On October 30th, 1981, John Carpenter’s Halloween ran on television for the first time ever. Included as part of NBC’s Friday Night at the Movies series, I’m not sure that anyone could’ve predicted that this one specific broadcast would become as famous as it did.
See, as part of the arrangement, Carpenter and producer Debra Hill agreed to add 12 minutes of footage to help fill NBC’s two-hour time slot. (…which may sound extreme considering that Halloween was already 91 minutes long and NBC would surely be stuffing it with commercials, but when you account for all of the spooky/sexy scenes that needed to be trimmed for this airing, it made sense.)
It’s those extra minutes that make this broadcast so famous. Carpenter may not have been an enormous fan of the agreement with NBC, but he certainly put in the effort to make it work. New scenes were filmed during the production of Halloween II, which, incidentally, debuted in theaters the exact same day as this broadcast!
While the theatrical cut of Halloween is still THE cut, this television version — which has since been released on home media — has its share of fans, too. Since the scenes were filmed during production of Halloween II, Carpenter and Hill obviously knew where the series was headed. This “extended edition” didn’t have quite the same masterful pacing, but it did improve the “marriage” between Halloween and Halloween II.
A few years ago, someone sent me a copy of that NBC broadcast, complete with all of the original commercials. It’s the greatest. While the extended cut is hardly rare, the “feel” of it is so much different when you experience it with all of NBC’s bells and whistles, and all of those weird ads for Freshen-Up gum.
I’ve prepared five short videos that will give you a clearer understanding of what it was like to watch Halloween on that October evening. (And for the record, I didn’t see it that night, because I was, uh, two years old.)
NBC Friday Night at the Movies Intro!
I adore this. Not just NBC’s awesomely cheesy packaging, but the sinister Halloween promo that ends it. Gotta imagine that the “parental discretion advised” warning made many kids all the more determined to watch this.
For context, the film’s strongest competition came from Dallas on CBS, which it failed to beat in the ratings. CBS also ran It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown earlier that evening. Halloween was on from 9 through 11 EST, so if you planned your night accordingly, you could’ve dived straight from Linus van Pelt into Laurie Strode.
Especially for… SISTAH.
Here’s one (or two, depending on your POV) of the extra scenes that were added to pad the film’s running time. I would generally describe the extra scenes as neither necessary nor arbitrary. From a purely artistic perspective, none of them “needed” to be there, but at the same time, there’s nothing particularly egregious about them, either.
I find this to be the most interesting addition, as it “subtly” hinted that Michael’s interest in Laurie may have had a familial aspect. As most of you know, Laurie and Michael’s kinship wasn’t established until Halloween II, and was not at all part of the first film’s theatrical cut. This short scene, where we see the word “SISTER” scratched into Michael’s door at the sanitarium, was a neat nod to that twist.
Halloween II Promo!
As mentioned, this NBC broadcast was on the same night as Halloween II’s theatrical debut. Hard to say if that was intentional or incidental. You’d think that running the movie the Friday prior would’ve been more beneficial to its sequel, but on the other hand, I can’t blame NBC for wanting to air this as close to 10/31 as possible.
What I can say for sure is that the promotion for Halloween II during this broadcast was almost nonexistent. In fact, this TV spot — which aired close to 11PM, during the final commercial break — was ALL it got.
That had to be part of the deal, right? Maybe NBC reasoned that the people who’d be most interested in watching Halloween were exactly the same people who’d be most likely to drop everything to go see its sequel. This is all speculation, but I bet that’s why this promo only aired once, during the final break.
Either way, that was one effective little teaser!
Though this extended cut has since been officially released, it’s such a treat to see it the original way — with all of the goofy commercials!
Included in the above video are bunch of ads from that night. (I stitched them together from various breaks, so to the degree that it matters, the Del Taco commercial was not actually followed by a Time Bandits trailer during the original broadcast.)
I was charmed by the incongruity. During the broadcast, we’d cut from dim scenes with Michael Myers doing his stalk walk routine to ads for like, McDonald’s hash browns. So perfect!
I was too young to watch Halloween on this particular night, but this version with the extra footage was shown several times over the years. (For a while, that created a false Mandela Effect, with people thinking they’d misremembered scenes that they totally did see, but only on network television.)
Just a few years after this broadcast, I “watched” Halloween with my sister. “Watched” is in quotes because I could more accurately describe it as “tried to survive.” She was babysitting me, but all that meant was that she’d be responsible if I bled heavily or went missing.
We were on the couch, and she was watching Halloween — the TV version, I mean. I wouldn’t have normally been okay with a scary ass horror movie, but watching one with my sister made me braver. So, naturally, she got a call from her boyfriend and disappeared forever.
This occurred just when Michael was doing the “sheet ghost” gag, and that shit WRECKED ME. I was just paralyzed with fear. Fear of Michael Myers, fear of whatever was making noise outside, and fear of knocking on my sister’s door while she fought with her boyfriend. I can still remember our telephone cord, stretched to the utter limit, with her bedroom door slammed right over it.
It genuinely may have been the longest night of my childhood. I can watch the scene just fine now, but seeing it this way — in grainy 4×3 with muted colors — takes me back to that night so vividly that all I wanna do is delete this YouTube video and write about something sunny instead. Anyone up for a tribute to the Pokérap?
If you wanna check out the “extended edition” of Halloween, the out-of-print DVDs are all over eBay. (I wouldn’t be surprised if that cut also made its way into a boxed set or two, but I came here to gush about McDonald’s hash brown commercials, not to research DVD releases.)
Network TV premieres of major movies were huge events in the ‘80s, and beyond all of the “extracurriculars” that made this particular broadcast so noteworthy, it’s also fondly remembered for just being… you know… goddamned Halloween on TV for the first time ever. On October 30th, 1981 — Devil’s Night, appropriately enough — that alone was reason to celebrate.