Yes, that damned Silver Shamrock jingle is back to haunt your dreams and drive you buggy in the brain as Shout! Factory releases HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH Collector's Edition on Blu-ray and DVD this Tuesday. Happy, happy Halloween!
Moving the action away from Haddonfield, Illinois, the tale for HALLOWEEN III: THE SEASON OF THE WITCH arises in the sleepy town of Santa Mira, California where two outsiders discover a new All Hallows evil.
The mysterious Silver Shamrock company inundates television broadcasts with its redundant-yet-hypnotic commercials for their new line of Halloween masks. As the jingle counts down to Halloween, kids everywhere clamor for these masks.
Late one night, Harry Grimbridge runs in panic through the town, clutching a mask in his fist, screaming "They're going to kill us!" No, it's not Michael Myers' latex alter-ego disguise in his hand, but an orange jack o' lantern mask — the heavily advertised handiwork of Silver Shamrock.
Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) attempts to sedate the frantic man. Little does Challis understand his patient has good reason to fear for his life, as a corporate assassin infiltrates the hospital and crushes Harry's skull. Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) provides further pieces of this murderous puzzle, informing Challis that her father, Harry, had been investigating the mysterious origins of the Shamrock masks before his murder. Challis and Ellie team up to discover who is pulling the strings behind the corporate facade of Silver Shamrock, and travel to Santa Mira under the guise of sales reps checking on an order of Halloween masks. Bodies begin piling up in Santa Mira while the couple, now lovers, slowly build their case that Silver Shamrock's CEO Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy). A languorous second act eventually stumbles into its finale as Challis foils Cochran's evil plot to sacrifice children nationwide through his Celtic-magic booby trapped masks, leaving Challis to beg the local broadcasters to stop airing the Silver Shamrock TV ad before it triggers a Halloween bloodbath. How exactly Challis might avoid a similar fate for children living outside Northern California is entirely unclear, but such logistics are of little concern to HALLOWEEN III's miniscule scope of storytelling.
Tommy Lee Wallace directs this utterly unrelated sequel in which Michael Myers never appears, which came as the dirtiest Halloween trick to moviegoers in 1982 who expected the return of The Shape to kill again. What they got instead was this rather arcane concept of old world witchcraft cast upon an unsuspecting public who embrace the commercialized, Americanized version of this ancient holiday. HALLOWEEN III received largely terrible receptions from both critics and audiences who appreciated little of the film's originality, feeling instead the victims of a franchise bait-and-switch practical joke worthy of Conal Cochran himself. A dreary first draft script by Nigel Kneale, creator of the cult-popular QUATERMASS stories in Britain, got rewritten by John Carpenter followed with another pass by Wallace himself, yet none of them could shape a coherent, satisfying story line to turn the HALLOWEEN franchise in its intended anthology. Wallace's continuing claim that SEASON OF THE WITCH is a "pod movie" and not a "knife movie" helps little, as his deliberate callbacks to the classic film INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS only underscore the vast disparity in storytelling quality between the two projects. Neither could Dean Cundey's cinematography carry over any visual magic from the first two films. HALLOWEEN III died a more miserable death in theaters than did Little Buddy whose head imploded with witchcraft-cursed bugs and snakes in the plot. Though time would heal some of these wounds as portions of the HALLOWEEN fan base eventually embraced SEASON OF THE WITCH on its own meager merits, and a cult following slowly formed over the years since 1982.
Now HALLOWEEN III returns in Shout! Factory's Collector's Edition Blu-ray and DVD celebrating this 'stand alone' anomaly in the HALLOWEEN franchise, programmed to satisfy its own cult fandom and collectors alike. The DVD review copy FilmEdge received holds up well in this release, even if HALLOWEEN III never did look as sumptuous, scary or polished as its two predecessors. Much like in our review of the HALLOWEEN II Collector's Edition, we recommend opting for the Blu-ray release of SEASON OF THE WITCH to enjoy a full 1080p HD viewing experience, though word is that the Blu-ray disc features only a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless soundtrack which disappoints a bit. Apparently distributors are still reluctant to pop for a full remastering of HALLOWEEN III given its still-limited appeal to audiences at large, but then again this film really isn't dynamic enough to require more than the DVD's standard Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio to tell its tale. The DVD edition will get you nearly the same results minus the HD-quality picture which may be a debatable value point for collectors or first-time viewers.
Shout! Factory's new Collector's Edition once again delivers value goods in its bonus materials starting a new documentary Stand Alone: The Making of Halloween III produced for this release. Available on both Blu-ray and DVD editions, this 33-minute reflection on HALLOWEEN III's checkered past recognizes the film for its obvious faults but also praises its higher aspirations and eventual cult following. Wallace, Atkins, Nelkin, Cundey, stunt coordinator/actor Dick Warlock, costume designer Jane Ruhm and co-composer Alan Howarth share their experiences and memories of the production while enjoying the unlikely lifespan of this once unpopular sequel. A bit shorter and shallower than the counterpart HALLOWEEN II documentary, this study still delivers tasty treats for franchise fans and avid collectors hungry to devour the latest revisiting of their favorite scary saga.
Once again Shout! provides two Audio Commentary tracks to supplement the feature film: the first with director Wallace, Icons of Fright's Robert Galluzzo and HorrorHound's Sean Clark team up to dissect and describe the particulars of production, what might have been had the intended HALLOWEEN anthology of different stories come to life, and revisit that maddening jingle; a second track with lead actor Tom Atkins and DVD producer Michael Felsher results in a much more casual conversation between the two centering on Atkins' personal recollections of making the film and its surprising longevity among devotees.
Writer/producer Sean Clark returns to take fans on a 20-minute tour of production locales during Horror's Hallowed Grounds: Revisiting the Original Shooting Locations. It turns out that Lolita, California that was used to create the fictitious town Santa Mira looks just as if not more creepy today than it did back in 1982. Several Southern California locations are toured in detail as well, backed up by Clark's uncanny visual memory comparing the film and current day sites. His return to the very Sierra Madre bar where Challis enjoyed his liquid breakfast inspires quite a few laughs along the way as well.
A Still Gallery features over 40 publicity and frame images of the film, plus assorted lobby cards and poster designs.
Three vintage TV Spots promote the theatrical release and first-time TV broadcast of HALLOWEEN III to spark memories among fans old enough to have been there back in mid-80s, while two remastered Theatrical Trailers rounds out the rather scant bonus materials supporting the film.
Shout! Factory does its best to enhance this latest release of HALLOWEEN III as a Collector's Edition, though perhaps only the franchise faithful and devout collectors will be clamoring to buy this edition on Tuesday. They certainly add collectible value to the release with the all-new documentary and collection of commentary tracks, location visits and archival rarities. The feature film may not get anything more than a seasonal spin in your disc player, but this edition delivers the goods even on that level.
A rather confused and convoluted sequel, HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH failed to draw audiences on its own merits after a publicity campaign failed to mention it bore no connection to the previous two HALLOWEEN films starring Mike Myers and his murderous rage. Nor did the film launch the intended anthology series of films it was designed to spawn as no one from the filmmakers to Universal Studios could seem to get a grip on delivering even a coherent and enticing stand alone story. Still, a cult subset of HALLOWEEN fans have embraced this film which does have some charms of its own, due perhaps to that magically hypnotic (and inescapable) Silver Shamrock jingle that's as catchy as the plague but remains a notable calling card to this day. Die hard HALLOWEEN fanatics will praise Shout! Factory for providing this spiffy new Collector's Edition of HALLOWEEN III, and we rate it a 2.5 on DVD accordingly for its original materials, with a theoretical bump up to 3 stars for the Blu-ray edition.