Halloween (1978): Television version

Halloween - Television versionSynopsis: Fifteen years ago, Michael Myers brutally massacred his sister. Now, after escaping from a mental hospital, he’s back to relive his grisly crime again, and again…and again.

The legendary all-time horror classic featuring 12 minutes of additional “shot-for-television” scenes!
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Halloween (1978): Television version 8.0

eyelights: the additional exposition.
eyesores: the cheap quality of the extra material.

“You’ve fooled them, haven’t you Michael? But not me.”

When John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween‘ was released in 1978, no one could predict just how popular it was going to be, becoming not only one of history’s most revered horror films but also the highest-grossing independent movie ever (holding the title until ‘The Blair Witch Project’ in 1999). Even more stunning was that it made its way to network television – in prime time, no less.

‘Halloween’. A slasher film.

So it’s hardly surprising that, when ‘Halloween’ was sold to NBC for broadcast in 1980, they asked for cuts. But the filmmakers also realized that they needed to pad the movie to make it fit a two-hour timeslot. So they used the production of ‘Halloween II‘ to shoot an extra 11 minutes of footage. Unlike ‘Halloween II’, however, John Carpenter returned to shoot these extra scenes.

To the best of my knowledge this version was first released on home video in 1999, when the limited edition DVD of ‘Halloween’ came out; it was tacked on as a bonus disc then-exclusive to the set. It was later re-released on VHS and also as a stand-alone DVD titled “Extended Edition”. It has also recently been issued on blu-ray in a 15-disc limited boxed set, ‘Halloween: The Complete Collection’.

These four new scenes don’t add much to the picture, unfortunately: they add redundant exposition that is pretty well covered later in the picture, and only serve to slow down the breezy pace that Carpenter had achieved in the original cut. It’s not a terrible addition, but it doesn’t contribute anything of any worth aside for connecting the commercials to the picture more adequately.

The first scene takes place after the first murder, in a large conference room. A committee issues its report to Dr. Loomis, disagreeing with his assessment that Michael should be transferred to a high security facility. He tries to convince them, but his arguments sound delusional, are just gut feelings unsupported by facts – so it’s hardly surprising that they are dismissive of his concerns. It’s totally unconvincing. It’s slow, very ’70s

The second scene takes place right after the first one, so they could easily be mistaken as one long scene instead of two (perhaps they were on either ends of a commercial break?). In this one, Loomis visits a supposedly catatonic Michael in his hospital room, telling the boy (who’s now much older than when he murdered his sister) that he’s fooled the committee, but not him – while Michael sits there staring out of the window.

The third scene is inserted after we are introduced to Laurie. Dr. Loomis is back at the hospital and is asked to come inspect Michael’s room by the head nurse. It’s been torn apart, but the reason she wanted him to check it out is because “Sister” has been scrawled in red on the back of his door (this is a teaser to a revelation that would not take place until ‘Halloween II’). Now Loomis is convinced that Michael is going back home.

Following that, Dr. Loomis and Dr. Wynn, the hospital’s director, have a talk as he’s walking back to his car. There’s a lot of exchanging of blame and Loomis tells Wynn that he’s off after Michael – after inferring that maybe some of the hospital staff had taught Michael how to drive, since he was able to commandeer a vehicle in his escape.

The final scene is complete rubbish. It finds Laurie coming out of the shower (with her hair in a towel and wearing a bathrobe – it was for television, after all) only to find Lynda knocking at her front door. For some reason she wants to borrow Laurie’s shirt for a date that evening. And then Annie also calls from her place to borrow clothes. They banter blandly, and hang out a bit. It’s boring as heck and adds absolutely nothing.

(b-t-w, it should be noted that some online references suggest that the reason Laurie has her hair in a towel is because Jamie Lee Curtis had a shorter haircut then. However, since the extra footage was shot over three days, and she had long hair in ‘Halloween II’, this doesn’t seem to hold. If anything, it’s very likely that it was merely a convenient prop to hide the fact that her hair wasn’t wet, nothing more.)

Interestingly, even though it’s on blu-ray, the television footage is only in standard definition. I don’t know if it’s because it was shot on video instead of film but, the new stuff looks cheap and sounds sparse. The audio on the original film wasn’t always great to start with (dog barks and screams were particularly poor) but the new footage is of really poor quality. Is it the low-def nature of it, or the source? Who knows!

Either way, it doesn’t really add anything to the picture. At best it’s interesting to see it but, on the whole, it contributes so little that the film is better without it – especially since it kills the pace of the first 30 minus and because there are a couple of poorly-conceived transitions between the new and old material (clearly, they were meant to be separated by commercials). I’m happy it’s available now, but I’d definitely stick with the original.

After all, it’s a near perfect horror film. Why mess with perfection?

Story: 7.0
Acting: 6.5
Production: 7.0

Chills: 8.0
Gore: 5.0
Violence: 6.5

Date of viewing: August 10, 2015

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