Quantcast

HALLOWEEN: The Home Video History Of Michael Myers

On September 25th, Lionsgate will release John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece, Halloween, onto the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format for the first time. Halloween, like some other popular vintage horror properties (The Evil Dead, for instance), has long been part of a running gag with multiple re-releases on home video having many fans coining the phrase “double dipping.” Rolling their eyes with every new edition, questioning how much the cow has left to offer while subserviently forking over money to have the most current version available. With the first jump to the most current format on the horizon, I thought it would be the right time (And fun) to take a look back at the Haddonfield, IL home video catalog. What studios have once given us the shape of horror? What made certain releases worth purchasing, even if you already owned it in the same format? Join me as we take a look back and see some items that may have once haunted your shelves.

Halloween has seen a ton of home video releases around the globe in its 40-year history. This you already know. For this journey, I’m keeping the majority of the discussion rooted in United States releases. If a newer VHS/DVD only replicated to be parallel to a DVD/Blu-ray release, I’m covering the launch DVD/Blu-ray, not the copycat VHS/DVD. There are some notable moments overseas that will pop up in this article. Be aware that if something was released in the UK and the only thing it has going is new cover art, I may have passed over it. Hence why it doesn’t appear here. If there is a release you feel should have been a part of this, please utilize the comment section to share it.

I don’t know which format’s output came first during this early era, but I’ll begin via the ones that didn’t have much in the way of multiple offerings. Beta gave us the first four Halloween films. I found myself surprised that Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was released on the format even. While the format would still go on releasing films through the first half of the 1990s, Halloween 4 wasn’t a major studio film and could easily have just opted for the more popular VHS format. As far as distributors, only the first one sees a different owner than the others in other formats. MEDA is the company who released the 1978 film on Beta. Halloween 4 released via the defunct CBS/FOX who also put out the original VHS and Laserdisc. MCA/Universal put out Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch. There isn’t much else to talk about here as Betamax never offered any additional features with the film. Every film’s Beta tape used its original key theatrical artwork and the traditional thin cardboard sleeve for the case.

Quite possibly the most forgotten home video format, the CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc) existed around the same time as VHS and Beta. It functioned almost like a phonograph record and is akin to the analog version of a Laserdisc. Only two Halloween films would see a release on the format, Halloween II and Halloween III. There are many films in this series that are linked to one another in different groupings due to what studio held rights and were making the movies at the time. Universal Studios it’s the first sequels to the series, and MCA/Universal would put them out on home video. Universal still owns the rights to the second and third film and subsequently is distributing the 2018 film now as well. Once again, no bonus features and using the theatrical poster as art, but just the overall size and unique structure to the release make for a cool collector’s item for home video enthusiasts.

Here’s where the double dipping begins, and things get more interesting, primarily in the case of the first film. Halloween: Resurrection was the last film in the series to have a VHS release. The format was discontinued before the first Rob Zombie film released in theaters. The second film through ‘Resurrection’ were given standard releases by way of their originally owned studios. As previously mentioned II & III were put out by MCA/Universal. Halloween 4 & Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers were put out initially by CBS/FOX. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween: H20 and Halloween: Resurrection were all released by Dimension Home Video. Dimension was a subsidiary of Miramax, itself a branch of Walt Disney. Dimension & CBS/FOX only put out their initial releases, while Universal would re-release Halloween II & III with new box art.

The original Halloween’s initial release was from MEDIA Home Entertainment. After Video Treasures put out a release; legend has it there was a mistake and, they put out the Television version by an error in the initial run. Afterward, Blockbuster Video (Yes, the rental store) acquired the rights and put it out as part of their “Blockbuster Presents” VHS series for a 2-year period. The original release had been out of print and hard to get your hands on at this point, so many of us got our ownership fix with this edition, despite it plastering BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO in some gigantic print making it look generic as hell.

Enter Anchor Bay. They were formerly Video Treasures who had previously owned the original film. Anchor Bay would be a game changer in the home video world. While many would note their DVD contributions, their top tier releases of catalog horror titles began back in the 1990s VHS era. The original Halloween would become somewhat of a flagship title for them, which they would hold onto still to this day. In 1997, they put out the film on VHS, offering it in a widescreen format for the very first time. They also put out a limited edition clamshell case edition that featured the trailer following the film.

They weren’t finished. The next year for the 20th anniversary of Halloween, they released the definitive VHS release for the original film, the clamshell cased 2-Orange Tape release of the movie It had trailers, still galleries, the TV scenes and interviews on it. It was the advent of bonus features being a thing. It also came with a little keychain, too. They limited it to 40,000. An edition that included a limited to 20,000 units with a collectible snow globe also came out at this time.

Additionally, Anchor Bay had gained the distribution rights to Halloween 4 and Halloween 5. Like II and III, the original, 4 & 5 would be linked together regarding releases due to being owned by Anchor Bay (Later Starz/Anchor Bay). They reissued both, giving them Widescreen editions. Halloween 4, in particular, received a clamshell case release that changed up the artwork for the first time.

During the VHS run, Laserdisc was in the middle of coming and going as a medium. All of the Halloween films that could have been put on Laserdisc during its existence would be released on the format (Original through H20). No real notable bonus features or artwork changes came with them. The biggest piece of noteworthiness with this format is the original release was a part of the Criterion Collection for a short time. They put out the Laserdisc of John Carpenter’s film. All it came with was the trailer, but it’s a pretty cool factoid to know it was once a part of the collection. If you’re keeping score at home, the original has been put out by MEDA, MEDIA, Video Treasures, Blockbuster Video, Anchor Bay and the Criterion Collection in the United States during a 20 year period.

To date, every film in the Halloween series has been released on DVD. I assume the new one will be, too. Rob Zombie’s are the latest, and his first film had a pretty nice initial DVD (Not using the theatrical art for the cover) that would receive an update with the first Blu-ray release. Halloween II & III had a bare bones Goodtimes Video release before Universal put out Halloween II in a somewhat equally blah release that only features a trailer. This was followed a few years later with them finally doing a bare Halloween III. They’d later do a double feature release with them and then get “craaazy” with a glow-in-the-dark cover of II in 2016. Of all the films in the series, Halloween 6 had the potential for most juicy bonus features, but Dimension had no interest, opting for a standard Movie + trailer disc. Halloween: Resurrection is no one’s favorite, but regarding a DVD release, it had a very nice array of supplemental material (It was pretty loaded). With the Dimension films, they’d put them in a 3-pack, but also lend them out to make of the horror film multi-packs found in Walmarts, bargains bins and the like.

Dimension’s “Collector’s Series” release of Halloween: H20, however, was a complete disappointment. The most notable thing was a promised commentary from Jamie Lee Curtis and Steve Miner that didn’t appear on the disc. History has told us that this was never recorded until for full series box set 16 years later. But, boy, if you wanted a Creed music video and some trivia, well…you were in luck! Also, that disc was mastered in 4×3 Letterbox. Meaning, it would not form to your 16×9 television when you upgraded. This wouldn’t mark the end of Halloween: H20’s disappointing releases. It would be “one-up’d” on the next format jump.

Following a bare bones 1997 DVD, Anchor Bay went to town on their releases when it came to the format, putting it out 6 or 7 times (If you’re counting side-stepping Full Frame releases). In 1999/2000-ish, they released the original on DVD dubbed a “restored” edition and slapped that ever popular in the 90s THX logo on it. This had the option of Full Frame or Widescreen and came with all the bonus features found on the VHS 2-Tape edition. There was a limited Lenticular cover edition that came with a Widescreen restored television cut of the film. Just a couple years later, that Television cut (“Extended Edition”) of the film would see a standalone release from Anchor Bay.

It wouldn’t feature that TV cut of the film, but for the 25th anniversary of the original film, Anchor Bay set forth with a new DVD release for the film. This held as probably the most definitive edition of the movie on the format. It included a new 90 minute documentary on the film, a couple of new b of bonus features and a commentary that featured Jamie Lee Curtis, John Carpenter, and, Debra Hill. It’s an odd commentary that may just be carefully edited interviews and has an announcer that introduces each speaker before they talk EVERY TIME. But this was a fine release for 4 years that you even held onto for some features that didn’t make it over to the initial Blu-ray.

When it came to Halloween 4 & 5, Anchor Bay gave them love, too. Their initial releases came out with the THX Halloween release in 2000, sporting original artwork. The disc had intros to the films by Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell and featured little mini-documentaries on each movie. In 2005, they repackaged this release in 15,000 limited edition tins for the films. To much dismay, the following year would see the DIVIMAX editions of both. New video quality also came with some new features as each film now had commentary tracks to accompany them. The covers were the key art again but with a strong orange tint to them. They would be repackaged later on as a double feature.

While it’s not a film in the franchise, its worth noting that Anchor Bay also put out the Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror DVD that became a mainstay in most Halloween fans’ collections. This documentary became our first taste of things to come in the world of retrospective horror series documentaries like Never Sleep Again, Crystal Lake Memories or the bonus material mini-docs found on Shout! Factory, Arrow Video, Synapse Films, and, other boutique label releases in modern times. A lot of this is mainly taken from the Halloween 25th anniversary convention and the panel Q&As with cast and crew, but we do get a trip back to the “Hallowed Grounds” where the original film was shot.

Now comes the first time we are going to mention a non-North American, UK release. Home video distribution rights change a bit when you go overseas. Anchor Bay was able to acquire much more than in the United States. In 2002, they would release the 7-film Halloween: Ultimate Collection that carried all the films in the series at that time, Halloween to Halloween: H20. Not too long after, an update to the set would be released to include Halloween: Resurrection. So, no, the set from 2014 was not the first time a “Complete Collection” of all the films in one release on the most up to date format was released. Of note as well, Anchor Bay UK would also release a set with only Halloween to Halloween 5 on DVD in 2012.

Who remembers this garbage format from the late 90s/early 2000s? Yes, Divx was a thing before it was a video codec. Circuit City, in one of its many bright ideas that lead to its downfall, created a DVD-like media that would cease to play after just a few spins on the laser. Take that Blockbuster and Hollywood Video! Well, jokes on them, because it didn’t last long at all, nobody cared and now its forgotten. The only Halloween film that wasted its time on this format was Halloween: H20, the freshest of the series at the time and owned by a more mainstream studio (Dimension). Blech

Our final stop on this journey through Halloween’s home video history lands us to Blu-ray, where once thought impossibilities became possible. Things didn’t get off to a hot start, though, as we’d run into some mishaps before winding up with pretty much absolute perfection, or as close to it as we may ever get.

First up, Anchor Bay releases the original film on Blu-ray in 2007, just one year into the format. No new bonus materials, but damn did it look and sound great. It didn’t feel as if it was just a DVD upconvert at all, and as a long time fan it was,s almost as if I was seeing it for the very first time. Oddly, Anchor Bay would take another 5 years before putting out 4 & 5 on Blu-ray. There was an opportunity to when they put out their 30th-anniversary set, but instead just packaged the Blu-ray for the original and DVDs of the original, the extended tv cut, 25 years of terror and Halloween 4 & 5 together. It came with a kinda crappy looking miniature Michael Myers mask too.

The Director’s Cut of Rob Zombie’s re-imagining would come out a year later from The Weinstein Company, with another new bit of art for the cover. This Blu-ray ported over everything from the previous release and this time featuring a 3 hour documentary on the making of the film (Which, like the film or not, is an incredibly detailed and terrific look at the overall process). Zombie’s second film would receive a director’s cut Blu-ray release in 2010.  The only way to get the theatrical versions of both films, even after the big set we’ll talk about in a second, was via a double feature Blu-ray release imported from Canada. This one would use the theatrical poster for its portion of the cover.

Speaking of Canada, 2010 also brought us the famed “Alliance Triple Feature” release that gave us The Curse of Michael Myers, H20 and Resurrection. They all shared a disc with no bonus materials. At $30 and the only way you could get all 3 (for another year), it was a pretty solid deal and would wind up being THE way to have these 3 movies. The next year, Curse and H20 would wind up on some bare bones Blu-ray from Echo Bridge Entertainment, featuring such epic bonus features as “Smart Menu Technology.” The next year would see them release Resurrection and port over all of its bonus features. Gee, thanks! Hopes for a Producer’s Cut special edition for Curse squandered, and H20’s, release royally screwed the pooch. H20’s new key art wasn’t the only visual difference here, the video transfer was open matte, not retaining the 2.39:1 ratio it was intended to be seen in. Everything in the film looks off balance and out of whack too. Despite complaints and…um…effing this up, they never issued replacements or even corrected it on the next batch.

For the fall of 2011, Universal released Halloween II to commemorate its 30th anniversary. It would, for the first time, contain some bonus material. The cut ending for the film and deleted scenes were on it. Oddly, but likely because it features Donald Pleasence, the 1984 horror compilation film Terror In The Aisles was on here as a bonus feature (Technically making its Blu-ray debut). It had brand new artwork, prominently featuring Michael’s Mask above a collage of things from the film. The moment you pressed play, however, something was immediately afoul. Somebody decided it was a good idea to complete wipe out and replace the credit title card “Moustapha Akkad Presents” with “Universal An MCA Company Presents”. It had clearly been done recently, and was quite the headscratcher. Universal did acknowledge the error of their ways, offering a replacement and subsequent batches of the release had it fixed.

August and September began a big turnaround with Halloween on Blu-ray and was a banner year for it and the format. Anchor Bay finally was putting out Halloween 4 and 5, adding to each a new commentary, one with director Dwight Little the other Myers performer Don Shanks. The box art retained the orange tinted (now also fiery) “Divimax” look to them. So there, we go, right? All we need is for Universal to put out Season of the Witch finally (Or for some, their collection was already complete without it). Double dips would be expected, but nobody had any idea how worthwhile they were going to be.

September saw the launch of the Shout! Factory brand dubbed “Scream Factory”. Their launch titles would be the Blu-ray debut of Halloween III: Season of the Witch and a double dip of Halloween II. However, these would be Collector’s Editions. Both came with new regarding are, but the ability to reverse it and display the original poster design. They came loaded with bonus features, including lengthy, thorough and bluntly honest retrospective documentaries reuniting the cast and crew from these films. We’d never had such a deep dive on the sequels, let alone these two films. The releases were absolutely marvelous (Unless you’re never pleased with anything). They were the most complete and definitive releases ever. Halloween II even came a with a bonus DVD that featured the full cut of the insane dumpster fire TV version. These were complete dreams come true for fans, giving absolute love and affection combined with an above and beyond effort thought only to be given to modern box office hits or prestigious top tier catalog films.

Anchor Bay came back the following year with a worthwhile upgrade and gave the original film a 35th-anniversary release with new digibook packaging displaying the Myers mask in a profile shot and a booklet documenting the film. A new commentary with Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter featured here, a one-hour featurette on Jamie’s only ever Horror Hound convention appears, and they also brought back the PJ Soles featurette and TV scenes from other releases. The biggest appeal, though, was the new transfer overseen and color timed appropriately by Dean Cundey and a 7.1 surround mix (That was also re-realized with some new/different effects in places that admittedly kind of removes from the purity and simplistic nature of the original film.). Things had improved and gone on an upswing for the franchise in two years, but we had no idea that this was merely just scratching the surface.

.

The biggest bombshell in the history of the franchise apart from new film news came in 2014 when it was announced that Scream Factory and Anchor Bay would be putting out a COMPLETE COLLECTION of the entire series. And no. We weren’t just throwing all the current releases in a box together. NO. You were getting EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED. In simplicity, The Scream Factory Halloween II & III were the same, ditto for the Rob Zombie films and Resurrection. Halloween 4 & 5 would be the Anchor Bay disc, HOWEVER, a bonus disc was included that gave them the retrospective documentary treatment that Scream Factory gave to II & III. This bonus disc also gave us the complete television cut of the film and Horror’s Hallowed Grounds & a Sean Clark bus tour for the locations of films who’s discs don’t have them. You get trailers, an additional Halloween III interview…its loaded.

The original Halloween in this set would see its original mono mix now in lossless form, with both the original Blu-ray and 35th anniversary one for those who preferred one image over the other. Halloween: H20 found itself with the proper aspect ratio and also was given the Scream Factory Collector’s Edition treatment (Documentary even featured Josh Hartnett and the LONG awaited Curtis/Miner commentary…but no Creed, sorry).

The crown jewel of the whole set was the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 (Also getting Collector’s Edition treatment for its bonus material) finally getting a home video release. This was a long time demanded cut of the film from fans. THIS WAS A MASSIVE moment in the fandom. I once documented my own personal journey back in the 1990s with acquiring a bootleg of the film. I couldn’t believe it, myself. There was hope at one point of it actually getting a release (“Looking into it” we were told), but then it wound up getting shut down completely. Yours truly wound up getting the first review up for it as my excitement receiving it in the mail was through the roof. Anticipation was so high from fans to see this in good quality finally was so much that my (admittedly cell phone pics) screenshots of the film even brought some excitement among fans.

Scream Factory and Anchor Bay’s set came in 2 forms. One came with an excellent booklet and each film getting an individual black case, original poster art and put in a box. The other was just the basic film discs in a multi-disc Amaray case with no added bonus content. It was a monster, it was awesome, but it wasn’t without fault. A fix made to Halloween 4’s original Blu-ray release caused a sync issue, and the disc had to be swapped out with the original release’s disc (Disc art and all). This was the closest thing you can have to have no questions left afterward. Some fans complained the theatrical cuts of the Zombie films weren’t here, but I wondered “Wait, all of a sudden you haters now care about those films?” I hold the Alien Anthology set to the highest standard regarding releasing all the films in one franchise in a release and Halloween met that and in terms of hardcore special packaging geeks preferences…exceeded it. It’s still hard to believe this set happened and is a FANTASTIC achievement for everyone involved. This HAD to have been some hard work to get lined up and then execute.

Afterward, some other little releases popped up. Universal would put out a bare bones release of Halloween III (Box art sort of a Halloween II/Halloween III original poster mashup). Lionsgate released a stand-alone and bare-bones release for The Producer’s Cut of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Sure, wiping it of bonus material (That they probably didn’t own the rights to use) sucks, but hell, if you’d have told me before 2014 I could get a Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 on Blu-ray (DVD, even) like that, I’d have been thrilled. Germany had some releases that featured some unique artwork on metal packaging. And also of note, Germany also released this friggin awesome steelbook of Halloween II that year, too. Tell me you don’t want this!

Its been rather quiet since 2015 on the home video front, but with this being the 40th anniversary of the original and a brand new film on the horizon, HE is coming home again to us. Most obviously, the original is crossing over to 4K Ultra-HD, and I cannot wait to review this for all of you. There will be new steelbooks coming as well. There’s a new one for Rob Zombie’s (I don’t know much regarding details on this and am assuming its just the same discs with a new case), and one FYE has an exclusive for the 35th-anniversary edition. Scream Factory is putting out new listen to releases of their collector’s editions for Halloween II and Halloween III that not only feature new artwork, but both films have been given new 4K transfers as well.

And that’s where we stand in the current climate for the Halloween series on home video. I’m certain we’ll see more releases, upgrades or double dips on Blu-ray for what is currently out there. The big question is the 4K Ultra-HD format. David Gordon Green’s film certainly will see a 4K release. I don’t think they will celebrate Happy Death Day with Michael Myers. Perhaps next year Lionsgate will release the sequels they have the rights to. If Scream Factory has done 4K transfers for II & III, so now those are just sitting around waiting for Universal to put them out. Sounds so simple, but with Blu-ray, it felt like it took forever to get the classic sequels released (Properly, even). Regarding bonus features, I think we’ve probably come to an end as there’s no more to talk about or hear people talk about again (Unless you want to hear people reflect on the joy of Halloween: Resurrection). Quick fixes that I can think of for future upgrades would be to include the Halloween: The Inside Story documentary with the first one, a fresh new transfer for Halloween 4 and if someone were to miraculously uncover the deleted scenes (Or footage) from Halloween 4 & 5.

As a lifelong die-hard fan of Halloween, I feel I’ve been spoiled as the original film and sequels always seem to get attention, are never forgotten, and get the best care available. The Blu-ray format has especially been loving to the series. I’ve been a willing “double dipper” most of my life and probably have thrown down the extra dollars for a new version of something I already had more often than not and will likely continue to do so. I want to end this piece by giving thanks anyone who has ever had anything to do with any release of a Halloween film on home video (VHS, Beta, CED, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, 4K), you’ve been a part of some fantastic media releases for almost 40 years and have continued to make fans happy and hold onto these as cherished items.

Past essays Brandon has written on the Halloween series 

Podcasts where Brandon discusses Halloween series

Not all images used in this article are my own. If you find any of them are your own and would like to be credited or have them removed, please contact brandon@whysoblu.com

All Halloween Films Available Now On Blu-ray

Halloween on 4K Ultra-HD September 25th!

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments