15 Terrifying Facts About John Carpenter’s Halloween

Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment

It doesn't matter how many times you've seen it; John Carpenter's Halloween, which was released more than 40 years ago, will always be required viewing for the holiday for which it's named. Here are 15 things you might not have known about the film.

1. It took less than two weeks to write the script for halloween.

Director John Carpenter originally intended to call his movie The Babysitter Murders, but producer Irwin Yablans suggested that the story may be more significant if it were based around a specific holiday, so the title was changed to Halloween. Carpenter and co-screenwriter Debra Hill wrote the original script in just 10 days.

2. Halloween features Jamie Lee Curtis's feature debut.

Jamie Lee Curtis was initially interested in the role because she loved Carpenter’s 1976 film Assault on Precinct 13 and went on to audition for the part of Laurie Strode three separate times. Carpenter initially wanted actress Anne Lockhart for the role, but cast Curtis after her final audition, where she nailed the scene of Laurie looking out her window to see Michael Myers in her backyard. Curtis has reprised her role as Laurie several times in the 40-plus years since the original film's release, and also lent her voice in an uncredited appearance as a phone operator in Halloween III: Season of the Witch (the pseudo-sequel that did not feature the Michael Myers storyline). In 2018, she played Laurie again with David Gordon Green's reboot of the series, which she is set to do again in its upcoming sequels: Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends.

3. Halloween was set in the Midwest, but it wasn't shot there.

Though Halloween is set in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, it was shot on location in South Pasadena and Hollywood, California. If you look closely, you can see palm trees in the backgrounds of some shots, like the scene above where Laurie walks Tommy Doyle to the Myers’s house. Haddonfield is named after co-writer and producer Debra Hill’s hometown of Haddonfield, New Jersey.

4. Halloween's production was incredibly short.

The 20-day shoot commenced in the spring of 1978 and the film was released in October of the same year. The seasonal restrictions created some interesting hurdles for the production—dozens of bags of fake leaves painted by production designer Tommy Lee Wallace were reused for various scenes. Others may notice that the trees that line the streets of the fictional Haddonfield are fully green instead of autumnally colored. Carpenter initially wanted to somehow change the trees too, but budget restraints kept him from making them seasonally correct.

5. The Halloween script didn't call for a specific kind of mask.

The mask for Michael Myers was only described as having “the pale, neutral features of a man,” and for the movie the design was boiled down to two options: both were cheap latex masks painted white and bought for under $2 apiece at local toy stores by Wallace. One was a replica mask of a clown character called “Weary Willie” popularized by actor Emmett Kelly, and the other was a stretched out Captain Kirk mask from Star Trek. Carpenter chose the whitewashed Kirk mask because of its eerily blank stare that fit perfectly with the Myers character.& ;

6. Carpenter named many of the characters in Halloween after acquaintances or influences.

Michael Myers came from the British film distributor who helped put out Carpenter’s previous movie, Assault on Precinct 13, in the UK, while Laurie Strode is named after one of his ex-girlfriends. Tommy Doyle is named after a character from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and Sheriff Leigh Brackett is named after sci-fi novelist and screenwriter Leigh Brackett, who wrote classics like The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo, and The Empire Strikes Back.

7. Halloween’s iconic floating P.O.V. shots were done using a Panaglide camera rig.

The Panaglide was a competitor to the now-ubiquitous Steadicam, which allowed the camera to be fitted to a camera operator for far-ranging and smoothly unbroken shots. Carpenter loved it because he could shoot copious amounts of footage in one day to make up for the film’s minuscule $300,000 budget. Halloween was among the first films to use the Panaglide, alongside films like Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven. Check out director of photography Dean Cundey’s original camera tests for Halloween using the rig above.

8. One Halloween character was named after another famous movie character.

Donald Pleasence’s character, Dr. Sam Loomis, was named after the character of the same name from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Curtis’s mother, Janet Leigh, appeared in Psycho as Sam Loomis’s girlfriend Marion, and was killed in the film’s famous shower scene. For the Loomis character in Halloween, Carpenter originally wanted either Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, but both passed on the film because the pay was too low. Pleasence would go on to appear in four Halloween sequels, concluding with Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, which was released after his death in 1995.

9. Most of Halloween's main cast provided their own wardrobe.

Curtis bought her costumes at JC Penney, all for under $100.

10. The Thing made a cameo in halloween.

One of the scary movies that Lindsay Wallace watches on TV is the 1951 version of The Thing (a.k.a., The Thing from Another World). Carpenter would later remake The Thing in 1982, though his version is more heavily based on the source material: a 1938 novella by John W. Campbell Jr. called “Who Goes There?”

11. Michael Myers is played by three different actors.


Anchor Bay Entertainment

Michael Myers was primarily played by actor Nick Castle, who was Carpenter’s friend from USC film school and who would go on to co-write Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape from New York, but was also played by production designer Tommy Lee Wallace whenever needed. When Myers is unmasked at the end of the film, he is played by actor Tony Moran who would go on to appear in guest spots on TV shows like The Waltons and CHiPS. Moran was paid $250 for a day’s work and a single shot in Halloween.

12. The Myers's house was relocated in the 1980s.

Halloween fans looking to see the Myers home in its original location are out of luck: In 1987, it was relocated from its location at 709 Meridian Avenue in South Pasadena, California, after it was slated to be demolished. The home is now located at 1000 Mission Street in South Pasadena, and it won't be going anywhere. The home was named a historical landmark in the city of South Pasadena, not only because of its cinematic history but also because the house itself dates back to 1888 and is thought to be the oldest surviving residential structure in the city.

13. At the time of shooting, the house really was abandoned.

The scenes of the Myers house looking dilapidated were actually how the crew found it and they shot it as is. It wasn’t until the last shot on the last day of production (which is actually the first shot in the movie) that the entire crew banded together to paint the house and dress it with furniture to make it look lived-in.

14. Carpenter completed the entire score for Halloween by himself in just three days.

A photo of director John Carpenter.
Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

The director usually does all the music for his own films, and his theme for the movie came from a simple drumming exercise for the bongos that his father had taught him when he was a child.

15. Carpenter filmed new scenes after the fact.

To fill a two-hour time slot needed for television broadcasts of Halloween, Carpenter filmed additional scenes during the production of Halloween II (which Carpenter co-wrote and co-produced, but did not direct) that primarily featured Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis. The new scenes include Dr. Loomis at a hearing to review young Michael’s incarceration at the sanitarium and confronting a young Michael in his room, Loomis discovering Michael has escaped and scrawled the word “Sister” on his door, and a concerned Laurie asking her friend Lynda about the man she keeps seeing around their neighborhood.

The 21 Best Movies of the 1970s

Robert De Niro stars in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976).
Robert De Niro stars in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

By the end of the 1960s, the battle between "Old Hollywood" (Technicolor musicals, historical epics, and old-fashioned acting) and "New Hollywood" (youth-oriented stories full of sex and violence, political volatility, and realistic performances) was over, and New Hollywood had won. Game-changing films like Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate, and Easy Rider—all released between 1967 and 1969—had shifted the Hollywood tide while the French New Wave had inspired the kids in film school (itself a new concept in the '60s), and the 1970s proved a remarkably fertile time for the new batch of filmmakers that followed. Miraculously, studios gave these young directors a lot of creative freedom. The result? One of the best decades in all of movie history.

1. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A scene from 'A Clockwork Orange' (1971)
Warner Home Video

Stanley Kubrick was technically part of the older generation of moviemakers, but his groundbreaking films in the '60s (including Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey) had established him as part of the avant-garde. And yet A Clockwork Orange, his adaptation of Anthony Burgess's dystopian novel, still surprised and shocked people with its violence, sex, and social commentary. The image of a juvenile delinquent having his eyes propped open to force him to watch films meant to recondition him remains indelible.

2. The Last Picture Show (1971)

A still from 'The Last Picture Show' (1971)
The Criterion Collection

It was fitting that as Old Hollywood faded away, an up-and-coming filmmaker like Peter Bogdanovich would make something set in the past, shot in nostalgic black-and-white, that depicted a town where the old ways were dying. Roger Ebert observed that The Last Picture Show "is above all an evocation of mood," full of lovely melancholy as its young, restless characters in a moribund Texas town struggle with where to go and what to do next.

3. The French Connection (1971)

Gene Hackman, Eddie Egan, Sonny Grosso, and Bill Hickman in The French Connection (1971)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Gene Hackman, one of the most admired actors in Hollywood, was at the peak of his career in the 1970s: In addition to this cop thriller (for which he won an Oscar) and its sequel, he had I Never Sang for My Father, The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation (which could also be on this list), Night Moves, Superman (he remains the quintessential Lex Luthor), and a hilarious turn as a blind man in Young Frankenstein. The French Connection cast him as a New York police detective chasing down drug smugglers, and director William Friedkin guided the film to a win for Best Picture of 1971.

4. and 5. The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Marlon Brando and Salvatore Corsitto in 'The Godfather' (1972)
Paramount Pictures

You knew these would be on the list. It has become cliché to cite Francis Ford Coppola's monumentally popular and lavishly praised mafia epics as the best the '70s had to offer, but only the most stubborn of contrarians would deny the truth of it. With blockbuster performances by an impressive array of stars present and future—including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and James Caan—and an epic story spanning several decades, Coppola created a saga that has inspired countless filmmakers (and gangsters).

6. Serpico (1973)

Al Pacino in Serpico (1973)
Warner Home Video

Al Pacino is another actor whose heyday was the '70s; besides the Godfathers, we could mention The Panic in Needle Park, Scarecrow, and Dog Day Afternoon. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Frank Serpico, a real-life New York cop who exposed corruption within the police force, while director Sidney Lumet—who was always interested in social issues, as seen in movies like 12 Angry Men, Network, and The Verdict—brought the full force of his righteous indignation to the edge-of-your-seat story.

7. The Exorcist (1973)


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

After he scored with The French Connection, William Friedkin cemented his place in movie history with this colossally popular and monumentally frightening horror film about a girl with a demon inside her. It inspired fainting and vomiting; it made people think they were possessed; it became the first horror film nominated for Best Picture; it made Ellen Burstyn a star. And it's still one of the most terrifying possession stories ever told.

8. Chinatown (1974)

Jack Nicholson stars in 'Chinatown' (1974)
Paramount Home Entertainment

If you can separate the art from the artist (in this case, director Roman Polanski), Chinatown is just about the closest thing we have to a flawless movie, with a screenplay by Robert Towne that's taught in screenwriting classes. Reviving the dormant detective noir genre, Polanski gave Jack Nicholson a chance to shine as a nosy Los Angeles P.I. snooping around a land deal with sinister implications. Faye Dunaway is unforgettable in her shocking role, and the last line—"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown"—is an all-time classic.

9. Blazing Saddles (1974)

Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles (1974)
Warner Home Video

Mel Brooks released two classic comedies in 1974, but this writer's subjective opinion is that Blazing Saddles is funnier than Young Frankenstein. Co-written with Richard Pryor (who would have starred in it, too, except that Warner Bros. found him too unreliable), this Western spoof is often like a Looney Tunes short come to life—with the added bonus of mocking racists with gleeful abandon. Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, and Madeline Kahn give hilarious performances.

10. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

A still from 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' (1974).
New Line Cinema

This low-budget horror flick, basically the godfather of the "teens go somewhere remote and get murdered" genre, isn't nearly as bloody as its reputation suggests. That's partly a testament to director Tobe Hooper's ability to suggest ghastliness without actually showing it, and partly due to the fact that most of the film's many imitators are drenched in gore. More than 45 years later, the film's raw, nightmarish final 30 minutes are still horrifically effective.

11. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
© 1975. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Like Mel Brooks, the Monty Python gang employed many types of comedy in telling their medieval story: slapstick, wordplay, satire, meta-references, and a killer rabbit. Perfectly capturing the anarchic, freewheeling, peripatetic spirit of the group's sketch comedy TV series, Monty Python and the Holy Grail often feels like a series of skits—but who cares when the skits are all so brilliant?

12. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

A still from 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (1975)
Warner Bros.

The 1970s were a fantastic decade for Jack Nicholson, who appeared in 15 movies including Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, the aforementioned Chinatown, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest—and those are just the ones that earned him Oscar nominations. He won for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, in which he plays a non-insane man in an insane asylum who questions authority and tries to break people out of complacency, themes that still resonate today.

13. Jaws (1975)

Susan Backlinie in 'Jaws' (1975)
MCA/Universal Home Video

Jaws invented the "summer blockbuster" as we know it (that season was previously considered a dead zone), rocketed Steven Spielberg to the A-list of young directors, and made millions of ordinary people sharkphobic. Jaws also happens to be an expertly made dramatic thriller, with superb editing by Verna Fields (whom Spielberg credited with saving the picture) and an instantly iconic musical score by John Williams.

14. Taxi Driver (1976)

Robert De Niro in 'Taxi Driver' (1976)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

New York City was a violent cesspool in the '70s, and nobody captured it better than Martin Scorsese did in this jarring drama—it's almost a horror film—about an unstable cabbie (Robert De Niro) who longs to clean up the sleazy streets. Long before "toxic masculinity" was a common phrase, Travis Bickle was taking women to porno movies on first dates and personifying the violent ends to which some men will go to get what they want.

15. Rocky (1976)

Sylvester Stallone in Rocky (1976)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Watching the many, many sequels, it's easy to forget that the original Rocky was more character drama than boxing movie, focused on a working-class schlub who just wants to go the distance, win or lose. Sylvester Stallone's down-to-earth screenplay and natural performance were enhanced by the journeyman sensibilities of director John G. Avildsen, who later brought the same rousing spirit to The Karate Kid.

16. All the President's Men (1976)

Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in 'All the President's Men' (1976)
Warner Home Video

After the national trauma of Watergate and the disgrace of Richard Nixon's resignation, Americans needed a film to sort it all out for them. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, both already big stars, played household-name Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in a steady, methodical film directed by To Kill a Mockingbird producer Alan J. Pakula. With moral clarity and a thrilling story, All the President's Men stands as the best and most important political film of the decade.

17. Network (1976)

Peter Finch stars in 'Network' (1976)
Warner Home Video

Just as trenchant in this bicentennial year as All the President's Men, Network (directed by Serpico's Sidney Lumet) satirized that most American of inventions: the television industry. Nearly every outrageous thing that happens in this depiction of a fictional broadcast network run by ruthless executives has since happened in real life, making the film even more potent now than it was then. And the performances by Faye Dunaway, William Holden, and Peter Finch are terrific fun.

18. Star Wars (1977)

Mark Hamill stars in 'Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope' (1977)
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

George Lucas's space fantasy, a sort of interstellar Western, elevated old good guys vs. bad guys tropes to the level of high (and highly successful) art. The effects of the Star Wars franchise on Hollywood and the world need not be recited here. What's notable is that even if there had never been a sequel, spinoff, or toy tie-in, the original Star Wars would still stand as, well, an original.

19. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now (1979)
Paramount Home Entertainment

In the annals of movies whose behind-the-scenes stories were as troubled and disastrous as the stories they depicted, few rank higher than Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. But the result of a year of filming plagued by weather, sickness, and Marlon Brando's unpreparedness was a movie that has only risen in people's estimation since then, vividly depicting the insanity of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a rattled Martin Sheen as he searches for a rogue Army Special Forces officer.

20. Alien (1979)

Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, and Yaphet Kotto in Alien (1979)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Alien could be on any list of important movies for its famous advertising tagline alone: "In space no one can hear you scream." Directed by Ridley Scott from a long-in-development screenplay by Dan O'Bannon, this sci-fi thriller about a killer E.T. in a spaceship is a masterpiece of tension and horror and chest-bursting. Look how many other films on this list influenced it: O'Bannon pitched it as "Jaws in space"; Scott called it "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre of science fiction"; and 20th Century Fox only gave it a greenlight because Star Wars had suddenly made outer space cool again. Whatever it took to get it going, the result was worth it.

21. Being There (1979)

Shirley MacLaine and Peter Sellers in Being There (1979)
Warner Home Video

A TV-obsessed simpleton stumbling his way into the higher echelons of political power sounds totally implausible ... but that's the premise of this genteel but sharp comedy directed by Hal Ashby, whose other films from this decade—Harold & Maude, The Last Detail, Shampoo, Bound for Glory, and Coming Home—could all be on this list. Peter Sellers's lead performance, just like the movie, perfectly walks the line between the absurd and the sublime.

Disney+ Users Are Already Facing Technical Problems

Pedro Pascal in The Mandalorian (2019).
Pedro Pascal in The Mandalorian (2019).
© 2019 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved

It seems that the highly anticipated Disney+ release did not go as smoothly as the company had hoped. Variety reports that the streaming service launched this morning, only to find its IT department being flooded with phone calls, tweets, and emails from angry users complaining of malfunctions.

Many customers took to social media to vent their frustration that they either couldn’t login into their account or couldn’t watch certain content.

The service did offer an explanation for all the technical issues via Twitter, posting, “The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our high expectations. We are working to quickly resolve the current user issue. We appreciate your patience.”

Too bad a little Disney magic couldn’t help them with these tech glitches.

[h/t Variety]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER