DVD Review HTF REVIEW: HALLOWEEN - 25th ANNIVERSARY

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, Oct 28, 2003.

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  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    Michael Osadciw
    [​IMG]


    JOHN CARPENTER’S
    HALLOWEEN






    Studio: Anchor Bay
    Genre: Horror
    SRP: US$29.98

    Year: 1978
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 91 min.
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Audio:
    English DD 5.1 surround
    English DD 2.0 surround
    English DD 2.0 mono
    Subtitles: none





    Release Date: NOW!


    I think everyone remembers when they first saw the movie Halloween. Given that Halloween is only a few days away, I feel it is appropriate to review this title that Anchor Bay released a few months back. Halloween was different from other horror films of the day because it brought something fresh to the horror genre that wasn’t there before. Several other films in the 1970s shared a similar response because they brought surprises and advancements to cinema. Star Wars amazed people with its good pacing and special effects that were unlike any other Sci-Fi film. The film Alien used a small cast whose scares relied on the premise that seeing ‘less is more’ brang claustrophobia, hopelessness and horror to the big screen. It was unlike any creature film at the time that had a simple story and equalled big fear. Halloween was developed in the same manner only a year before and with just a fraction of the budget. Using his knowledge of what made a great horror film, writer/director John Carpenter’s Halloween is the film that spawned many sequels and rip-offs and revitalized the genre of horror films.

    Michael Myers, the ultimate evil behind the mask, escapes from a mental institution fifteen years after he committed the murder of his sister at the ripe old age to kill of six years old. Sporting a clown suit and a Halloween clown mask, Carpenter’s use of the then-new Panavision steadycam lets us look through Michael’s eyes as he puts in that sharp steely knife on Halloween, 1963. Because of this night, this little town of Haddonfield, Illinois will always have a story and an empty haunted house of where the murder took place.

    Take us to 1978 now, and its Hallowe’en night again (FYI, according to M-W, Halloween short for ‘All Hallow Even’, or ‘all saints’ eve’). The town now has an unexpected visitor and a few local teenage girls have a new admirer. One of the girls, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) sees this ‘shape’ appearing and disappearing before her eyes, but ignores it and insists that this boogieman isn’t real. Dr. Loomis, the doctor on pursuit, knows Michael very well. He is the only one who knows the horror behind his black eyes.

    For Laurie, the plan for the night is to do some babysitting while her friends do some loving. Myers on the other hand has another plan in mind to let us experience his terror once again - on Halloween night. A true horror classic in any regard without the blood, guts, and ultra-violence that some might expect. Would this be rated PG-13 by today’s standards?

    The first time I was introduced to the name of the film was when I was very young. I used to be the most frightened kid on earth and horror films were not my flavour at the time. My family trip to the video store consisted of bringing home family orientated films. I had a habit of wandering into the isles of films “not for my age”. Horror and Sci-Fi titles whose cover art depicted scenes of horror scared me to believing that what I saw was real. Looking at the reverse side of those Beta tapes (yes, we were Beta supporters) got my attention even more as pictures of scenes from the films were now spinning my imagination and haunting my dreams at night. Scared as hell, I’d never want to watch those movies – ever! Or did I?

    Even though I had a frightened mind, I was very curious. At some point in life I was able to finally confront those fears and be determined to watch one of these horror movies. The movie I chose was Halloween.

    I visited a relative who had a huge movie collection on VHS (this was the time when we finally admitted our world had gone VHS and if we were to watch any more movies we’d have to buy the machine). He decided one night to lend me a box full of tapes and after making my pickings I saw on the shelf both Halloween and Halloween 2. I snuck them in the box and then one evening when I was left at home alone I watched these movies.

    Halloween will always be etched in my mind for introducing me to the horror genre, and for making it one of my favourites. I love horror movies now, thanks to that one evening alone. I don’t think Halloween is a very scary film on screen, but it does play with your mind off-screen. It might make you fear the world a little more. It might not let you be alone in the dark. It might make you fear the evil that we like to associate with Halloween. This is a great movie and will always be remembered as the first film that spawned the millions of slasher films like Friday the 13th and every other horror film, all of which are about some type of killer holiday. Halloween was also one of the most successful independent films of all time – with a budget of $320 000, it grossed over $54 million in its initial theatrical run. The studios that never believed this film would have a following were proved wrong and then scrambled to get out the sequels. Directors working with a shoestring budget can make a really great film when there is great writing and great teamwork among the film crew. Halloween proves this to be true.

    So if a small film can do so well and amaze an audience, can a smaller Entertainment company like Anchor Bay do the same? Absolutely! Proving that no movie is not worth remastering (several times too), Anchor Bay has done a magnificent job with this two-disc release. In fact, I want you to just take my word for it and just go buy the disc, there is no need to read the proof below! Trust me! But if you really need to know why, then read on…


    PICTURE QUALITY? [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]


    When I first saw this on VHS, the image was really bad. It was faded; there were spots, dirt, and even yellow looking tape holding the film together. Even at my young age I was conscious of quality although not to the extent that I am today. Anchor Bay Entertainment has raised the bar once again in giving us a glorious DVD presentation of this film – and fans can really appreciate the up in quality. This is a DIVIMAX HD release, so the film has been run through the telecine again to be mastered in high definition (so we should expect to see this as an HD-DVD release one day).

    In direct comparison to the 1999 THX-certified limited edition release that I own, this is a COMPLETELY different look for this 2.35:1 film. Enhanced for widescreen TVs, in terms of sharpness and detail this 25th Anniversary Edition is a winner without any debate. This difference is not subtle folks – it’s huge. I used to believe the 1999 release looked amazing but now it pales in comparison because of the dirt specks, undefined blacks and awkward color palette. This new release is absent of virtually all dirt and grain and is absolutely amazing in regards to colour vividness. Blacks are solid and I can actually see into all of the dark areas with great detail and with no added film grain. Interior scenes never look dim, washed out, or soft, as they can on the 1999 release.

    Much of the film was shot ‘on location’ so out door scenes look beautiful. There are a few scenes that appear slightly out of focus, but that was probably the original photography because these scenes are so few and far between. Given the observations above, my conclusion is that the THX DVD program was never really up to snuff. I’d like to consider this because even the video test patterns included on each of those THX discs were never consistent with the levels of other THX-certified discs or with the Video Essentials DVD that my video system was calibrated with. …but then there are inconsistencies between all video test discs.

    In regards to the colour palette for the 2003 25th Anniversary Edition there is a huge change here. I’m not sure what to think and I’ll tell you why after a little explaining of my observations.

    John Carpenter shot this film in the springtime when leaves and grass was as green as green can be. The autumn leaves used in the film were spread by hand on the set by the crew to give it an autumn look. The problem as I see it with the 2003 release is the colour isn’t timed for the same stylized look as in the previous release. To me that stylized look seems more correct. On the 2003 release the orange autumn leaves falling out of the bright-green leaved trees on the bright-green grass leaves me scratching my head as to whether or not this was an oversight in the telecine for this release. The 1999 version has the spotty-orange grass and a brown look in the trees reminiscent of autumn. In this sense it looks correct. A huge downside is the 1999 version’s colour suffers everywhere else looking murky as can be, as all colours have a brown tinge and flesh tones fall between brown, red, and pink. I could almost see a computer generated ‘floating flesh tone’ on Curtis’s face as she was walking down the street. To me it seemed on a frame-by-frame basis, whoever did the colour analysis and timing did a poor job because it is so inconsistent across the width of the screen. I’m giving both thumbs up to the 2003 release for colour fidelity and uniformity on the print.

    Also, the stylized “night blue” of the moonlight that is commonly used in night scenes in film is also gone from this release. Shots of the house across the street at night in 1999 appear totally blue (yes, totally). In 2003, the house is white, I suppose as it was filmed. The result is the same for interior scenes when there are no lights on in the house. The good result is much more depth perception and definition, but the stylizing is gone. I don’t know who’s made these decisions and why they were done. My guess is that a decision was made to preserve as much detail as possible, or at least show it. If that is the case it was a very successful decision because the unnatural telecine re-colouring of the previous release was detrimental to the image’s fidelity. But for those of us who remember Halloween with the 1999 palette, you may raise your eyebrow in strange wonder.


    AUDIO QUALITY? [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    This appears to be the same wonder 5.1 remix presented in Dolby Digital. The sense of space with the music is stunning with great soundstage depth. Each tap of the key is as chilling as I remembered because of the wonderful remix from the original mono soundtrack (also included as an audio option along with DD2.0 surround).

    The soundstage and music is primarily up front. There is little surround activity but when there is it does nicely to support the sounds in the front. Bass is limited in the LFE, but there is nothing really in this soundtrack to give it much to work with. Bass is prominent in the main channels with the music and is blended nicely. While not an aggressive soundtrack, this is a wonderful job done by the sound team and I can’t imagine it done any better. With Anchor Bay releasing most of their major restorations with a DTS-ES encoding, I was disappointed not to find that option on this release.


    SPECIAL FEATURES? [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    You bet! Giving it a disc of its own, Anchor Bay has added three new features over the previous release. In an all-new 87 minute documentary Halloween – A Cut Above The Rest, we see the making of this film from the beginning to end. With original production footage and photos, and all-new interviews with writer/director John Carpenter, actors Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nick Castle, John Cypers and producer Debra Hill (and more), we can hear of the stories and the ideas that went on behind the scenes when the camera wasn’t rolling during the four weeks of shooting. Very interesting and also presented in DD5.1 or DD2.0.

    The next feature is a just over 10-minute On Location – 25 Years Later bit. Much of it is a repeat of what you will hear in the previous feature, but this time P.J. Soles takes us back to the street where the movie was filmed and what the houses look like today.

    An audio commentary with John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Debra Hill is included on the movie disc. The three of them were not recorded at the same time, and seems that pieces from their commentaries can be heard at the appropriate moments. It does sound fluent, and entertaining nonetheless.

    Also included is the theatrical trailer, two T.V. Spots, two radio spots, a poster and still gallery, and talent bios. Two DVD-ROM features included are the Original Screenplay and Screen Savers, both I did not review.

    All special features are enhanced for widescreen televisions.


    Parting Thoughts…

    My conclusion? I’m left shaking my head in awe. This is a beautiful release of this film. For those of you who have not bought this 25th Anniversary Edition because you feel you have ‘pretty much the same release’ from 1999 are way off the mark. The new look of this film is so much superior I know I won’t be watching my 1999 version anymore because it just looks so bad next to this one. So if you are a Halloween fan, go buy yourself a copy now! I mean it too. If you’ve never seen this movie before, this is the version to get before Halloween comes this October 31. With pleasing supplements, and only leaving me in wanting of a DTS-ES encoding, I am happy that Halloween is finally brought to DVD with such quality. Will it put Michael Myers to rest? Definitely not, there is still HD-DVD when it comes. Fortunately, like Michael Myers himself, this Halloween film will never die.

    Michael Osadciw
    03.10.28
     
  2. BarryS

    BarryS Second Unit

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    I've been wondering if I needed to replace my '99 Halloween DVD with this new one. Thanks for the review.
     
  3. EdwardKarlinski

    EdwardKarlinski Stunt Coordinator

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    After reading so many reviews slamming the video quality of this DVD, it is a pleasure to read your review. I agree with you that this is a great DVD release. The transfer is beautiful. I really don't understand the criticism of the video quality which others have observed.
     
  4. Dave Anderson

    Dave Anderson Second Unit

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    The video quality is great in regards to sharpness and lack of blemishes. The problem is the colors, which are washed out in several scenes.
     
  5. Simon_Lepine

    Simon_Lepine Supporting Actor

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    People have not been critcizing the quality of the video, wich is very sharp, but the colors scheme, the same way Micheal did. It looks very good, but I have to agree with the criticism, the grass is a little too green and I miss the blue tints at night.

    They were a few long threads on this subject in this forum when the DVD was released.

    I'm still glad I bought it but this could have been better.
     
  6. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    I ended up selling my '99 release in favor of this one. I did several comparisons on my set-up and there really is no comparison. This release is far better.
     
  7. Greg Black

    Greg Black Second Unit

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    The incorrect color timing on the new release absolutely ruins the film for me. Any fan of Halloween would be doing themselves a disservice to view the movie with these incorrect colors.

    If you must buy it to hear the commentary, well then I kind of understand [​IMG]
     
  8. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    I have both the '99 LE and the new version and glad I have both.

    While the new release is sharper and benefits from encoding improvements made in the past 4 years, I strangely find myself watching the '99 version to see the film, and spin the new version only for the commentary and new features. And I have a 92 inch screen, so I don't understand those that say the '99 version is unwatchable. For some strange reason, I find the color scheme on the new release more distracting than the softness/murkiness of the '99 release. The mood is just gone with the new release, IMHO. Most distracting are the bright greens in the first half of the film. Kills the mood for me! I'm sorry to see those night blues gone, but those greens....eeesh!

    When I heard back from Sandy King (Carpenter's wife) in late August, she told me John had not seen the "new" color timing, and he said he had nothing to do with it.

    So in my view, the only "authorized" version by anyone associated with the "look" of Halloween is the '99 transfer and color correction that DP Cundey participated in and approved.

    Either way you decide to go, it's a great film to spin in the next few days...and crank up that soundtrack and open the windows. Scare the crap out of the neighborhood!!

    Cheers,
     
  9. Reagan

    Reagan Supporting Actor

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    By the way, John Capenter is speaking at Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, KY) tonight. Mass Media and Technology Hall, 7:30. Topic is censorship in the media. I'll be there.

    -Reagan
     
  10. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    Obviously, it would be great if you or someone could ask him about the color timing issue and his thoughts about it (even though it doesn't relate to the topic -- maybe be able to ask afterward).
     
  11. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Maybe John Carpenter fans don't really care (though this one does), but the failure to properly render something as fundamental as the correct color timing of a film -- particularly for a film with such a distinctive palette -- qualifies as a major defect.

    If the people transferring films can't get the basics right--things like framing, aspect ratio, color timing, contrast--then it hardly matters whether there are compression artifacts or other digital nasties. The damage has already been done.
     
  12. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    But, no one from the Carpenter camp has said the new transfer is defective. Just because the previous was approved by Cundey, doesn't automatically "disprove" this transfer. Until someone from that camp makes a definitive statement about this new transfer's color being flawed, I consider it valid. If Carpenter or Cundey come out tomorrow and say the new trasnfer's colors are wrong, I will be the first person to throw my copy on Ebay and will re-purchase the '99 version. I am in total agreement about framing, AR, colors, etc. being priority over "clarity" of transfer.

    This may just be a case similar to the Silence of the Lambs DVDs. Both the Criterion and MGM versions have different looks, yet BOTH were approved transfers from the SAME person. I want DEFINITIVE word from Carpernter or someone about THIS transfer. (As far as personal tastes, I don't have a preference over one disc's colors.)
     
  13. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Whether or not Cundey/Carpenter provide some post-hoc approval of the changes doesn't alter the fact that the color timing is drastically different. If it doesn't bother you, why sell it?

    I suspect if Cundey/Carpenter had been involved in this process, the film would've retained the distinctive color palette it always had. I mean, color timing is always a crucial part of the filmmaking process, but this is a film where the color choices were particularly bold and distinctive. It's apparent to even a casual viewer, one not versed in all this ticky-tack film-buff stuff. To alter one of the most distinctive elements of this film now, after all these years during which the it's been elevated to cult status, would be a rather odd thing to do. I just can't help but think it was an outright mistake. Wouldn't be the first time.
     
  14. EdwardKarlinski

    EdwardKarlinski Stunt Coordinator

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    It is my understanding that the 1999 release was Cundey's version of what he would have liked to have done, not what was actually shown in theaters. It is also my understanding that the current version is true to the colors of the theatrical release. If Cundey altered the transfer, then the 1999 version is actually the false edition.
     
  15. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  16. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  17. Reagan

    Reagan Supporting Actor

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    Guys, we've been going round and round on this issue since the summer and I don't think we have enough real information to settle the issue. The 1999 release is the Cundy approved release - that much we do know. Every other home video release since the dawn of time looks different from it. Whether the 1999 release represents the way the film was presented in 1978 or the way that Cundy wished it looked in 1978 is something we just don't know.


    Edit: As I was typing this, Damin added some real information to help settle the issue.

    If the opportunity presents itself (which it probably won't, given that I'll just one of hundreds there hoping to talk to him), I'll ask.

    As far as the 2003 release goes, I don't think the color problems are as widespread as some. Sure the grass is too green as compared to the 1999 release, and yes, some of the blues are missing from the night scenes, but most of the blues are still there. So I don't consider it a total washout.

    -Reagan
     
  18. Randy Korstick

    Randy Korstick Producer

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    The 2 things that make this movie stand out as a classic and not just another low budget horror movie are the music and the color scheme. Changing the color scheme completely ruins this movie and leaves this release pointless and defective[​IMG] .
    This is just another in Anchor Bay's long list of recent dissapointments. It seems flashy HD type pictures and 5.1 and 6.1 soundtracks are their prime selling points now and sacrificing the original look, soundtracks and mixes of the films are ok. This is just as bad as pan and scan. We need the original picture and soundtrack is that so hard. These things should not be comprimised and sacrificed just to fill our speakers and make our screens look pretty. Anchor Bay used to be automatic purchases for me. Now I have to wait for reviews.
     
  19. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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  20. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    ::How do we verify the original color timing source for Halloween?

    Easy, the director of photography Dean Cundey supervised the 1999 transfer and not this new one. He SHOT the friggin' movie and did the color timing on the 1999 release and had nothing to do with this new one (nor did director John Carpenter, as was also pointed out elsewhere in this thread)- thus, the colors of the 1999 release are correct, the new ones are not.

    BTW, I don't see anything on my MGM dvd of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS saying the transfer was supervised by Tak Fujimoto- where did you get your information that it was?

    Vincent
     

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