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Story Notes for Halloween

Monday through Thursday, at 8PM | 7C, AMC presents Story Notes — real-time on-air trivia about your favorite movies. Tonight’s movie was Halloween.

Automotive Note
The movie features John Carpenter’s old Cadillac Coupe de Ville, circa 1973.

Biographical Notes
The Coupe isn’t the last sinister car in a Carpenter movie. He directed Christine in 1983.

Donald Pleasence plays iconic Bond villain Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.

Before Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis was on the short-lived ABC show Operation Petticoat.

Nick Castle is a successful Hollywood director. Castle’s credits include The Last Starfighter and Dennis the Menace.

In a tribute to Halloween, Rob Zombie cast P. J. Soles as a victim in The Devil’s Rejects.

Halloween‘s success helped Carpenter become one of Hollywood’s top directors. Co-writer and producer Debra Hill is one of the most respected and influential women in Hollywood. The Halloween franchise includes ten movies and has made over $557 million.

Casting Notes
The first victim is Sandy Johnson, Playboy‘s Miss June 1974.

Young Michael Myers is played by 6-year-old Will Sandin. Sandin became a police officer in L.A.

Pleasence is the only well-known actor in the cast, but he wasn’t Carpenter’s first choice. Christopher Lee turned the role down, only to later admit it was one of his biggest mistakes.

This is Curtis’s first movie. She was cast partially because her mother, Janet Leigh, is in Hitchcock’s slasher classic Psycho.

Myers is played by several people but mostly by Carpenter’s friend Nick Castle. Castle lived near the set and dropped by to help out. He ended up playing Myers for $25 a day.

Soles impressed Carpenter with her role in Carrie. But it was how she perfectly delivered “Totally” that sealed the deal.

Actress Nancy Kyes worked with Carpenter before, in Assault on Precinct 13. At the time, Kyes was married to Halloween production designer Tommy Lee Wallace.

Charles Cyphers is in Carpenter’s Fog and Escape From New York.

Lindsey is played by Kyle Richards. Richards went on to star in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Carpenter is the voice of Annie’s boyfriend, Paul.

Though she played a high schooler, Kyes was 28 when she filmed Halloween.

Carpenter thought Dr. Loomis’s creepy speeches would be perfect for a distinguished English actor. Pleasence took the role because his daughter liked Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13.

Filmmakers hoped to get Soles’s real-life squeeze Dennis Quaid to play her boyfriend.

In one scene, Myers is played by Wallace. Since he built the props and sets, Wallace plays Myers whenever he has to break something.

When we finally see Myers’s face, it’s actor Tony Moran. After a 30-year retirement, Moran went on to act in horror movies again.

Fashion Note
To save money, most of the cast wears their own clothes as costumes. Curtis got her entire wardrobe for less than $100 at a department store.

Finance Note
Strong word of mouth helped the $325,000-budget Halloween make over $47 million. It is the most successful independent movie of its time and ushered in the slasher-movie era.

History Notes
Halloween, the holiday, comes from the Celtic Samhain celebration of the harvest and the dead. The traditions of dressing up and playing pranks are more recent, starting around the 1600s.

The first jack-o’-lanterns were carved out of turnips in Ireland and Scotland. Around 1866, immigrants to North America began using the native pumpkin instead.

Location Note
The Myerses’ house is actually an abandoned building the filmmakers found in Pasadena, California. It became a chiropractor’s office.

Music Note
Halloween‘s famous musical score was composed by Carpenter in just three days. It’s played in five-four time, an unusual and disorienting time signature.

Pop-Culture Notes
Carpenter would remake Thing From Another World in 1982. He says it’s one of his favorite movies.

Zombie’s remake of Halloween (2007) was filmed in the same neighborhood as the original.

The characters watch Forbidden Planet, a sci-fi classic and Carpenter favorite. Like in Halloween, the people in Forbidden Planet are stalked by an unknown and unstoppable force.

Press Note
Made in 1978 for just $325,000, Carpenter’s Halloween is considered a low-budget horror classic. In 2010, Fangoria magazine named Halloween one of the 25 best horror movies of all time.

Prop Note
Myers’s infamous mask is actually just a $1.98 Captain Kirk Halloween mask. Wallace widened the eyes and spray painted it white.

Quotation Notes
Curtis: “I love the way I have to kind of waddle. It was a pumpkin; it was heavy.”

Hill: “We tried to make these girls reflect the reality of the day. I think that was one of the reasons the audience responded.”

Carpenter: “Stretching the audience’s patience makes the audience nervous. I wanted to create a feeling of uneasiness.”

Hill: “There is a difference between sexuality and vulnerability.”

Carpenter built suspense by making the scenes “as slow and agonizing as possible.”

John Michael Graham on filming a scene: “I was actually a little scared.”

Hill: “The very thing that teenagers know and love best, the telephone, becomes an instrument of death.”

Hill joked one suspenseful sequence is the “longest walk in Hollywood.”

Curtis: “The real lesson that John [Carpenter] taught me was to show vulnerability. If you allow the audience in, they will care for you.”

Curtis: “I loathe horror movies. I don’t like to be surprised.”

Curtis says Laurie represented American women: “Smart, strong, capable, tenacious, brave.”

Hill says the movie is filmed so things get more and more claustrophobic. “It just gets smaller and smaller until she is in a closet.”

Script Notes
The writers say their goal was to write Halloween like a radio play, with scares every ten minutes.

Hill based the fictional Haddonfield, Illinois, on her hometown, Haddonfield, New Jersey.

The idea for Halloween is from producer Irwin Yablans, who wanted to make a babysitter horror film.

Originally, Dr. Loomis was supposed to have a phone conversation with his wife. Pleasence didn’t do it, saying he thought the character shouldn’t have a family or a past.

Hill was a babysitter as a teen and wrote most of the girls’ dialogue. Hill: “This was the really fun writing. I was able to, sort of, relive my childhood.”

The story is based on an experience Carpenter had in college touring a psychiatric hospital. Carpenter met a child who stared at him “with a look of evil, and it terrified me.”

Carpenter got the idea for an evil force who could never die from the movie Westworld. In Westworld, a robot-cowboy (Yul Brynner) is shot, beaten, and burned but still comes back.

Set Notes
The dark lighting in Halloween comes from necessity: the crew didn’t have enough money for more lights.

One scene is filmed as a re-creation of the make-out scene that starts the movie.

“See anything you like?” is one of the movie’s most famous lines and is improvised by Soles.

The movie is shot out of order, so Curtis’s script had numbers telling her how scared to be.

Symbolism Note
In most horror movies, including this one, fate really is immovable. The characters can’t escape it.

Technology Notes
Halloween‘s opening scene is filmed with a Steadicam, a new invention in the late seventies. Steadicams use a gyroscope to stabilize the camera for long, smooth shots.

The stabbing sound effect is actually a knife stabbing a watermelon.

Trivia Notes
Point-of-view (POV) takes were made famous by Hitchcock. They are in modern horror movies from The Silence of the Lambs to The Blair Witch Project.

“Bogeyman” may come from the Middle English word “bugge,” which means “frightening specter.”

There is no specific origin for the bogeyman myth, though it exists in many cultures. Most often the bogeyman is depicted as a creature who carries children away in a sack.

Like many names in Halloween, Ben Tramer is a reference to a friend of Carpenter. And Myers is a tribute to the European film distributor for Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13.

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