Here in Italy it’s still a fixture on late-night TV and on the shelves of what were VHS stores and are now DVD outlets, even though 25 years have gone by since the Dino De Laurentis Corporation – with a budget of $2.5 million in 1982 – produced this cinematographic gem, inserting it chronologically following John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). It is probably this connection that enabled the film, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, former set designer for Halloween, to gross nearly 15 million dollars.
The film was technically a box office success, but the critics, contrary to my personal opinion, remained harsh and negative, most of all those who expected to see more of John Carpenter’s direction and Michael Myers, with kitchen knife in hand, carving up characters before they had time to scream. At first, this expectation distracts one’s attention from the terrifying yet fascinating story in which advanced technology is applied to Gaelic rituals drawn out of diabolical shadows.
Although somewhat dated and not entirely free of defects, the principal points of interest in this film lie in its superior cinematography – in Panavision Anamorphic format 2.35:1 processed by Technicolor, by accomplished Director of Photography Dean R. Cundey, ASC, who also take care of the previous two installments of the series – capable of immerging one in not only visual but tangible sensations, like the insalubrious humidity that the characters breathe in that Halloween night, a feeling supported by the convincing performance of the actors, above all a splendid Dan O’Herlihy in the role of Druid Conal Cochran; the able direction of Tommy Lee Wallace (Fright Night II), capable of stirring up and enlivening the scenographic landscape of Nigle Kneale’s script; and above all the evocative, even mesmorizing soundtrack, composed by John Carpenter in association with Alan Howarth, once again using the best technology available at the time, setting themselves apart as pioneers with new methods and ideas that work.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the film, directly from his production studio in La La Cañada, a suburb of Los Angeles, Alan Howarth, former sound designer, composer and editor, collaborating with James Nelson of Digital Outland in Tacoma for Editing and Masterization, assembled and produced a limited release of 1000 copies of the soundtrack containing all of the tracks previously omitted in the MCA 6115 vinyl and Varese Sarabande VSD 5243 CD editions, both of which became collectors’ items and the objects of hot auctions involving hundreds of dollars on eBay.
In the summer of 1982 at Pi West Electronic Music Studio in Glendale (Los Angeles), the score of Halloween III was performed using Linn LM-1, an electronic musical instrument with a unique sound, programmable with an internal mixer with 13 channels capable of reproducing rhythms that imitated the sounds of drums and other percussion instruments. Many of these samples contain repetitious tones above the Nyquist frequency, a defect which creates in them a unique crackling sound, characteristic of the analog polyphonic synthesizers Prophet-10W and 5W Poly Sequencer (1978) and Sequential Circuits Programmer Mdl 700 (from the mid-70’s), running on microprocessor CMOS logic technology with RAM driven 6-bit or 5-octave 0-5V DC Control Voltages, which occupy important places in the history of synthesizers.
Defining the sound was the A.R.P. Sequencer 1601, loaded with sixteen sliders for each tuning step with which the user can program voltage controls that can be emitted in not only one line of sixteen steps but also in two simultaneous independent 8-step lines (a and b); in this way it’s possible to realize one line of melody and an accompanying harmony track or to manage accent notes using the voltage controls on the filter or the amplifier, all this combined with the famous and infamous ARP Avatar, an expensive guitar-controlled synthesizer produced in 1977 by Alan R. Pearlman, which in its time of fledgling analog/digital hybrid technology had more than a few problems, in the translation from frequency to voltage, in the delay of the emission of synthetic notes, and last but not least, an extreme sensitivity to every imprecision in the guitarist’s playing, like it’s particular tendency to yodel every time the level dropped below the sensitivity threshold of the detention circuit.
These instruments, often used by artists such as Heaven 17, WCO, Jean-Michelle Jarre, Todd Rundgreen, Art of Noise, Peter Gabriel, Rick Wakeman, Vangelis, Gas Chamber Orchestra and Tangerine Dream, are in a difficult period of audio engineering, experimental and at times defect-ridden, sometimes spurious or almost subliminal, but the soundtrack of HALLOWEEN III includes 25 tracks that flow nicely like part of a well-oiled machine, perfect to listen to in its melodies and frequencies.
As for noteworthy songs, we begin with the MAIN TITLE, recorded in 2 stages, rhythmically introduced before the images and then successively modified with electronic samplings to synchronize it with the electric pumpkin that is appearing on the screen, thereby embracing the style or, rather, the melodic mood of what will be Halloween III, which continues in the track called H3 CLOSE / OPEN. CHARIOTS OF PUMPKINS follows closely, in sync with the tail melody of the Main Title (which is also used in the End Titles), and highlights the race as Harry Grimbridge (Al Berry) attempts to flee from gray suited man, who later take his life in a memorable scene set within the walls of a hospital. That scene is elevated by the beautiful HEY BOOM, a piece that shows Carpenter and Howarth’s ability to improvise, compositionally and creatively; a piece in which the only rule is not to have rules. This was facilitated by the use of a system of synchronicity in which the film was transferred to a time coded videotape and synchronized to a 24-track master audio recorder, thus allowing them to compose the music for the visual images. The entire process, which Carpenter called, “A musical Electronic Coloring Book,” went quickly and offered “instant gratification,” allowing the composers to evaluate the score in sync with the film’s images, and this was an incalculable advantage in the advent years of digital Sequencers and Samplers.
MASK TEST ONE is another piece of absolute ambient beauty in it’s foreshadowing of the fate of the Kupfer Family, while WHERE IS SHE and IT WILL SOON BE MORNING are effectively an extended play of HELLO GRANDMA, which forms the backdrop of the capture of Doctor Challis, after fighting a Man in Gray and uncovering his robot nature.
Clearly a work that has become popular or even acquired a cult following, a work that is sought-after by collectors that can finally enjoy in it’s totality the achievement of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, who deserve credit goes for not forgetting those memorable times and those who lived them.
I N S T R U M E N T S
The Album The Bonus Tracks
1 Main Title 2:55 13 Hey Boom 3:34
2 Chariosts of Pumkins 3:24 14 Mask Test One 1:46
3 Drive to santa Mira 2:29 15 I really Love this 1:28
4 Starker and Marge 1:53 16 Local Boy,No Way 1:28
5 First Chase 3:09 17 The Factory 0:45
6 Robots at the Factory 2:00 18 I think its Time 1:43
7 Halloween Montage 1:38 19 The Man Who Killed 2:01
8 Hello Grandma 4:53 20 A pleasure doing business 3:37
9 The Rock 3:25 21 Halloween III Close/Open 2:41
10 Challis Escape 3:30 22 Where is She 3:30
11 South Corridor 2:58 23 It will morning Soon 2:43
12 Goodbye Ellie 4:09 24 Stonehenge 3:28
25 I do Love A good Joke 3:20
Total Running time 67:55