Thirty five years ago, shortly after he graduated from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, John Carpenter drove through the streets of South Pasadena, scouting locations for low-budget movies.
“It is [still] beautiful,” the well-known filmmaker said in a short speech before the South Pasadena City Council Wednesday night. “South Pasadena has some of the most cinematic streets I have ever seen. It’s a stand-in for an imaginary town.”
For those who don’t know Carpenter and his films, he’s the brain behind Halloween, his 1978 signature movie that he directed, co-wrote, and composed the score for. Filmed almost entirely in South Pasadena in just 20 days on a shoestring budget of $320,000, the film, starring renowned actor Donald Pleasance, launched the career of actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who played Laurie Strode, a resident of 1115 Oxley St., across from the South Pas Library.
On Wednesday night, at its bimonthly meeting, the South Pasadena City Council honored Carpenter by declaring Oct. 31 as “John Carpenter Night” in the city, starting this coming Halloween. A fundraising public screening of the film will also be presented in the Library Community Room on Oct. 31.
Carpenter, a resident of Hollywood Hills, told South Pasadena Patch that he was honored by city council’s proclamation. “South Pas is a beautiful place, it still is, I loved shooting the movie here.”
Below are the key highlights of Carpenter’s career prepared by South Pasadena City Librarian Steve Fjeldsted, some of which were read out by Mayor Richard Schneider while honoring Carpenter at the council:
• Halloween utilized many other sites in South Pasadena (or Haddonfield as it is called in the movie). These include Nichol’s Hardware Store at 966 Mission St., “The Myers House” or “Century House” now at 1000 Mission St., and many other locales around town. The film also used many “real-life” South Pasadena Trick or Treaters in various scenes in order to help keep costs down.
• Halloween became an unprecedented popular success, grossing more than $65 million (more than $200 million in today’s dollars) and has been followed by seven sequels, including a “reimagining” in 2007. Halloween is easily one of the most successful independent films ever made, and the starting point of a film franchise with one of the most dedicated fan bases in filmdom. Halloween also ushered in a new genre of horror films. Unlike its many imitators, Halloween contains little violence and gore.
• Halloween’s Syrian American producer Moustapha Akkad is memorialized with a donated park bench in South Pasadena’s Library Park. Akkad and his daughter Rima were tragically killed by a suicide bomber in a hotel lobby in Jordan in 2005.
• Carpenter also made use of other filming locations around South Pasadena for his subsequent films, including Halloween II (1981) and Christine (1983) to name but two. All the major Halloween locations in South Pasadena have become key tourist attractions, drawing fans from around the world on pilgrimages to South Pasadena where they purchase meals, lodging, and much more from local businesses.
• Halloween has also preserved a series of celluloid historic images of South Pasadena in the 70s for millions of filmgoers around the world. This exposure has greatly advanced South Pasadena’s status as an in-demand destination for the shooting of motion pictures, television shows, and commercials.
• Carpenter went on to make many other successful major motion pictures after his relatively humble start in South Pasadena, including Elvis (1979), The Fog (1980), Starman (1984), Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and They Live (1988) and he’s been widely recognized as a trailblazer.
• In 2007, Halloween was reimagined by Director Rob Zombie and again many scenes were filmed in South Pasadena, including inside the Community Room on a set constructed especially for the project. The production company made a generous donation to the Friends of the Library. In 2010, the BBC interviewed John Carpenter at the South Pasadena Library for its documentary series “The History of Horror Films.” Carpenter’s comments appeared in all three installments and the BBC made a substantial donation to the Friends of the Library.
• Carpenter’s original Halloween is making a 35th-anniversary theatre run in 2013, and a fundraising public screening will be presented in the Library Community Room on Oct. 31, 2013 to benefit the Friends of the Library and the sCARE Foundation. Carpenter is a Board member of the foundation dedicated to assisting homeless teens.