Thursday, October 3, 2013

John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) - Part II

I met him, fifteen years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes... the devil's eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... evil. 
                              ~Dr. Loomis

For Part I - Click Here

I'd like to add to something from the last piece.  At the time when I was discovering these movies, they also weren't regularly airing or airing on television.  That, or didn't find them.  Back then, you couldn't just hit the 'Search' button your remote or scroll through the grid.  You had find out what was on and when by picking up a TV Guide or looking for it in the paper.  And sometimes it just wasn't worth the effort.
So, I see Halloween and it absolutely blows me away.  I had been a big fan of movies already.  I loved them.  I can tend to recall life moments and stuff reflecting around movies.  I can tell you when I saw something and who I saw it with.  That stuff just keeps with me and always has.  But with Halloween, for the first time, I wanted to go beyond.  I wanted to discover "how" this film was made.  I wanted to know "who" was responsible.  I had a desire to go beyond this movie like I never had one before.
I couldn't just pop online and find out this stuff either.  I didn't have those tools back in the day.  And even early on, knowledge on the internet wasn't very concrete.  So, I had to pick up magazines and books.  I had to order back issues of Fangoria or hope they'd be doing a piece on it to get my information.  I had to find programs and or maybe some sort of documentary that would touch on it.  You really had to do the work back in the day.  It could be an exhaustive process, but if you were into it and determined like me, it wasn't an issue.
Of course the first person I learned of was John Carpenter.  This led me to the discovery of one of my favorite directors of all time (I'd say he easily falls somewhere in my top 3).  Before Halloween, his name was somewhat familiar to me, but all I could ever recall for some damn reason was Memoirs of an Invisible Man with Chevy Chase.  So now, going to the video store I had a new checklist of films in addition to the Halloween sequels.  I was able to find new films that would become all-time favorites of mine like Escape From New York, The Fog, The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China, They Live...well you know what I'm talking about.
Halloween was opening big doors for me.  I learned that it was the highest grossing independent film of all time.  This thing was cheap.  I learned about all the obstacles and improvising that had to be done when filming.  That there was one trailer, and everybody from the producer to the cast was hand painting leaves brown to make it look like fall.  They'd even have to collect them and move them from scene to scene (one of those people for a few days was none other than Robert England).  This type of low budget, do what we can with what we got, filmmaking truly inspired me.  They were using real houses, their own clothes, setting up shop on real streets, yada yada yada.
One of the most fun aspects I learned about was the answer to the question, "Who played Michael Myers?" or "the Shape" as referred to in the script and credits.  Its not a simple answer.  Through a majority of the film, Nick Castle would play him.  Whenever Michael had to break through something or destroy a prop or set piece, set designer Tommy Lee Wallace was behind the mask.  For the reveal, Tony Moran was the face under the mask.  There's the kid who played Michael, but it's Debra Hill's hand in the POV shots.  There are others I believe that played in some different long shots as well.  Legend has it John Carpenter stood in and played him for a shot or two as well.
I was also interested in the tale behind the mask.  Because I had never seen anything like it.  Turns out, as everyone knows, it's a Captain Kirk "Hero" mask that has the hair messed up, eye holes enlarged and face painted white.  They tried some other options, including a clown mask to harken back to the beginning of the film, but they surely made the right choice.
The steadycam shot that the film opens with was another point of intrigue with me.  When I first began studying Halloween, this was the longest single shot in film history (or longest steadycam, i don't remember).  It was remarkable that they were able to do this in one take. Welp, years have passed and we've since learned its 3 separate shots cleverly edited together.  But, hey, it was a good run.  The tale behind shooting this is a great one as cast and crew had to paint up the house and tidy just enough of it in a day to get it right.  It was done on the last day shooting at the Myers' House location.  Things had to go so right that if the camera moved slightly in the wrong direction all the magic would be revealed.  Crew were constantly running back and forth during it, and if the camera just slightly went a certain way you'd see tape, a crew member or equipment.  I believe they got it done in 3 takes, which in itself is quite impressive.
I'll stop giving the history lesson.  That kinda stuff just excites me.  All of this education on Halloween really made me feel like I could do this to.  And through that, a deeper passion, understanding and desire to pursue film was truly born inside me.  Its the one that "clicked" for me maybe?  I dunno.  But, if you read Naptown Nerd, it's with good reason you have Halloween to thank if you enjoy my thoughts, knowledge and what I have to offer when it comes to the world of film.  It's responsible maybe not for all, but definitely for a a lot of it.


No comments:

Post a Comment