John Carpenter October film..?

hall2Halloween (1978) – Blu-ray.

Well, October’s a fairly topical month to be watching horror films, and if you are going to watch a John Carpenter film in October, then odds are it’s going to be Halloween. Fortunately I had a copy of the blu-ray 35th anniversary steelbook sitting on my shelf in the unwatched pile, so not only did it tick off another October horror movie but it also got that infamous pile down by one.

There’s not much to be said about Halloween, its surely all been said already. Separated from its iconic status over the years and its franchise of endless sequels and reboots (which beyond Halloween 3 I have never watched), the 1978 film remains a great little horror movie. Its a small, lovingly-crafted, nicely acted, wonderfully scored horror film. Like Alien and Jaws, it’s a great film that begat many (often inferior) sequels but remains perfect all in itself. Its a lesson in tension and the implied threat of violence- indeed, in gore/violence terms it’s a very restrained film, and its also a masterclass in using the widescreen frame in its shots. Carpenters films -particularly his early ones- are beautifully composed, he really knew how to use the widescreen frame.

hall1Donald Pleasence- isn’t he wonderful in this? He was always a great talent that graced genre films like THX 1138 and Escape From New York, and channeled all sorts of Peter Cushing vibes in this, perhaps his most famous role as Dr Sam Loomis. He was the kind of actor we seldom see these days, but his twitchy, nervous bald Everyman convinced he’s hunting the Devil Incarnate (and who’s to say he isn’t?) is a joy here as he is in most everything, really. I miss him, and as with Peter Cushing, with his passing we as film-fans suffered a major loss that grows more pressing as the years pass.

One thing I will note regards this 35th Anniversary disc -and I don’t know if this appears on the films many other home editions- is a great little documentary, The Night She Came Home, which features Jamie Lee Curtis attending a Halloween/horror convention and spending a weekend meeting and greeting fans, the proceeds going to a hospital charity.  Apparently she distanced herself from horror fans and the Halloween fanbase for some years so her attendance here is a rare event and warranted this video record. Its a nice doc. I quite like this kind of thing, related to the film on the disc but not restricted to being a making-of talking heads piece, rather it’s a fly-on-the-wall look at the event, the actress, the fans who share their stories regards love of the film etc, and we see other actors and behind the camera staff from the film series. Its not often I really bother with extra features on discs these days (much to my shame) but this was a nice one that sucked me in immediately after watching the film.

 

 

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Star Wars OST audio cassette

100_5489A long, long time ago on a Birthday far, far away… well, February 1978 to  be exact, on my twelfth birthday (don’t do the maths, honestly, its too depressing), I was given this copy of John William’s Star Wars soundtrack on audio cassette.

Star Wars didn’t get released over here in the UK until late 1977, in London anyway, with it coming out into the regions some weeks later in early 1978, when I finally got to see it that same month of February as my birthday.  I loved the film, loved the music… well, its hard to explain the impact of Star Wars back then to people so inured these days to so many summer blockbusters.

Back then, soundtracks were pretty much the only way to ‘own’ a piece of a movie, a way to relive the film experience. Actually owning a copy of the film, on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray or whatever was something undreamed of. But yeah, my parents may have thought it a rather odd present choice of a young boy in England, but I really wanted the soundtrack. I chose to have it on cassette rather than vinyl simply because my parents had bought me a radio cassette player for Christmas a few weeks before, and after all, cassettes were The Future, weren’t they? No pops, scratches, clicks or jumps which records could be hindered with (so here we are decades later with vinyl enjoying a resurgence and most everyone under twenty looking at this wondering what the hell that plastic box is in the picture here). Yeah, and green plastic- even back then it looked a little unusual. I have to wonder, as the soundtrack was likely bought on vinyl more than on cassette, how many of these green things are still floating around.

100_5490Birthday presents come and go and they naturally vanish with time, but I made sure never to lose this cassette. No way I was ever losing this little beauty over the long years since. Its funny how you get attached to the oddest things. Of course as the years went on and the audio cassette format faded away this odd little guy started to become not just a reminder of a childhood birthday but something of a relic of a lost age, another defunct format. You’d think I’d learn, but we seldom do, as other media formats -Betamax, VHS, DAT, etc came and went. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Star Wars just goes on and on of course- I have VHS and DVD editions of the films themselves up in the loft and the Blu-ray box on a shelf behind me. Only being able to relive the film by listening to the score through headphones seems such a distant time.

100_5491I later bought the Star Wars soundtrack album on vinyl anyway, several years later in a sale (why exactly, I’m not even sure), and of course much later on compact disc in expanded form, but this little cassette was where it all started-  my first soundtrack. Which, when I think about it, is something of a Big Deal. It started an interest and appreciation of film scores that would last the rest of my life (my birthday present the following year was John William’s Superman: The Movie soundtrack, this time on vinyl- what wonderful years they were for soundtracks). This interest resulting in hundreds of CD soundtracks piling up all over my house. No doubt the CD format itself will follow the audio cassette into obscurity too, as has been threatened for years. That’s really rather depressing, especially considering just how many of them I have and all the time I’d have to spend converting them into mp3/digital files for posterity/future playback…