Today is Halloween, which means you can expect trick-or-treaters knocking at your door but also the obligatory screening of John Carpenter’s Halloween.
The 1978 horror classic set the template for modern horror and also became one of the most profitable films of all time.
In honour of its enduring legacy, here are 31 facts about the film:
- The film had its origins at the screening of Assault on Precinct 13 at the 1977 London Film Festival, where John Carpenter met financier Moustapha Akkad, who eventually funded the film with his partner, Irwin Yablans.
- Assault on Precinct 13 was acquired for distribution in the UK by a man named Michael Myers, the same name of the villain in Halloween.
- Originally titled ‘The Babysitter Murders’, it was Yablans who suggested the title and setting of Halloween night.
- Akkad was initially concerned about the relative inexperience of Carpenter but he was convinced after the director told him the story verbally (‘almost frame for frame’) and his refusal to take a large fee upfront which showed his confidence in the project.
- Carpenter received $10,000 for directing, writing and composing the music and retained rights to 10 percent of the film’s profits.
- The film was shot over 21 days in 1978 on a budget of $320,000.
- Ironically, it was filmed in April which meant that one of the most famous films set in Autumn was actually shot in Spring.
- The out of season weather meant the crew had difficulty finding pumpkins and artificial autumn leaves had to be used for certain scenes.
- Although set in Illinois, it was actually shot in Pasadena, California.
- The town of Haddonfield, Illinois is fictional but Haddonfield, New Jersey is the home town of co-screenwriter Debra Hill.
- Many of the the street names in the film were taken from Carpenter’s hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
- Donald Pleasance agreed to play Dr. Loomis after Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing turned it down (he met with John Carpenter because his daughter was a fan of Assault on Precinct 13).
- It was Jamie Lee Curtis debut feature film and she was paid $8,000 for her role.
- Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho was an inspiration: Dr. Loomis’ name was a reference to Sam Loomis (John Gavin), the boyfriend of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who in turn is the real-life mother of Jamie Lee Curtis.
- The extended P.O.V. shot in the opening scene of the film is heavily influenced by the famous opening of Touch of Evil (1958).
- The hands of the young Michael Myers in the opening scene are those of co-writer and producer Debra Hill.
- The older version of Michael Myers is actually called ‘The Shape’ in the credits and was played by Nick Castle, an old college friend of Carpenter’s from the University of Southern California. (Actor Tony Moran stood in for Castle in selected scenes).
- Nick Castle would go on to direct films himself, including The Last Starfighter (1984) and The Boy Who Could Fly (1986).
- The name Michael Myers is never actually mentioned in the film and the only time anyone refers to him is the opening sequence (“Michael!”).
- The mask for Michael Myers was actually a Captain Kirk mask bought for just $1.98.
- Because the film was shot out-of-sequence Carpenter would explain to Jamie Lee Curtis what her character’s level of fear should be in certain scenes.
- John Carpenter composed the film’s distinctive score himself in just 3 days.
- For a slasher film, there is an unusual lack of blood in the film. The only time we see any is when Judith Myers is killed at the beginning and Laurie’s arm is cut near the end.
- Dean Cundey’s use of blue back light in the climactic scenes was inspired by watching Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974).
- The film premièred on October 25th, 1978 in Kansas City, then a platform release in Chicago and New York before word of mouth meant a gradual release around the States.
- The film initially grossed $47 million at the US box office and $8 million internationally, which is the equivalent to around $176 million today.
- Americans couldn’t actually buy the chilling score when the film came out and it was originally only released in Japan.
- When the film made its television debut on NBC in the early 1980s, the network wanted some extra scenes to fill the allotted time slot and Carpenter went back and shot additional sequences during the production of Halloween II (they can be seen on some DVD versions of the film).
- In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” .
- Financier Moustapha Akkad continued to work act as executive producer on the Halloween franchise, until his death in the 2005 Amman bombings.
- The film was followed by seven sequels and a 2007 remake of the same name.
Halloween screens tonight on BBC Four at 11.35pm
> Buy the original film on Blu-ray or get the DVD box set
> Official site of the Halloween franchise
> IMDb entry
> Watch Halloween on BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)