Halloween II (1981): Television version

Halloween II - Television versionSynopsis: Picking up exactly where the first film left off, Halloween II follows the same ill-fated characters as they once again encounter the knife-wielding maniac they thought had been left for dead. It seems the inhuman Michael Myers is still very much alive and out for more revenge as he stalks the deserted halls of the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. As he gets closer to his main target, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) discovers the chilling mystery behind the crazed psychopath’s actions. Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Halloween II is a spine-tingling dark ride into the scariest night of the year.

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Halloween II (1981): Television version 7.25

eyelights: the reconstruction.
eyesores: the weak scares. the redundant filler.

After the tremendous success of ‘Halloween‘ it was only natural that the producers wanted to continue Michael Myers’ rampage across the box office. And so it was that, in 1981, ‘Halloween II’ was unleashed on the world. Although it was less of a success than its predecessor, it nonetheless brought in 10 times its budget in gold.

Naturally, the networks came a-knocking. However, while ‘Halloween’ wasn’t originally intended for television and extra material had to be shot to compensate for the inevitable censorship, ‘Halloween II’ looks to have been produced with such a transition in mind: instead of just adding 4 new scenes, it’s a whole new edit.

The TV version is sometimes referred to as the “Rick Rosenthal Cut”, named after the director, whose original vision was altered after the shoot by John Carpenter, who felt that the final product wasn’t scary enough. Whether the TV version is exactly what Rosenthal had in mind is unknown, but it’s a fact that he wasn’t pleased with the Theatrical version.

Either way, it’s quite interesting to watch this alternate take on the same film, which not only tones down the sex and violence for prime time, and censors any objectionable dialogues, but completely reworks the material (shortened scenes, new material, scenes moved around, …etc.) to give the result a more atmospheric tone.

And yet, although one might conclude that this should be an improvement, these changes actually don’t make it a better picture: ultimately, the TV version cheats the audience of a number of scares, a few thrills and maybe even a laugh or two. And for what? To make a movie that can have a broader audience…? Too bad it doesn’t work.

In any event, other than afore-mentioned generalities, here are some of the most notable differences:

  • In the beginning, some of the background motion picture score sounds like it’s running from a chewed cassette tape. Was it just the particular copy transferred for this DVD, or has ‘Halloween II’ always played on TV this way?
  • The scene in which Michael goes into the old couple’s home to get the woman’s knife and then goes to kill the babysitter next door has been changed. Here, it’s suggested that, instead, he kills the old lady: first we see a static close-up of his face, then the old woman screams, and from outside we hear a thud. The teenager, however, remains unharmed.
  • After Laurie gets to the hospital and an extra scene was added in which the doctor just sits there in her room and rambles on drunkenly to the nurse and head nurse. It’s such a redundant scene, much like the one in the television version of ‘Halloween’ where Lynda goes to Laurie’s to borrow a top for her date. Filler.
  • There’s an extra scene in which the head nurse tries to call Laurie’s parents and is upset with the nurse for not doing it already. It doesn’t contribute much, but at least it answers the question of why Laurie’s been left alone all this time. It’s about as significant as most of the additional scenes in the television version of ‘Halloween’. You know… good, but forgettable.
  • While the security guard is checking out the phone lines, there are additional shots of Michael coming down a darkened stairwell to get to him. This ruins the scene because now we know that Michael’s not there yet – we don’t feel the tension of expecting him to pop up anytime. It’s far scarier to think he could be anywhere, than that he’s on his way (40 minutes or your money back!).
  • At one point Jimmy visits Laurie (in one of his many visits in this version – doesn’t he work?!) to tell her that he heard on the news that Michael is dead. She doesn’t believe it and gets a bit upset. So he calls for the doctor and the nurse – who promptly sedate her. Man, they sure over-react in that hospital! (“Doctor, I stubbed my toe…” “Hmmm… where’s that hacksaw?”)
  • Jimmy goes to see Laurie, and she’s in shock. He checks her pulse and, instead of calling for the doctor, goes looking for the head nurse. Following that, the nurse never finds the dead doctor and Jimmy never finds the dead head nurse.
  • When Laurie dreams of visiting Michael in the psychiatric hospital, there’s a really crap overdub; the person doing her little girl’s voice was horrendous. This overdub suggests that Laurie knows that Michael’s her brother, and this is confirmed by a later scene when she thinks she’s calling her mom. Why she knows Michael is her brother in this version is beyond me and it kind of ruins the moment.
  • When Michael attack’s Laurie in her room, he doesn’t stab her pillow. Instead, he just pulls away the sheets and grabs it. Ooh….scary. It was a bad scene already, but it’s made worse here.
  • Laurie goes to hide in a car and then just drops out of it – for no reason at all. What’s missing is that Jimmy hides in the car at one point and slumps over on the steering wheel. Without this bit, the scene looks really choppy.
  • Speaking of which, where did Jimmy go? At one point he just disappears from the movie and the next time we see him, he gets blown to the ground by the explosion at the end – this footage is taken from when he’s supposed to slip in the head nurse’s blood earlier on.
  • When Laurie is taken away in the ambulance (presumably to a different, more competent hospital), Tommy sits up behind her, just like Michael did at the end of ‘Halloween’. It’s a cheap scare tactic. She cries with relief, says repeatedly “We made it” and they hold hands as the ambulance drives off. Yay! Hollywood ending!

There are far more differences than these, but a lot of them are just nuances. Still, it’s easy to see that there was a conscious decision to tone down the viscerality of the picture and try to add some backstory. It’s interesting to note that much of the alternate footage must have been shot at the same time, suggesting that this was premeditated.

Until recently, the TV version of ‘Halloween II’ hadn’t been available on home video. With the Scream Factory blu-ray release, however, it was included on a bonus DVD. Yes, DVD. Not only that, but unlike the TV version of ‘Halloween’, it’s presented in pan and scan – and in Dolby Digital, not lossless. Wanna bet on a re-release someday?

Still, it brought me back to the days of watching movies on TV (a long time ago indeed), even if it probably looked and sounded better than it would have back in the day, so I’m not complaining. That was fun. And I don’t expect that I’ll be watching it very often in the future anyway – as with ‘Halloween’, you’re better off seeing the Theatrical version.

Story: 6.5
Acting: 5.0
Production: 6.0

Chills: 6.0
Gore: 3.0
Violence: 3.0

Date of viewing: August 11, 2015

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