It seems like the past few Mondays I have published posts that question things that are either being released or things that might be happening in the horror/cult genre. I look onto my fellow horror fans as family and we are one of the only groups spawned by a particular subset of films that seem to have a community. You might remember a couple weeks back when I published about Charlie Band publishing a sub-par product in his Tourist Trap Blu-Ray. Some of which have said that it is “old news”. While I would agree with that, you’d be surprised on how many people didn’t know about the Wizard Video information and/or the Tourist Trap “editing”. I came back again with a post that came about after I read a fantastic story about the studio behind Coraline and Paranorman. Hoping not to make a habit of it, today coincidentally is the day that Anchor Bay announced the Halloween: Ultimate Edition. This edition is a culmination of all the films in the franchise in one collectible set – which has never been done in the U.S. due to rights issues. I’ll admit, that it’s great that this has happened as it is has been available in UK and other territories for awhile now (ie. Hellraiser, Halloween and Phantasm). The fact that they worked with Universal (who had the rights to Halloween II & Halloween III , who previously worked with Scream Factory) and Miramax/Dimension/Echo Bridge (for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection, Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II) is an amazing feat on itself and definitely feels like the heydays when Anchor Bay was releasing some great titles that they put tons of work into.
Maybe it’s the die-hard Halloween fan in me but I could care less about many of the sequels being given the royal treatment, I just want the one thing that has been teased for years now that most people, including some of the big dogs of horror blogs and news sites, have seem to have forgotten – the discovered outtakes & test footage from John Carpenter’s Halloween.
Having collected DVDs since 1999, Anchor Bay was notorious for double or triple-dipping. I have six different DVD editions (and that isn’t all of them) and the two Blu-Ray issues of John Carpenter’s Halloween. All of them have something different between each DVD. Some of them are packaging related, some of them have more or different content. It is also a film that has seen a couple of transfers in the amount of time that Anchor Bay has had its license. THX and DiviMax transfers to the most recent 35th Anniversary edition supervised by Dean Cundey. Needless to say, if you are Halloween completest, you have spent some money.
Back in 2009, it was posted on Fangoria.com that a box full of outtakes, snips and alternate scenes were found from the Halloween production. The link is now dead since Fangoria has changed its web presence since then but here is what the post had:
After more than 30 years, a couple of different editions and a number of VHS/DVD releases, HALLOWEEN fans may think they’ve seen it all when it comes to John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic. But in 2006, word came down that a trove of unused negatives from the movie, including outtakes and deleted scenes, had been discovered. Now, Don May Jr. of DVD company Synapse Films, which obtained the 45,000 feet of material, has given Fango an exclusive update and images (see them below) from this footage.
“I know the fans have been waiting for more news from either myself or the purchaser, Billy J. Kirkus, but we really had nothing to report for a while,” May says. “Our original attempts to work with Malek Akkad [son of the late Moustapha Akkad, who now oversees the HALLOWEEN franchise] and Anchor Bay Entertainment went nowhere. It’s a shame, really, because we seem to have every single unused take from the film in our possession. It’s all original camera negative. We know that Malek is an extremely busy man who has taken over his late father’s legacy. I’m sure he’s got other things on his mind, but the fans should really see this stuff.”
Since their discussions with Akkad and Anchor Bay fell through, May and Kirkus have attempted to contact others involved with HALLOWEEN. “All we want is to transfer off and archive this material for the future,” May says. “We want to use it in some sort of documentary. In the small amount of footage I have actually viewed [so far], there is amazing stuff that the fans would love to see. The problem is that it’s such a vast amount of negative that we can’t afford to transfer it all off ourselves. We just don’t have the funds to do that without help. We need someone to come forward and help us archive this material.”
The first call was made to the film’s production designer/editor Tommy Lee Wallace, who provided May some insight into what to seek out amidst the miles of footage. “He told me about some alternate takes to look for, and told me a few great stories. He mentioned the scene where Laurie looks out the window and sees Michael Myers staring up at her in the clotheslines. Evidently, Carpenter completely reshot that sequence and approached it differently. We found the footage of the original takes, though, so we have the initial version.”
Most intriguingly, Wallace revealed that HALLOWEEN’s original ending was completely different from the one that gave nightmares to generations of viewers. “He told me Michael died,” and stayed dead, May says, “and the supposed script that people get on-line or at conventions is not what they originally used. They didn’t decide to let Michael live until after they finished principal photography and went back for some reshoots. We’ll have to look and see what we have in regards to this.”
More recently, Kirkus was finally able to speak to Carpenter about his find. “He was amazed that it was still around,” Kirkus says. “He thought it had all been destroyed long ago, and was excited at the prospect of seeing it again. He asked us to make him a sample of a couple reels so he could take a look. There’s a chance he could come on board and help Don and I get this out for the fans to see it.
There was one specific outtake he hoped we’d find, and we did,” Kirkus continues. “While we were shooting the ending where [Michael actor] Nick Castle is lying in the grass after falling off the balcony, Castle would get up and clown around as ‘The Shape.’ Carpenter mentioned a funny shot of Castle getting up and doing a little dance in the costume [first photo above]. Castle also does a little ‘epileptic’ thing, too, during one of the takes while on his back. It’s pretty funny. We also have footage of assistants getting him comfortable on the ground and prepping for the shot.”
Carpenter’s interest in checking out the clips himself led May to transfer a few reels for the director. “All the takes and unused scenes are marked with shot numbers, so it was easy to find specific things using a lined script,” May explains. “Over Memorial Day weekend, I enlisted the help of our friend Jim Chandler to literally go through every box and every can of film. Together, we set aside the material we eventually wanted to review. I did grab a couple of things for Carpenter that I thought he’d like to see, though.
“It was a thrill to see some of this footage that no one has looked at in over 30 years,” May continues. The first thing they found was the Castle/Shape “dance” sequence. “Since Carpenter brought this up, we decided to at least get this to him. I can’t wait to hear his reaction, and I can’t even imagine the countless treasures that await us when we can really dive into this stuff.”
Another of May’s noteworthy discoveries was an alternate version of the famous single-take shot that opens HALLOWEEN, taking young Michael’s point of view as he enters his house and goes upstairs to kill his sister, stopping to put a clown mask over his face/the lens. “It’s interesting in many ways, since this take is such a long one,” May notes. “It starts outside the house and goes all the way into the kitchen, up the stairs and stops right on the sister’s face. Right away, I noticed that it was lengthier; the camera lingered more in this unused take than it did in the one used in the finished film. Also, when Michael peeks in and sees his sister and her boyfriend on the couch, I couldn’t help but notice that the boyfriend actually unbuttons the sister’s blouse and cops a feel [pictured above]. That wasn’t in the finished film! Also, there was a huge camera shadow on the wall as he approaches the stairs.
“But the most amazing thing is that the optical of the ‘mask’ is not on this footage,” he continues. “You see the hand moving up to the camera lens to ‘put on’ the mask and a black sheet of cardboard goes up and pulls away, but there’s no mask. That was added later in post, but the take we have shows him go into his sister’s room without the mask filter over the picture. You can clearly see actress Sandy Johnson very nude, as we look through Michael’s eyes as he peers around the room.
The discoveries also included more tangential material pertaining to the HALLOWEEN shoot. “I grabbed another larger reel marked ‘TEST,’ just to see what it was,” May recalls. “I took a look at the head and saw a person standing outdoors, and thought maybe it was John Carpenter. We put it up, and discovered that it was a Panaglide [a Steadicam-like rig used extensively on the film] test. It was a camera operator playing with it, swooping around and smoothly traveling up and down stairs and through hallways while tracking various people. I’m not sure where this was done, but it appears to have been filmed in the Panavision offices, because there are a lot of people working at desks and tables full of Panavision camera-related equipment when they travel through the building.”
Yet another eyebrow-raiser they discovered was the old jack-o’-lantern footage used to create HALLOWEEN’s opening-credits sequence. “We found a few different takes of the candle-lit pumpkin in front of a black background, with the camera slowly moving in,” May says. “We’ll take a closer look at these takes eventually, and see if they differ from the finished film.”
But will any of this footage ever be seen by the fans? “I honestly don’t know,“ May says. “I hope so, but whether or not that happens isn’t really up to us. Carpenter is interested, and was very open to the possibility of helping us with some sort of documentary. Perhaps all this will see the light of day at some point with his help. There’s hours of material to go through, and it’s going to be an expensive, time-consuming task to look at all this stuff, but we’re up to it if Carpenter is. Since the original mention on Fangoria.com a few years ago, I get e-mails all the time asking about it. Carpenter is interested, so maybe, if the fans let Malek Akkad know how they feel on his site http://www.halloweenmovies.com], he’ll give us a call back, too! I’m ready to jump into transferring the rest of it as soon as I’m able to. HALLOWEEN is one of the greatest horror films of all time, so over 30 years later, why not let the fans have a peek at the ‘unseen’ HALLOWEEN?”
Since then, videos have been posted on Vimeo of some of the footage, including the alternate opening scene. They have since been taken down – more than likely for protection of the find. So, it begs the question, why hasn’t this material been properly released?
Without knowing all the fine details, I can only assume that Anchor Bay holds the releasing rights of the final film and any previously released outtakes or special features. Since this is newly discovered footage, Anchor Bay and Malek Akkad would have to strike a deal with Billy Kirkus – who purchased the film. Based off of what I have been able to find, Kirkus is asking for the following:
*A percentage of the worldwide profits of the releases of the footage (DVD, Blueray) there will have to be numerous versions of this, the footage is about 6 to 7 hours long and retain ownership of the transferred HD footage but Trancas can have the film stock. Don May, Jr. transfers the footage and completes a FULL documentary on the footage’s archival process and commentary by the Halloween crew of the footage.
I’m doubtful that we will see much more of what has been discovered – which is a shame because I’m dying to see it – in the respect that Kirkus protects his investment. Anchor Bay and/or Akkad have had a relationship for over a decade, why bring someone new to it? Why share the wealth when most Halloween fans will buy anything that they release, regardless of this amazing find?
Bottom line, if you want to see this footage…tell Trancas, tell Malek Akkad. Send emails! We may have to wait until the 40th anniversary but this footage needs to be released. Halloween isn’t just an important film to me nor is it just an important film to the genre. Halloween is an important film in film history. It changed everything. It was the start of showing how independent film could be a commercial success. It would launch John Carpenter’s career. Dean Cundey would go on to be an important and essential Director of Photography. Jamie Lee Curtis became what would later be known as the “final girl”. Most importantly, the film would spawn sequels and entries into the franchise for the next 31 years from its inception.
For this footage to not be released seems like the biggest slap in the face to me as a Halloween fan. I don’t know how big of a percentage Kirkus is asking for but from what I have been told, it is a reasonable amount.