Thirty-two years ago this week, a certain little indie film called Halloween was first released to theatres. Making its premiere in Kansas City on October 25th, 1978, John Carpenter’s low-budget tale of a homicidal maniac who escapes from a psychiatric institution and returns to his hometown where he stalks a trio of teenaged girls would go on to break box-office records and become one of horrordom’s most iconic films. So, to celebrate the film’s 32nd birthday, here’s a look at some of the collectibles Halloween and its sequels have inspired.
What could have been a forgettable exploitation flick was elevated into the realm of cinematic classic because of several factors: the exceptional abilities of director/co-writer/producer/composer Carpenter and co-writer/producer Debra Hill; a talented crew that included cinematographer Dean Cundey and production designer/co-editor Tommy Lee Wallace; and the serendipitous casting of esteemed British character actor Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis and newcomer Jamie Lee Curtis as babysitter Laurie Strode – ironically, neither of whom were Carpenter’s first choice for the roles – not to mention great support from co-stars Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles and Charles Cyphers. Made on a budget of just $320,000, it has so far raked in more than $60 million and was for years, the most profitable independent motion picture of all time.
The first time I saw Halloween was as a 9-year-old when it made its television premiere on Friday Oct. 30th, 1981. I remember the event well because my family’s television set had just conked out a few nights earlier and my father – who was low on money at the time – actually went out and bought a 14″ B&W television set just so we could all watch the film. Remember, this was in the days before the ubiquitous video store (and owning a VCR was still several years away), so catching a first-run movie like this on television was a big deal. It’s something that I’ll always be grateful of him doing.
Adding to that memorable night was a viewing of another film that would have a marked impact on me: George A. Romero’s masterpiece Night of the Living Dead. My local public library had screened a 16mm print earlier that evening and it finished in enough time for me to get home for Halloween’s 9:00 PM broadcast. Of course, Halloween fans will know that clips of Night appear during 1981′s Halloween II – which coincidentally also opened at theatres on (get this) that same night: Oct. 30th, 1981!
A 2-disc limited edition DVD release of Halloween from Anchor Bay in 2000 (pictured below) included both the 92-minute theatrical version and the 12 minute longer television cut which had snippets of sex and violence cut out but also featured additional scenes including one of Dr. Loomis discussing young Michael’s troubling behavior with a hospital review board; and another, in which Lynda goes to Laurie’s home to borrow a silk blouse to wear. The set also came with a bonus postcard of outtake shots of either Jamie Lee Curtis lounging on a patch of grass or Nick Castle goofing around with the Myers mask.
One of the first Halloween-inspired collectibles I owned in the early ’80s was the well-written paperback tie-in novelization by author Curtis Richards (actually literary agent Richard Curtis) which presented a back story about Michael Myers that was not part of the Carpenter/Hill screenplay. Published by Bantam Books, it was first released in 1979 and early editions featured an interesting, but rather bizarre image of a child brandishing a knife while wearing a white sheet and a seemingly lit Jack o’ lantern placed over his head. Perhaps whoever designed the book’s cover thought a lit pumpkin could work as a mask too. Later reprints of the novel would use the by-then familiar movie poster artwork.
In 1987 when I was 15 years old, I bought a Don Post Studios rubber mask, called incidentally enough, “The Mask.” First released on the market in 1985, it wasn’t a totally accurate version of the film’s Myers mask (which was actually a modified William Shatner Capt. Kirk Star Trek mask), but it was a close enough resemblance for me to want it. After having it in my collection for many years, I sold it to a collector friend. I never managed to take a pic of it, but here’s an image I found of a similarly-looking specimen:
There have of course, been many “officially licensed” mass-produced Myers masks since then, but for some reason, none seem to be able to nail down the exact likeness of the mask used in the first or second films. There are however, some very talented artists out there creating their own high-quality screen accurate-looking custom masks in small numbers, and that’s probably the route to go if you’re a rabid Michael Myers fan and want something better than what’s usually offered in stores this time of year.
Like many low-budget, non-studio releases of the day Halloween did not immediately spawn a lot of collectibles and it was not until the late ’90s that companies would begin to manufacture action figures, dolls, mini busts and the like. As such, items dating from the release of the original 1978 film consist mainly of the tie-in novel previously shown and promotional material used to advertise the film in theatres, newspapers and magazines. Items like the iconic original 1-sheet movie poster and presskit with set of B&W stills are now considered rare and valuable memorabilia that can command amounts up to hundreds of dollars on the collector’s market when found in mint condition.
But, in addition to U.S. press material, there are a number of other highly desirable items to be found from around the world. An example is this beautifully illustrated Japanese Movie program that dates from Halloween‘s original release and is one of my favorite items in my collection. Just look at that bizarre cover artwork!
In the mid-’80s, I purchased my first soundtrack album – John Carpenter and Allan Howarth’s score to Halloween II (a more synthesized reworking of Carpenter’s music from the first film) from Sam The Record Man’s flagship store in downtown Toronto. The Sam’s store may be gone now, but I still have the LP, which I still play from time to time:
Around the same time, I was able to find a set of 8 11″x14″ theatrical lobby cards for the film, as well as the paperback tie-in novelization by Jack Martin (actually, a pseudonym of author Dennis Etchison), which included several images from the film within. Here’s a look at that and various other Halloween tie-in novels, including the rare Halloween IV novelization by author Nicholas Grabowsky.
The very first home video release of Halloween was by Media Home Entertainment in 1979. It was later put out by other companies like Video Treasures and Anchor Bay Entertainment (which released a two tape set complete with a limited-edition snow globe with mini Michael and Laurie figures and glitter “blood”!) before graduating to numerous DVD (and most recently, Blu-ray) releases from Anchor Bay .
In 1999, McFarlane Toys released a 7 “ Michael Myers Action Figure as part of their Movie Maniacs 2 line. They would also later put out a large-sized 18 ” figure with a sensor-activated mechanism that would play John Carpenter’s iconic Halloween theme.
Around the same time, two limited-edition 18 ” dolls (one which was “clean”; the other with a bloody knife and 6 “bullet holes” in its chest) were made available in Spencer’s Gifts stores. Part of their line of other 18 ” horror-based figures that included Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, Ghostface from Scream, Eric Draven from The Crow and The Cryptkeeper from HBO’s Tales from the Crypt TV series, the battery-operated stuffed doll (with wire armature) would play the Halloween theme whenever its stomach was pressed.
Picking up the torch after McFarlane was Sideshow Toys – which released a 12″ Myers doll in 2003. I found the likeness of the figure though to be somewhat lacking.
NECA Toys put out a numerous figures and other collectibles including a two-pack 7 ” figure set of Myers and Loomis complete with Myers’ font porch and lawn diorama in 2004; and a bobble head figure in their Head Knockers line featuring a base complete with Jack o’lantern, clown mask and headstone adorned with sister Judith’s name. The likeness on the bobble head is really great.
Micheal Myers collectibles continue to be produced (with the Rob Zombie incarnation now seemingly supplanting the original), and it’s safe to say that we’ll see a lot more offerings available on store shelves in the years to come.
For more information on various other Halloween collectibles and their values, go to eBay and look at both the currently listed auctions and those which have already recently ended.