It would be nice if “Halloween” were still just a movie, but in the 25 years since its release in 1978, “Halloween” has moved to a place in American pop culture that few films ever make it to. Maybe no other horror film is held in such high regard; “Halloween” has been transformed from a film into a historical fact. This is bad because it usually means that the film, whether it be “Citizen Kane” or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is ready for the graveyard. It would be a shame if “Halloween” ended up in the cold hinterlands of film school basements.
The timing of the new “Halloween” DVD, “Halloween: 25th Anniversary Edition,” would seem to be perfect as fans of the classic film are desperate to find a new angle on the film (the sequels haven’t much been help). But this is a terrible presentation of the film, anything but the “last word” on the film that most “Halloween” fans were looking for.
The biggest draw for the new DVD was, undoubtedly, its much-advertised extra features, but these are more myth than reality. Yes, there’s an audio commentary by writer-director John Carpenter, star Jamie Lee Curtis and co-writer-producer Debra Hill, but it’s not a running commentary and it’s little surprise to discover that the audio was taken from the laserdisc that was produced in 1994. Or was it 1984? “Halloween” fans could only wish. But that’s not a big problem; indeed, the commentary, especially for those who haven’t heard it before, is moderately enjoyable and, to be fair, the commentary, in most cases, matches the scenes, although I have to wonder how difficult it would’ve been to get all three parties in the same room to do a brand new commentary. It’s okay, and I guess you can’t blame Anchor Bay for the fact that we know so much already, maybe too much.
What I do blame Anchor Bay for is the lazy presentation and the incompleteness of the disc. The best example of this is in the least-interesting feature of any DVD: the cast and crew bios. There’s only a couple of them and they’re really skimpy, a bad omen of things to come. The title screen looks abysmal. More importantly, where are the missing scenes, the scenes that John Carpenter filmed for “Halloween”’s television debut in 1981(shot during the production of “Halloween II”)? Where are the priceless behind-the-scenes stills that made Anchor Bay’s 1999 release worth buying alone? What about those out-takes and deleted scenes that were supposed to be forthcoming?
Why hasn’t Anchor Bay produced a DVD that has all of these features in one package? What about the additional scenes? In the DVD’s 87 minute documentary, “Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest,” Carpenter asserts that he “hoed out” to the network when he went back and shot those scenes, but I think they’re invaluable. There were four additional scenes: 1) The scene where Loomis goes in front of the board in 1964 to plead for Michael Myers to be kept in a maximum security facility; 2) The scene right after when he goes into young Michael’s room to confront Michael as we get a creepy glimpse of the young psychopath; 3) The scene that takes place the day after Michael’s escape where Loomis sees Michael’s torn-up room, noting the word “Sister” that’s been scrawled into the door, not exactly a minor detail given what happened in “Halloween II”; and, finally, the scene where Lynda(P.J. Soles)arrives at Laurie’s house, wanting to borrow Laurie’s dress, having claimed to have seen the Shape while walking to the house. Did she really see the Shape or was she just joking? Given the way her character dies, it’s gruesomely ironic.
Not only are these scenes interesting and just plain good (“You’ve fooled them, haven’t you, Michael?” Loomis tells young Michael), they add a much-needed structure that glosses over the theatrical version’s one minor flaw: a slight bend towards the slasher genre (the first POV shot of Michael Myers from inside the old Myers House, when Laurie arrives to drop off a key, is the worst shot in the whole film). Without the scene of Loomis going in front of the board, not to mention the scene where Loomis returns to the asylum, we’re left with an all-too-quick transition from Michael’s nighttime escape to his stalking, too quickly established, of Laurie.
Perhaps the most anticipated feature of this new DVD was the aforementioned 87 minute documentary, but what’s amazing is how much more enjoyable Mark Cerulli’s 17 minute documentary, “Halloween Unmasked 2000,” was (available on Anchor Bay’s 1999 release). Yes, the new documentary goes into painstaking detail about the production and there are some valuable details (some rare BBC interviews, detailed descriptions of camera shots), but it’s boring and repetitive (how many times do we have to hear that Debra Hill was born in Haddonfield, New Jersey?). Cerulli’s documentary, however slight, made you wince for “Halloween” and the era in which it was made. This new documentary, however thick, can only be described as passionless.
I suppose it’s demistifying too. Do we really want to know what a nice-guy the original Michael Myers, Nick Castle, was behind the mask? Do we really want to know about the schlocky techniques used by Carpenter and his team to film certain scenes? The whole thing drags on and on. I wanted to cover my ears. Where’s Brian Andrews, “Halloween”’s Tommy Doyle, who appeared in the 1999 DVD? Where’s Nancy Loomis? What about Charles Cyphers, “Halloween”’s Sheriff Brackett, who’s given incredibly short shrift in the documentary. It’s a poorly organized mess and I think Cerulli’s documentary accomplishes more in a fraction of the time.
What makes me so angry about the “Halloween: 25th Anniversary Edition” DVD is the fact that Anchor Bay has access to all of this stuff. Why can’t they have included the television scenes, the documentary of Brian Andrews returning to the Doyle House, the heart-wrenching behind-the-scenes stills (this DVD’s still gallery is a disgrace), an updated commentary? I’ve heard many people complain that this DVD print is washed-out. I don’t know. I’ve seen this film so many times that it’s almost become a completely transparent viewing experience. I don’t think “Halloween” fans are interested in this DVD for the film; they want a final document.
What “Halloween” fans are left with is the prospect of having to buy several DVDs to get the version that Anchor Bay should’ve delivered on this DVD. You want to see a great “Halloween” DVD? You’ll need to buy four different ones – the 1997 DVD, the 1999 restored limited edition, the 2001 television version and this one – which is terrible since Anchor Bay should’ve gotten it right the first time (the 1997 Anchor Bay VHS copy might have the best color transfer of any of them). How many DVDs does Anchor Bay expect “Halloween” fans to buy?
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