Friday, November 16, 2018

Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965) review



HERCULES AND THE PRINCESS OF TROY 1965 aka HERCULES VS. THE SEA MONSTER

Gordon Scott (Hercules), Paul Stevens (Diogenes), Mart Hulswit (Ulysses), Diana Hyland (Princess Diana), Steve Garrett (Petra), Roger Browne (Ortag), Gordon Mitchell (Pirate Captain), Giorgio Ardisson (Leander), Jacques Stanislavski (Argus), Mario Novelli (Botus)

Directed by Albert Band

The Short Version: Joseph Levine struck theatrical gold after importing HERCULES (1958) and its sequel from Italy. Regrettably, his lavish, ill-fated pilot for the ABC Network based on the Greek Demi-God was never picked up for production. This is unfortunate since Albert Band's 47 minutes of flex n' pecs is as strong as the best theatrical offerings; only by 1965, Hercules had lost his lucrative strength. Three of the genres biggest names and best actors--Gordon Scott, Gordon Mitchell and Roger Browne--give it all they've got; and Carlo Rambaldi builds a massive opponent for Hercules to duel in the form of a multi-limbed denizen of the deep brought to life via computer and engines, and operated by remote control. With a number of new, and subsequently popular TV shows debuting that week; and a handful of other children's programming airing in the same time-slot, the TV Gods decided the fate of HERCULES was to never set sail again.


An enormous sea monster terrorizes the people of Troy. To satiate the monster's appetite for human flesh and prevent the destruction of their city, the Trojans must sacrifice a young girl every month. Hercules, Ulysses and Diogenes, sailing aboard the Olympia on a long journey to Thebes, land on Troy's shores. Once there, they uncover an assassination plot to kill Hercules; a sinister scheme to seize the Trojan throne that puts the female heir in grave danger; and finally, they must devise a plan to defeat the maiden-devouring monster.

Without Joseph E. Levine, it's questionable if Sword and Sandal movies would've been as popular as they were in America in the late 50s and early 1960s. Outside of cult circles and nostalgia lovers, the genre is virtually forgotten these days. Back then, Levine managed to keep the genre in the public eye in America for the duration of its popularity in its home country of Italy. 



A former shoeshine boy turned multimillionaire movie mogul, Levine's penchant for showbiz savvy and extravagance was evidenced in the movies he handled. Founding Embassy Pictures in 1956, Levine brought Godzilla to America that same year with GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS; re-cut and with added footage of Raymond Burr. 

Not long after, the enterprising producer showed a lot of muscle with another import, Pietro Francisci's HERCULES (1958); the classic Italian mythological movie starring Mr. Universe Steve Reeves. Utilizing approximately $1.5 million to purchase rights, add dubbed dialog and promotion, his gamble paid off with some $15 million in grosses. The sequel, HERCULES UNCHAINED (1959), likewise proved profitable for the producer.


With the Sword and Sandal genre still popular in the early 1960s, Levine made his way into the proverbial gladiatorial arena again. From 1963 through 1964, Levine fostered over a dozen more Italian he-man movies and gladiator films for viewing on the small screen--repackaging them as THE SONS OF HERCULES series. Releasing them to television via his Embassy Pictures, this weekly series heralded a heroic adventure prefaced by a catchy theme song, 'The Mighty Sons of Hercules'.

He would return to the mythological well for the last time in 1965. Having worked with the genres first major player in Steve Reeves, Levine would now associate himself with the second biggest name of strongman cinema in Gordon Scott.

A weekly series about the adventures of Hercules wielded fantastic potential.... five years earlier. JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS had been a hit in 1963; but by 1965, loincloth cinema had been usurped by westerns and spy pictures. The television medium is an entirely different battleground; but even there, the market was already flooded with westerns and a smattering of spy shows. You'd think a fantasy series would've been ideal for an entertainment pool with little variance. The public just wasn't interested.


Still, that's not to say the script by TV writer Larry Forrester and Italian adventure specialist Ugo Liberatore isn't appealing. Nearly all the genres cliches are accounted for. There's epic action sequences, feats of strength, and cliffhangers putting the protagonists in sufficient jeopardy between commercial breaks (the writers could've come up with a more believable manner for Hercules to be captured, though). For kids, anyway, it seemed like a great recipe.

Scott's musclebound hero is joined by Ulysses (played by newcomer Mart Hulswit) and Diogenes (played by veteran actor Paul Stevens). Had the show been picked up, Ulysses could've been the Robin to Hercules' Batman. In the pilot, the character isn't given much to do in an already crowded cast of characters. Diogenes is the more interesting of the two--as a scientist devising weapons to help Hercules in defeating the sea monster.


Shot in Rome and Yugoslavia, Levine's small-screen HERCULES was stunningly polished, benefiting from high production values and seasoned professionals both behind and in front of the camera. At just over 47 minutes, the HERCULES pilot looks bigger and better than many of the genre's full-length features. One of the programs greatest assets is its monster; an oversized crustacean created by a young Carlo Rambaldi--the future Oscar-winning FX artist of KING KONG (1976), ALIEN (1979) and E.T. (1982) to name a few.

In 1962, Rambaldi had built an impressive dragon for Antonio Margheriti's PERSEUS THE INVINCIBLE (itself one of the SONS OF HERCULES pictures re-christened as MEDUSA AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES) that looked more realistic than your average European-made fantasy picture. The sea beast seen in HERCULES AND THE PRINCESS OF TROY is a slightly more impressive creation.


Measuring some 25 feet in length and costing $25,000 to build, the Herculean monstrosity was built with metal, plastic, and ten miles of wires--encasing six engines powered by a computer. Two operators maneuver the creepy crustacean (named Max by the cast and crew) via remote control transistor radios. 

HERCULES AND THE PRINCESS OF TROY was heavily ballyhooed in all your finer monster periodicals of the time like Famous Monsters of Filmland, Castle of Frankenstein, and Mad Monsters magazines. Gordon Scott may have been the star, but Mighty Max virtually overshadowed him from all the coverage he received back in the Fall of 1965 (and into the early months of 1966). With no advertising other than the TV Guide listing, the end result debuted on the ABC Network on Sunday, September 12th, 1965 from 7-8pm.

There were a lot of new shows debuting that week like GREEN ACRES (1965-1971), LOST IN SPACE (1965-1968) and THE WILD, WILD, WEST (1965-1969). HERCULES didn't have to contend with any of those, but was unable to strong-arm a multitude of kid-friendly competition. On CBS, it was the 12th season premiere of LASSIE (1954-1973) and the third season opener of MY FAVORITE MARTIAN (1963-1966) in the 7pm and 7:30pm time-slot.

Other children's shows provided stiff competition for the Son of Zeus over on NBC. For an hour block between 6:30pm and 7:30pm, the network aired a special preview of two soon-to-debut Saturday morning cartoons--Atom Ant and Secret Squirrel. The former was an insect with super strength; while the latter was the animal kingdom's James Bond. Following that was the conclusion of KILROY, a repeat of the 4-part tele-film on the WALT DISNEY'S WORLD program that originally premiered earlier that year in March.

Additionally, on another network, HERCULES was preceded at 6:30 by the US debut of the children's show, STINGRAY (1964-1965), a British Supermarionation television series.

 
There may not of been enough interest for ABC to order a season's worth of HERCULES, but examples of the genre were getting airplay that same week. The Saturday before HERCULES debuted saw an airing of Gianfranco Parolini's SAMSON from 1961 at 7pm; on Thursday, September 16th, Sergio Grieco's SWORD OF THE EMPIRE (1964) aired at 5pm. Not entirely unrelated, TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI (1956), another Gordon Scott outing, swung into action on CBS on Friday, September 17th at 5pm.

While kids were the primary audience for HERCULES' monster action, an international cast perform admirably in measuring up to their show-stealing, armor-plated co-star.

After making his mark as the best Tarzan next to Johnny Weissmuller, the late Gordon Scott went to Italy in 1960 where he found further fame as a host of heroes in a dozen costume epics and swashbucklers ranging from Maciste to Zorro. Strangely enough, Scott's last such picture was the first time he was playing Hercules. Dubbed in his previous peplums, we get to here Gordon's real voice this time.


As in his other pictures, Gordon Scott's performance possesses the energy of ten. Stoic as always, he would've made a fantastic Hercules had the series found life on network television. Gordon Scott was always a commanding presence, and he gets several opportunities to show off here; particularly during the finale while battling the monster. Another memorable sequence is at the beginning during an unusually impressive sea battle with pirates led by genre favorite Gordon Mitchell.

Mitchell fans will be disappointed in the actor's brief screen time considering he was a major player in Sword and Sandal cinema. Starting off playing the heroic Maciste in ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS (1961), Mitchell's face was better suited to anti-heroes and villains--types of characters he excelled in such as the lead role in THE FURY OF ACHILLES (1962). 

Aside from Mitchell, there's a handful of other familiar faces of American and Italian heritage.


Faring better than Mitchell is fellow American actor Roger Browne as Ortag, the brave centurion who is presumed dead after facing the sea monster at the outset. Returning with a mask covering his mutilated face, he saves Hercules just in time for the big battle on the beach that concludes the movie. Browne had worked with Gordon Mitchell before in two of Michele Lupo's grand gladiator trilogy--THE REVENGE OF SPARTACUS (1964), SEVEN SLAVES AGAINST THE WORLD (1964) and minus Mitchell in his last genre offering, SEVEN REBEL GLADIATORS (1965).

Browne, along with his colleagues Gordon Scott and Gordon Mitchell, were the best actors this genre had ever seen. This was the only film to feature all three of them together. You can read our extensive interview with Roger Browne HERE.

Diana Hyland is the title Princess placed in peril by the usual throne usurper essential to vintage mythological movies. The typical plot device is that the hero saves the female protagonist, with both living happily ever after at the end. This being a pilot for a television series, you can't have your hero settling down so soon; so Hercules doesn't get the girl.

The late Ms. Hyland featured in numerous television programs--one of which being the spooky TWILIGHT ZONE episode, 'Spur of the Moment' from season five. Sadly, she died in 1977 from breast cancer at a very young 41 years of age.


Blonde-haired George Ardisson was a fixture of Italian adventure, westerns and horror pictures, but barely gets anything to do or even say in HERCULES other than stand in as the love interest for Princess Diana. One of his most memorable roles was as the villain in the Barbara Steele Italian horror feature, THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH (1964).

Another member of the Italian cast fans will recognize is stuntman and actor Mario Novelli (he does both here; doubling Scott in a scene where he stops a galloping horse). An unremarkable actor, he rarely got many lines (if any at all); and the trend continues in HERCULES. Novelli has a duel with Hercules in what amounts to a failed assassination attempt. Novelli appeared in some of Italian muscleman cinema's best later examples--as well as a number of Italian and barbarian movies--he just never stood out as more than a familiar face.

Albert Band directs the action with flair, giving a glimpse at what a full-length Fusto feature would've looked like under his guidance. Band did work with Gordon Scott again in the same year's THE TRAMPLERS; an intriguing Italian western co-starring Joseph Cotten, James Mitchum, and Franco Nero. Band previously directed the quirky horror film, I BURY THE LIVING in 1958; returning to horror in 1977 with the thoroughly bizarre and campy DRACULA'S DOG. The father of Charles Band, he made movies under his son's Empire Pictures; and again in numerous Full Moon productions.




Fred Steiner's opulent musical arrangements are as big as Hercules' muscles. His impressive cues greatly enhance an already stout production. Steiner composed music for some of the greatest television shows of all time; these include GUNSMOKE, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, STAR TREK, THE WILD, WILD WEST and HAWAII FIVE-O to name a few.


Well known as a cinematographer, Enzo Barboni photographed films as diverse as ROMULUS AND REMUS (1961), NIGHTMARE CASTLE (1965) and DJANGO (1966). In 1970, Barboni moved up to directing, helming the wildly popular THEY CALL ME TRINITY (1970) and its even more profitable sequel, TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME (1971).

Billed as a one-hour special narrated by the esteemed Hollywood actor Everett Sloane, you'll know his face from dozens of television shows; including THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (as Jubal Foster), THE TWILIGHT ZONE (the main character in 'The Fever'), and a few GUNSMOKE episodes to name some of his credits. Sadly, Sloane would take his own life on August 6th, 1965. HERCULES AND THE PRINCESS OF TROY would be one of, if not his last credit.

HERCULES AND THE PRINCESS OF TROY looked its best when TNT aired their yearly New Years Eve Sword & Sandal all-nighter where it played as HERCULES VS. THE SEA MONSTER. 

 
Possibly had Levine pushed this endeavor when the genre was a heavyweight, HERCULES may have been picked up as a weekly series. Then we could've seen Gordon Scott battling various monsters and duplicitous villains once a week for at least a full season, if not two. With but a single pilot episode, HERCULES AND THE PRINCESS OF TROY is an historical curio of what might of been.

This review is representative of the Retromedia DVD. Specs and Extras: Full Screen presentation; paired with ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS and GIANTS OF ROME; Running time: 00:47:09

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Best and Worst of the Halloween Series


"Now people say to me, 'How could you make such a violent film?' Then I ask them to tell me where they actually saw any violence in [HALLOWEEN]. But the film itself is such an intense experience that people feel that they've been violated."--John Carpenter interview, Fangoria #8, October 1980

Of all the major horror franchises (particularly The Big Four of the 80s), the HALLOWEEN series has consistently wandered off into the most embarrassing of places. Fans of the movies naturally want to see more of them, but there comes a time where credibility is massacred like a cabin full of half-naked teenagers cornered by Jason Voorhees.

That's not to say the dryness, the absurdness of succeeding entries in the other franchises haven't yielded preposterous results, though. For example, the TCM series introduced some bizarre Illuminati-like organization controlling the Sawyer clan. 

Meanwhile, over at Camp Crystal Lake, Jason Voorhees became the most worldly serial slasher without sacrificing his humble beginnings. Over the course of 11 films he battled a telekinetic teen; took a cruise to New York; went to Hell; battled Freddy Krueger, and finally, into outer space!

To give credit where it's due, Pinhead and his inter-dimensional clutch of sadomasochists were the first man-iacs into space.

As for the aforementioned Elm Street, Freddy Krueger stayed mostly the same. Other than a 3D gimmick and one entry depicting the film world and reality overlapping one another, the only thing differentiating one sequel from the next was what sort of elaborate, stand-up comedy routines the filmmakers would come up with for the nightmare sequences.

The HALLOWEEN series took things much farther, piling on one nonsensical contrivance after the other. For 40 years, this particular series sprung a few leaks; and after making things worse, a quick fix was required... more than once. An attempt to dump its signature slasher failed early on; and multiple endeavors that strayed far away from the simplicity of what made the first two movies work created messy storyline's that left no alternative but to start the series over again. Then there's the iconic mask. For most of the sequels, the genius of the Myers mask would change--seemingly from others wishing to put their own stamp on it. Overall, the HALLOWEEN series' disastrous changes were the most noticeable compared to the other franchise movie killers.

Below is a listing of qualities that catapulted the HALLOWEEN series into our pop culture lexicon; and the more retarded instances that begged the question, "What were they thinking?" This is all strictly opinionated, of course; and includes thoughts from my first time seeing some of the early films as a kid.

HALLOWEEN (1978)

"There was no inspiration involved at all. [John Carpenter] pretty much puppeteered me through the whole film. John suggested that I add that little cock of my head so that it would look as if Michael was an artist admiring his work."--Nick Castle on playing Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN (1978). Fangoria #88, November 1989

1. HALLOWEEN, nor its heavy-breathing killer, would be the same without that expressionless, soulless mask. After a few different masks failed to properly encapsulate the creep factor, one of William Shatner as Captain Kirk did--once it was spray-painted white and the facial features altered. It would serve as the model for Myers masks in the sequels, rarely capturing the hair-raising capability of the original.


2. Shots of Michael Myers standing stationary is an unnerving image (possibly influenced by similar actions by the Nazi zombies in SHOCK WAVES). The same can be said for the plethora of "He's right behind you!" moments generously spread throughout the picture. It became a staple for the succeeding entries.

"We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreck havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived."--Debra Hill, Fangoria #138, November 1994

3. Referred to as 'The Shape' in Carpenter's script since Myers is often obscured in shadow, you do get a gander at his mug during the conclusion (actor Tony Moran). The magic of film restoration and the pause button allows for an even better visual.

4. One of the greatest assets of HALLOWEEN is its music by director John Carpenter. Next to John Williams's music for JAWS (1975), Carpenter's cues are among the most recognizable ever composed. Like JAWS, Carpenter's music enhances the onscreen horror. Outside of Spielberg's movie, it's the only horror film I can watch multiple times and it still gives me the creeps. Years ago I was watching it in an apartment I was renting. On more than one occasion, I kept looking up at the stairs behind me! Listening to the JAWS theme makes me think twice about entering the ocean; the music of HALLOWEEN gives the same feeling; but in this case, it's not knowing what's around the corner in the darkness.

5. HALLOWEEN (1978) is that rare horror film without any dumb moments in it. It's as close to perfection as you can get in this genre. Some fans have made an issue over Michael driving a car, though (something he does in multiple sequels). While it's a reasonable complaint that a kid who has spent several years in a loony bin has never had the opportunity to commandeer one, the script at least acknowledges that he had to of learned it somewhere. Still, if we can buy into Michael Myers being pure evil--a quasi-supernatural force, we can buy his skills behind the wheel.

6. Doctor Loomis's dialog with Sheriff Brackett while waiting for evil incarnate inside the dilapidated Myers house is a chilling speech, and arguably one of the most memorable in horror. It's hard to imagine anybody else in that role besides Donald Pleasence. No one can roll maddening, half-crazed dialog off their tongue quite like Pleasence.

7. One of horror cinema's great shock moments comes at the end when Michael Myers, after taking six bullets from Dr. Loomis and falling two stories, gets up and walks away. Thinking the Boogeyman is finally dead, there's a sense of relief on Loomis's face that turns to one of cold, hard doom upon the realization that Evil is still out there.

Michael Myers: Nick Castle; Tommy Lee Wallace (breaking into the closet); Jim Windum (falling off the house); Tony Moran (unmasked)

Domestic box office: $47,000,000 (adjusted for inflation: $183,581,200)

HALLOWEEN 2 (1981)

"I think HALLOWEEN 2 is an abomination and a horrible movie. I was really disappointed in it."--John Carpenter in an interview from 1984.

"You have to try hard to maintain the style of the first movie. I wanted [HALLOWEEN 2] to feel like a two-parter. My philosophy was to do more of a thriller than a slasher movie."--Rick Rosenthal interview

1. Even though it's directed by Rick Rosenthal (his first movie), writer and producer John Carpenter's presence is felt from the first frame to the last. Ironically, while Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is praised for its focus on suspense and lack of bloody violence, it was Carpenter who raised the gore quotient for the sequel by shooting some additional kill scenes. Meanwhile, Rosenthal wanted to retain that spooky ambiance without the gore. Reportedly, the two filmmakers had a heated relationship during production.

2. The atmosphere of H2 is thoroughly unpleasant. From the gore, to the darkly lit hospital, to the kid who bites into a razorblade-laced apple, to the sudden death of Ben Tramer (mentioned in the first movie has being set up on a date with Laurie Strode), this sequel is nothing if not mean-spirited.

3. It's a popular opinion that making Laurie Strode Michael's sister was a bad idea; Carpenter chalked it up to a lot of sleepless nights and too much beer. It's Hitchcockian compared to the nonsense to come. The big surprise is foreshadowed, but isn't revealed till towards the end. It's a sensible scripting addition that, despite what some think, kept the series going (from one degree to another), and gave a logical explanation for why Michael Myers was after Laurie Strode in the first place without sacrificing the mystery surrounding the character. Still, the Myers arc should've ended with this movie; not necessarily because of the ludicrous extremes the series ultimately takes, but because his body is totally consumed by fire.

4. The first time I saw H2 was when my father taped it on HBO in '82 or '83. I hadn't yet seen the first movie. I remember my father telling me it wasn't as good as part 2 to him; that it was a slower paced movie. When I did finally see it a short time later, I ended up liking the sequel more than the original, too. It was my first exposure to that nerve-jangling music (by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth). Years later when I purchased the soundtrack to HALLOWEEN 2 (1981), I was listening to it coming home. It was dark and there was a thunderstorm and the rain was pouring down. I kept getting the feeling there was someone else in the car with me.

5. H2 is an example of a sequel done to near perfection--it replicates what made the original so memorable while expanding on the mythos without venturing outside the rules laid down before it. Interestingly enough, the few sequels that stuck to formula ended up making good money at the box office.

6. Director Rick Rosenthal married actress Nancy Stephens during filming. She played Nurse Marion Chambers in the first two movies, and in HALLOWEEN H20 in 1998.

7. The mask is the same one worn by Nick Castle in HALLOWEEN. Oddly enough, the few years of improper storage had misshapen The Shape--rendering the mask even more creepy than before. Dick Warlock's leisurely interpretation of Myers is one of the best. His Michael moves the slowest of all the actors that donned the mask.

8. Additional notes: In magazine pieces at the time, H2 was announced to take place inside a high-security, luxurious apartment complex; and was originally planned as a 3D production. At the beginning, Loomis repeatedly shouts, "I shot him six times!" If you count the number of gunshots, an editing mistake allows Loomis to shoot Myers seven times instead of six.

Michael Myers: Dick Warlock

Domestic box office: $25,533,818 (adjusted for inflation: $83,949,300) 

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)

"I wouldn't mind making a whole career out of being in just horror movies."--Tom Atkins, Fangoria #22, October 1982

1. Minus Michael Myers, H3 was a huge gamble back in '82. John Carpenter and Debra Hill would only participate if there was no connection to the Myers character. Instead, they hit upon the novel idea of producing a yearly Halloween film with a different story every year. Poorly received at the time, it was six years before The Shape took form again. 

2. As kids who were able to see it at that time, there was a lunchroom conspiracy going around at my school that the guy who kills the lady with the drill was actually Michael Myers. They did miss a golden opportunity for a sight gag showing somebody wearing a Michael Myers mask, though.

3. Science fiction writer Nigel Kneale had his name removed as script author when the request for a lot of gore was made by distributor Dino De Laurentiis. The subsequent death sequences are as spectacular as they are hilariously over the top; and seem more the result of binge drinking than anything Carpenter came up with for H2. Still, the wildly creative gore quotient is big enough to fill in the plot holes.

4. Losing Michael Myers, the series' greatest asset, was a risky move. Another asset in H3 that we never see are Stacey Nelkin's breasts. She teased us in UP THE ACADEMY (1980) and no-showed yet again. I remember in my teen years watching this with a girlfriend and when Nelkin's ample cleavage was unveiled she responded with, "Ohhh, she's going to show those, isn't she?" It's the horror movie way; but H3 broke tradition in another way.

5. Vilified during its original release, an appreciation for H3 was slow in coming. Without the in-title-only association, H3 might have performed better. Over the years, its reputation has, like a fine wine, improved with age. 


6. The three masks seen in the movie became nearly as famous as the Michael Myers mask: a luminescent green witch; a day-glo orange jack-o'-lantern; and a glow-in-the-dark skull. Don Post Studios mass produced them for the films release. If you bought Fangoria at that time, you will remember the advertisements.

Domestic box office: $14,400,000 (adjusted for inflation: $44,767,300)

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH may have been a massive disappointment to fans but, ironically, the series would veer far away from what made the first movie the sublime horror film it is once they brought Michael Myers back.

HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988)

1. This much ballyhooed sequel saw not only the return of The Shape, but Dr. Loomis as well. Probably the best thing about this sequel is its atmosphere. The filmmakers capture the spirit of the holiday as good if not better than Carpenter did. There are a few good 'boo' moments, and action director Dwight H. Little pays respect to the Carpenter original while showcasing a nice visual palette. Incidentally, this was the first of three entries where the Shapester makes his escape while being transported to another facility.

2. There's some tinkering done with The Shape--molding into him a level of sophistication normally afforded Jason Voorhees. Myers is always where he couldn't possibly be; and he now has a near superhuman level of strength that is displayed at the beginning when he jams his thumb through a guy's skull.

3. The script acknowledges the Laurie Strode angle, but dispenses with it--creating new characters related to Jaime Lee Curtis's famous screamer. Myers now has a 10 year old niece with which to hunt down and do away with. In addition to Myers' freakish strength and uncanny ability to transport to any location, the ending is pretty dumb where it appears Myers's evil spirit has entered the body of his niece.

4. I saw H4 in the theater with my step-mother and some friends. This was the first HALLOWEEN movie I saw in the theater and it was packed. Anticipation was high for this movie. If you were a horror fan and kept up with all the information in Fangoria and some of the other genre publications at that time, the Return of Michael Myers was a huge deal. I liked the film more at that time than I do now. I also remember foolishly holding onto my wallet and later dropping it upon exiting the theater; and thankfully, it being found and returned to me by another theatergoer. Upon our return home, my step-mother told my dad, "I couldn't believe they didn't show [Kathleen Kinmont's] breasts. I thought for sure they would since they were so big." I remember people were laughing and sighing in disappointment when there was no big reveal. I had just turned 13 earlier that year so I can't say I wasn't let down as well!

5. Considering H3 performed poorly because of the absence of its signature slasher, H4 wasn't a huge success for a series that was bringing him back after a six year hiatus.

6. Reportedly rushed to completion from lack of time and resources, the mask (or masks) Myers wears is a major step down from the Shatner mask of the first two movies; and despite that visage being featured prominently on the poster. The original was genuinely scary; whereas here, Myers looks like a knife-wielding mime.

1988 was a bum year for horror's major franchise players. FRIDAY 7s decomposing, zombie-fied Jason, still confined to Camp Crystal Lake, dueled to the death with a CARRIE-style teen before a dumb ending put him down till the next sequel that had an even dumber ending; NIGHTMARE 4, the one where Freddy came back to life after a dog pisses fire on him, officially launched Krueger's stand-up comedy career. The HALLOWEEN series would soon put these to shame.

Michael Myers: George P. Wilbur

Domestic box office: $17,768,757 (adjusted for inflation: $39,514,900)

HALLOWEEN: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989)

"I have a lot of problems with where this film is going. At the core of all these HALLOWEEN films is a very stupid story. I mean, here we have this Michael Myers character. Over the space of four films, he's been hit by more than 500 rounds of gunfire, burned, blown up and thrown down a well, and yet he's still running around. If that isn't a stupid story, I don't know what is."--Donald Pleasence interview, Fangoria #87, October 1989

1. The HALLOWEEN series continued its downward spiral. H5 is considered the worst series entry by many fans. It remains the least profitable of the franchise and contains eyebrow-raising levels of stupidity. It also has a lot of jarring ideas that you will either love or loathe. The title is redundant since Myers has been trying to get revenge (or whatever you'd call it) since the second movie.

2. European filmmaker Dominique Othenin Girard (NIGHT ANGEL) got the H5 gig through Debra Hill. In his defense, he captured a meager amount of a spooky visual climate, but never wrangles the spirit of the holiday. He does succeed in tapping into a meager amount of nastiness that hadn't been seen since Rick Rosenthal's H2 from eight years prior.

3. Outside of a harrowing chase during the finale, the best moment of H5 is the film's unsettling opening sequence. It captures a stunning amount of tension only to lose it right after.

"I'm going to miss playing Loomis. I've been this character for a long time. He's the only continuing film character I've ever played. I will most definitely be sorry to see him go."--Donald Pleasence interview, Fangoria #87, October 1989 


4. Donald Pleasence's famed Dr. Loomis character was originally slated to die in H5. Initially, Pleasence seemed pleased with the script (co-written by director Othenin-Girard), but after numerous clashes with the director, Pleasence later disliked this entry of all the ones he acted in.

5. Horror's special effects heroes, KNB EFX Group were responsible for the most radically different mask of the series--adding long hair and a bigger nose. Bearing a macabre quality, it nonetheless looks better suited for a scarecrow than Haddonfield's most famous slasher. During a sequence where Myers picks up a hot girl for a Halloween date (you have to see it to believe it), he's wearing a different mask (originally a Ronald Reagan mask but this was changed).

6. Michael Myers takes the mask off and sheds a tear at one point. This was the second time you'd get a brief glimpse of his face (seen the first time near the beginning). He also tries out for Nascar for an irritatingly lengthy amount of the film's running time. Elsewhere, somebody thought inserting cartoon sound effects for two bumbling cops was a good idea.

7. In a valiant effort to surpass the silly ending of part 4, one of the dumbest moments in horror history belongs to the ending of H5. If you thought the humiliation of witnessing Michael being arrested by the police and thrown in jail (they even leave his mask on!), only to be rescued by the mysterious man in black with silver-tipped boots (who pops up throughout the movie), was hard to top... the next sequel proudly proclaims, "Hold my beer.."

Michael Myers: Donald L. Shanks

Domestic box office: $11,642,254 (adjusted for inflation: $26,803,600)

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1994)

1. The series descended further into celluloid Hell with this calamitous continuation. In an attempt to mine territory previously explored in 1981s vastly superior H2, Director Joe Chappelle and Writer Daniel Farrands go off the deep-end, turning H6 into a dark, convoluted soap opera about Druid curses. Michael Myers went from being a boogeyman killing without reason to an instrument of evil controlled by a coven of Celtic alchemists... the Curse of Thorn!

2. H6 had a strong opening (debuting at #2) but took a nosedive in its 2nd week, dropping 66%. There was little to no improvement on what H5 brought to the table. At that time, a barely-seen Producers Cut was available on the bootleg market. This version was considered preferable to the theatrical, but in either form, H6 is cursed from beginning to end.

3. Danielle Harris was originally set to reprise her role as Jamie but both parties could not come to terms on contract details.

4. Makeup effects artist John Carl Buechler forges a mask that goes back to the original conception of Michael Myers even if it's not that great of a design. Still, the Shape is noticeably more brutal here than he's been up to this point. With literally nowhere else to go (how about into space?), you'd think this would've been the death-knell of a once great series.

5. Additional notes: Moustapha Akkad intended to shoot H6 immediately after H5 but the production was delayed for five years due to a legal battle over series rights. H6 had nine different endings written for it.

6. Incidentally, John Carpenter and Debra Hill attempted to take back control of the series around this time, but lost the rights in a legal battle with Moustapha Akkad. Carpenter's idea for H6 was... "If you can't kill him, what do you do? You send him up into space, except he goes up there and ends up on a space station."--John Carpenter, Fangoria #138, November 1994

"The first [HALLOWEEN] still remains the best. I thought II also had its share of fine moments. Part 4 seemed to make some steps back to getting things on track. But 5? It was just rubbish."--Donald Pleasence during filming of H6, Fangoria #147, October 1995

7. Sadly, Donald Pleasence died before the film was released to theaters (although his presence would be felt in succeeding sequels). A double was used for scenes requiring him during the reshoots. The series had survived this long without Laurie Strode but was about to herald her return.

Michael Myers: George P. Wilbur (A. Michael Lerner in reshoots)

Domestic box office: $15,116,634 (adjusted for inflation: $31,762,300)

HALLOWEEN: H20 (1998)

"This is very much like the first HALLOWEEN. That movie was beautifully told and so is this one... I never saw 4,5, or 6 and, quite frankly, HALLOWEEN 2 stinks. It's a terrible movie. I should never have done it. The only reason I did it was out of loyalty to John and Debra. But it was definitely a mistake."--Jaime Lee Curtis, Fangoria 176, September 1998 

1. After drowning in mediocrity for a decade, this sequel gets the series back on track (even if it's only a temporary fix) by pretending H4-H6 doesn't exist. Jaime Lee Curtis felt the time was right to return to the role that made her famous and even tried to get Carpenter on board as director. According to Moustapha Akkad, Carpenter wanted too much money so Steve Miner (director of FRIDAY THE 13TH 2 and 3) took the chair. Curiously, the Return of Laurie Strode had a better reception than Myers himself enjoyed ten years earlier.

2. The best sequel since H2, the opening sequence with Nurse Marion Chambers (last seen in H1 and H2) is more impressive than the whole of H6. The build-up to the meeting between Strode and Myers is intense as is their sibling rivalry during the conclusion. The last scene where Myers, pinned between a truck and a tree, is decapitated by Strode is one of the great, modern shock moments in horror.

3. Originally, the filmmakers had intended on bringing the character of Dr. Loomis back. This was abandoned as was a cop character (to have been played by Charles Dutton) tracking Michael Myers. This leaves the film to revolve entirely around Curtis as the main protagonist, although the cop character would crop up in the 2018 reboot.

4. The success of the annoying SCREAM series was instrumental in H20 getting the prestigious treatment it did. Moreover, the SCREAMs ushered in the dull promotional style for horror movie posters that this film, and the next one, goes with. Even so, without Wes Craven's wildly popular slasher, H20 may not of been as good as it is, if it even got made at all.

5. Reportedly, the filmmakers went back to the Shatnerian visage for The Shape mask. Unfortunately, we're back in clownish territory again. The main issue is the eyes are too big. Myers loses that air of the supernatural and becomes a regular guy with a butcher knife. It's not the worst design but not the best either. In some shots it looks sufficiently eerie, but others it gives the impression Myers is possibly wearing big red shoes.

6. This was the first HALLOWEEN film I saw in the theater since RETURN in 1988. We all had a great time seeing it as seemingly everyone else in the packed theater. I remember feeling this was a great way to end the series...


"You've got to see this movie to decide if this is the end of the HALLOWEEN series or not. I don't know how they could go on with it. We tie everything up. This movie is about as final as you can get."--Director Steve Miner, Fangoria 176, September 1998

Michael Myers: Chris Durand

Domestic box office: $55,041,738 (adjusted for inflation: $107,266,800)

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)

1. When I heard there was going to be ANOTHER sequel in this series I assumed that, taking into consideration that Michael Myers was DECAPITATED in the previous movie, the only way to do another one was to now pretend H20 never existed (a concept that became a regular occurrence with this series). It goes without saying the method of Myers' resurrection is incredibly stupid. Starting off on a clumsy foot in its explanation of The Shape's survival, the film does manage a shocking opening sequence (itself not entirely bereft of stupidity) where Myers tracks his sister Laurie Strode (now in a mental institution) for a final face-off with her--ending that storyline in the process.

2. Jaime Lee Curtis's contract stipulated if they did do another sequel, she would make a cameo appearance (despite Steve Miner's assertions, Malek Akkad stated at the time they had always intended on doing another one!). Curtis reportedly liked Larry Brand's initial script so much, she wanted her role expanded for the opening sequence.

3. There was talk of turning Bianca Kajlich's Sara character into the new Laurie Strode for multiple pictures if the series continued. This didn't happen so we were spared a potential repeat of H4-H6 foolishness.

4. The film did get creative by tapping into social media--using a "reality show" template, body-cameras, and surveillance cameras as gimmicks. It was a nice touch that added a modicum of ingenuity to what was Myers seventh slaughter-thon. 

5. RESURRECTION is possibly the most derided film in the series despite the utter scraping of barrels in H5 and H6 and the trips to the outhouse when Rob Zombie takes over. In all fairness, Busta Rhymes having a kung fu fight with Myers is one of the low points in a series that periodically reveled in them.

6. If you're a fan of Kung Fu movies, you'll recognize Chang Cheh's THE DUEL (1971) playing on the television in Busta Rhymes's hotel room.

7. One of the few high marks of RESURRECTION is the Michael Myers mask. It looked a lot like the one from the first two movies, but with more pronounced features. One of the best designs even if the film is panned by most.

8. Additional notes: Rick Rosenthal had directed 1981s H2 twenty years earlier. A Loomis-inspired character named Donaldson was part of an early draft but was later removed. Director Rosenthal replaced original director Whitney Ransick.

Michael Myers: Brad Loree

Domestic box office: $30,354,442 (adjusted for inflation: $47,752,100)

HALLOWEEN (2007)

1. The worst horror movie of 2007 and one of the worst ever made. There's virtually nothing good to say about Rob Zombie's version. The first half is an origin story that could've been titled 'The Firefly Clan in Haddonfield'. It removes Myers as the nightmare of suburbia, and the quasi-supernatural qualities along with it. In its place, Zombie transforms him into long-haired trailer trash--a young sadist whom we're supposed to identify with. The remainder is a cliff's notes version of Carpenter's original--heavy on the F-bombs and infantile dialog. Malcolm McDowell portrayal of Loomis makes one pine for Donald Pleasence. It's less McDowell's fault than it is the excruciating dialog the director has given him to say.

2. Utter garbage from beginning to end, Rob Zombie's asinine take on the material unwittingly follows in Joe Chappelle's H6 footsteps--resulting in two vacuous versions--one of which ended up being "leaked" online. Reshoots were ordered; and what was released to theaters didn't improve on much.

3. Danielle Harris (child actress of H4 and H5) returned to the series, co-starring in both of Zombie's seasonal slashers as Annie, the character originally played by Nancy Loomis.

4. The filmmakers did at least deliver an impressive mask for Giant Myers (Tyler Mane is near 7 feet tall) to wear.

5. Zombie's remake was profitable compared to the previous few movies. This was likely due to people being curious as to what the singer-filmmaker would do with the material since, realistically speaking, Carpenter's seminal film was the polar opposite of what RZ had done before. By the time his version hit theaters in August of 2007, horror fans got the exact same type of movie he'd done two times earlier.

Michael Myers: Tyler Mane

Domestic box office: $58,272,029 (adjusted for inflation: $77,413,700)

HALLOWEEN 2 (2009)

1. Rob Zombie's dumb sequel to his horrific remake is as moronic as before. This time around Zombie depicts Michael Myers going into full-blown vagrant mode--barely wearing his mask. He even talks--uttering the word "Die!" at the end when confronting Malcolm McDowall's 2nd--and worst--interpretation of Dr. Loomis. The way Zombie's scripts excrete the 'F' word, I'm surprised Myers didn't say, "Fucking die!"

2. Scout Taylor-Compton went from playing Laurie Strode as a teenager faking orgasms while fingering donuts in front of her mother to playing a basket case who says the F word a lot.

3. Zombie's H2 does have something his first HALLOWEEN doesn't have and that's a memorably intense sequence. The chase in and around a hospital is one of the most ferociously grim scenes in modern horror cinema. A shame the rest of the movie never comes close to matching it.

4. Zombie's H2 has two different versions just like the mess he made in 2007. 

5. Uniformly rejected by most fans, the low returns indicated we would all be spared the completion of a Zombie trilogy with Homeless Myers, crazed hillbillies, and a deluge of F Bombs comin' at ya' in HALLOWEEN 3D.

Michael Myers: Tyler Mane

Domestic box office: $33,392,973 (adjusted for inflation: $40,872,400)

HALLOWEEN (2018)

"This was as good as I've seen since we did the first movie."--John Carpenter

1. Yet another restart for this series--now pretending 1981s HALLOWEEN 2 onward never existed. Jaime Lee Curtis returns for the fifth time. John Carpenter returns for the third time in a capacity other than directing. Nick Castle, the man who played Michael Myers behind the infamous mask in the 1978 original returns as well. Craftsmanship likewise returns to HALLOWEEN. It's been 20 years since the last genuinely great sequel and this new one repeats that film's gimmick.

2. There's nods to other films in the series including numerous homages to the original; the masks of H3; and, among others, a similar bathroom sequence to the one from H20. There's even a below-the-belt jab at the plot reveal of Michael and Laurie's family ties from 1981s H2. Ultimately, the movie feels a lot like a revised version of Steve Miner's HALLOWEEN H20 from 1998.

3. Jaime Lee Curtis's interpretation of Laurie Strode is very similar to how she played the character in H20; albeit with long, frazzled hair, a vast arsenal of weapons and a booby-trapped house.

4. The Dr. Sartain character is a welcome interpretation of Dr. Loomis (even down to the actor sounding a lot like Donald Pleasence!) till a wildly erratic plot twist towards the end ruins the characterization.

5. The mask is extremely good. Since it's supposed to be the same one from 40 years earlier, it bears the sort of tattered, weathered look of the mostly forgettable Rob Zombie duds. The blackened out eyes helps in evoking a sense of supernatural evil behind the mask.

6. The way the film ends, there is definitely room for another sequel. At this point, any attempt at finality (such as H20s Myers decap) will result in some scriptwriter finding a ludicrous method of resurrection; or the series can simply wipe the slate clean and start over again.

Michael Myers: Nick Castle

Domestic box office: $132,338,410 (as of October 30th) 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!



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