers mask was also partly inspired by the French film Le Yeux Sans Visage (The Eyes Without A Face) where a girl with a burnt face wears a featureless mask.
The film actually went slightly over its $300k budget due to Donald Pleasence’s $40k salary, which was only meant to be $20k originally.
From this budget the film went on to gross around $70 million worldwide, making ‘Halloween’ one of the most successful independent films of all time (taking inflation into account).
John Carpenter earned just $10,000 for making the movie but had an agreement in place to take 5% of box office earnings, meaning he received an enormous cheque!
John Carpenter hired Jamie Lee Curtis as the ultimate tribute to Alfred Hitchcock who had given her mother, actress Janet Leigh, legendary status in Psycho (1960). He has since stated that he would have given her the role anyway such was her talent, irrespective of her famous parents (with her father being actor Tony Curtis).
John Carpenter approached Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to play the role of psychiatrist Dr Sam Loomis (eventually played somewhat idiosyncratically by accomplished actor Donald Pleasance) but both declined due to poor salary on offer.
Lee later conceded that it was the biggest mistake of his career.
Sam Loomis is, of course, Michael Myers’ psychiatrist. Sam Loomis is also the name of Marion Crane’s secret lover in Psycho (1960).
As mentioned, Marion Crane was played by Jamie Lee Curtis‘s mother, Janet Leigh, and Annie is played by actress Nancy Kyes, who was credited as Nancy Loomis. The name Loomis was also used in Scream (1996).
Originally, Nick Castle was on set as he wanted to watch the movie being filmed as a budding director. It was at the suggestion of his former school friend John Carpenter that Castle take up the role of Michael Myers, as he was tall and had what Carpenter considered an interesting walk. The adult Michael Myers was portrayed by Nick Castle in virtually every scene, except for some pick-up shots and the unmasking scene, where he was replaced by Tony Moran. Castle admitted he was disappointed to not be the face shown, but understood that Carpenter wanted a more “angelic” face to contrast with Myers’ otherwise evil character. Castle has gone on to become a successful director.
In a 2010 documentary, it was revealed that five different people dressed as The Shape (Michael Myers): Nick Castle (throughout the movie), Tony Moran (during the unmasking by Laurie Strode), stuntman James Winburn, production designer Tommy Lee Wallace and co-writer/co-producer Debra Hill (in the external wide shot when Tommy sees The Shape for the first time).
Did you find it unlikely that Michael would be able to break the station wagon window so easily with just the palm of his hand in the escape scene (video above)? Well, to ensure the window would actually break, a wrench was secured to the actor’s forearm and hand, which was then painted flesh coloured to disguise it.
John Carpenter based serial killer Michael Myers on Yul Brynner‘s robotic Gunslinger from Westworld (1973), a movie adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel. Carpenter would work with the late author’s ex-wife, the actress Anne Marie Martin, in Halloween II (1981). She is uncredited as Nurse Karen’s friend, Darcy Essmont.