Above is the opening bumper for the TV premiere of Halloween. That 1981 broadcast was my first time seeing Halloween and watching this intro again for the first time since that night, I find myself reliving the tingle of excitement of knowing that I was finally - finally! - going to see this modern classic. Almost thirty years on, this bumper makes me think of how much has changed since then in regards to how we watch movies.
First of all, it's outrageous to imagine that once a film left theaters that not only would it take years to be able to watch it at home but the only way to see it would be edited for television, pan and scan, and with the usual shitload of commercials. Can you imagine a horror fan today too young to see an R-rated movie in the theaters having to wait until 2012 to see Paranormal Activity for the first time? And then to have to see it on NBC or whatever? They'd laugh in your face as they downloaded it from the internet.
Make no mistake, though - in '81 I didn't think seeing Halloween on TV was cause for any disappointment. I mean, how else was I going to see it? Sure, it was a compromised way to watch it but I didn't know anything about pan and scan vs. letterbox (I don't even know if those terms existed at the time) and enjoying horror classics with commercial interruptions wasn't a problem. Having seen very few horror films in the theaters at that point (and no R-rated ones), most of the horror movies I saw as a kid were on commercial TV and they scared me just fine.
We had no cable, no VCR - it was all broadcast TV so I had no other expectations about how I would eventually see Halloween because there were no other options. It was just a matter of being patient and waiting for it to make it's TV premiere. But man, what incredible patience we had to have back then! On the upside, all that waiting helped movies to build a real mystique. Over the course of the three years that I had to wait to see Halloween, I gathered all the info about it that I could from magazines, reviews, and older kids and adults who had seen it. By the time I saw Halloween, I already had the whole movie in my head.
Speaking of which, the other thing that kills me about this bumper is how in twenty-two seconds it gives away nearly every single big scare in the movie! Fans complain about modern trailers giving everything away but they've got nothing on this! And this ran right before the movie was about to air! As far as my enjoyment of Halloween goes, though, it must not have ruined anything for me because I know I proceeded to jump out of my seat for the whole movie.
The two hours that Halloween ran on NBC that night comprised one of the great horror movie experiences of my life. It's unreal now to remember how a network broadcast of a film once was considered to be a huge event. We're so spoiled today, I can't ever imagine going back to that time but it made watching movies something indelible to me, and something not to take for granted.
I've owned Halloween in many different home video formats and in many different editions since then but what I really would love is to own a copy of the film as it ran that night with every commercial in place. In the meantime, though, that bumper - more of that night's programming than I ever thought I'd see in its original form again - will have to do. Just seeing it again puts a big jack o' lantern grin on my face.