Halloween (1978)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, P.J. Soles
Extras: Documentary, Photo Gallery, Theatrical Trailers, Television and Radio Spots, Biographies

After 21 years "Halloween" is still one of the most impressive horror films that never seems to lose its appeal, and is widely considered John Carpenters best film to date – although I personally prefer some of his later films over "Halloween" for their visual qualities.
Anchor Bay has now released the film in a brand-new <$THX, THX> certified version for all "Halloween" fans to behold. As a loyal reader I assume you have read the Production Diary we have prepared for you. It followed most of the development and production process of this release in detail, showing how Anchor Bay set about to create the ultimate "Halloween" release. Well, the disc is here now and ready for everyone’s scrutinizing eyes.

Originally titled "The Babysitter Murders" but renamed before its release in 1978, "Halloween" is the primordial of all slasher flicks.
No matter which stalker film you watch today, each and every one of them builds upon the recipe established by Carpenter’s film, although I do not want to diminish Tobe Hooper’s impact on the genre with his "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" from 1974 here. The film starts with a young boy, Michael Myers, killing his sister in a state of mental disorder. In this sequence look out for Carpenter’s phenomenal use of the steadycam and the music that greatly enhances the ominously approaching menace directly from the boy’s point of view. The scene when he puts on the mask is as simple as it is brilliantly effective.

As a result of the murder Michael is put in to a mental institute under the observation of Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance). After years of therapy Loomis gives up on the now teenage Michael Myers and wants to make sure he is never in his lifetime released from the institution, due to the threat he poses to human society. One night however, Michael manages to break free from the high security mental prison hospital. When arriving on the scene Dr. Loomis fears for the worst and makes his way to Haddonfield, the place where Michael grew up, but Michael has already targeted a new victim and slowly stalks his prey.

Much has been said about "Halloween" and it almost feels as is any additional word would be superficial. It is one of the most relentless and intense horror films ever made and carries many of Carpenter’s stylistic trademarks.

However, I doubt that you ever have seen "Halloween" like on this DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been completely restored from a newly found negative print that boasts better colors and less damage than the prints used for previous home video transfers. But even with the new print in hand, Anchor Bay color corrected the entire film and manually removed other visible film artifacts in a laborious process to make sure the transfer is as clean as possible. The result is breathtaking. The image quality is unbelievable, making "Halloween" look like a brand-new film. I swear, if you give it its first look you will not believe that you are watching a film that is 21 years old! If you are the owner of a Toshiba DVD player, make this following quick test, and you will instantaneously agree with me that the image quality on this disc is one of the best in the market.

Here’s what to do. Start the movie and use the "ZOOM" button on your remote control to zoom in on the picture. Usually when you do this you can see every bit of noise and grain in the transfer as a result of the enlargement. Usually you will also notice a slight jitter, depending on the film, and compression artifacts like dot crawl or <$pixelation,pixelation> are obtrusively obvious in this kind of enlargement. Now take a look at you screen, running the brand-new "Halloween" and you will see nothing! Nothing, but a razor sharp image that doesn’t wobble or move, and without any signs of noise or grain. It simply looks like the picture is bigger. It doesn’t even resemble the pixelated image you get to see in most transfers, it is a pristine picture without the slightest defects. By comparison not even some of the latest high-end releases can match that quality. Apart from this reference quality <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer, the disc also contains a <$PS,pan&scan> version of the film, selectable from the disc’s man menu.

Anchor Bay also made sure the audio presentation is perfect and has completely re-mixed the original mono soundtrack to a new <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track. To satisfy purists, the disc also contains the film’s original mono soundtrack, but I have to admit after a direct comparison, I clearly preferred the newly done <$5.1,5.1 mix> for its increased dynamics and improved frequency response. Interestingly, the new mix has also brought in some completely new sound elements that were not used in the original film. Look out for the thunder in the sequence when Dr. Loomis and the nurse drive up to the hospital perimeter during the rain. Some of those thunder sounds were not part of the original mix but help immensely to build the film’s tension at that particular point. But also the music sounds bigger than ever and the crystal clear sound of Carpenter’s ostinati and highly effective piano themes are more chilling than ever. Just as the new video transfer, the new audio tracks give you the impression that someone pulled a blanket off this familiar film. It’s like seeing it in color for the first time, and hearing it unmuffled for the very first time.

Anchor Bay’s 2-disc limited edition release also contains the film’s television cut, for the first time in a <$PS,widescreen> presentation. This version has also been struck from a newly discovered film print that has been fully restored and subjugated to THX’s scrutinizing certification program. With some 12 minutes of additional footage, this version too, looks absolutely amazing in this fully restored and cleaned-up format.

Anchor Bay’s special edition of "Halloween" features a large number of additional materials, most notably a new 30-minute documentary called "Halloween Unmasked 2000". It is an extension of a documentary previously done, called "Halloween Unmasked". It brings people like John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Moustapha Akkad, Irwin Yablans, Tommy Lee Wallace, Dean Cundey, Jamie Lee Curtis and many others in front of the camera to discuss the history of the film, as well as the impact it has had on their individual careers – which, as you can imagine, was not little.

There is also an extensive photo gallery on the disc with more than 100 images, including promotional still photographs from the film, behind-the-scenes shots, posters and international lobby cards among others. A number of previously unseen pictures make this gallery a treasure for every "Halloween" fan. You will also find rare radio spots, TV spots, and theatrical trailers on the disc, as well as a "Halloween" trivia. All of the material on this disc is of superb quality and give the release a well-balanced feel.

The verdict for this release is simple and short. This is one of the best releases we have seen on DVD so far. It is a release that focuses on the film in the first place and adds interesting and rare material that will give viewers a better understanding for the importance of the movie itself. Considering the effort, ambition, money and love Anchor Bay has put into this release, we have decided to give "Halloween" our rare "Gold Seal Of Approval". It is a release that is almost too good to be true. Absolutely flawless on the technical end, delivering reference quality on the video and audio end, this is a stellar release that can’t be praised enough. Never has "Halloween" looked or sounded so good – not even in theaters during its original theatrical run. This is a must-own and a must-see disc, hands down!