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The Donald Pleasence/Christopher Lee HALLOWEEN That Should Have Been

As horror fans, we love to hear stories of the movies that almost happened; the projects that almost came to be; the talent that almost teamed up for what could’ve been, at the very least, a memorable moment in genre cinema.

There have been a slew of documentaries coming out in the last few years showcasing the “what if” of certain proposed projects such as JODOROWSKY’S DUNE. And even the rumored stories about Stuart Gordon’s AMERICAN PSYCHO or David Lynch’s RETURN OF THE JEDI have all become folklore. Here’s one that would’ve been so epic, it hurts me every time I think about what could’ve been.

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It’s no secret now in retrospect that HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (aka HALLOWEEN 666: THE ORIGIN OF MICHAEL MYERS) was plagued with tons of production problems, an early “producer’s cut” that test audiences did not like and re-shoots after their main star, Donald Pleasence, had passed away. After years of bootlegging and countless discussions about these 2 versions of the sequel, both are now available in high def on Blu-Ray for fans to compare, contrast and enjoy.

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The idea of “The Man In Black” with the thorn tattoo was introduced in HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS with no concrete plan as to who he was or what he was doing. That was up to PART 6’s screenwriter Dan Farrands. And Farrands, a die-hard fan of the original series, did everything he could to make sure his script honored what came before and answered a lot of the threads left open from the previous entry. He wanted “The Man In Black” to be Dr. Wynn from the original movie. And he does in fact appear in the movie, portrayed serviceably by actor Mitchell Ryan. But when drafting the screenplay, Farrands has someone else in mind.

In this 2005 interview for Icons Of Fright, Farrands explained, “My idea was always to end the movie with this incredible battle for Michael Myers’ soul between the good doctor and the evil doctor and that was really what it was building to in the script. I had written the part of Dr. Wynn with the idea of casting a serious equal for Donald. I had begged the producers to offer it to the actor I had in mind as I was writing … I actually wrote the part for Christopher Lee. This is perfect because you have two amazing horror character actor veterans. Two giants in one movie.”

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One of the famous tid-bits from the original HALLOWEEN is that John Carpenter offered the role of Michael Myers’ doctor and arch-nemesis Sam Loomis to Christopher Lee and Lee turned it down! Something the actor has publicly said he regretted later on. This would’ve been an amazing way to rectify all that.

“Can you imagine him being revealed as the man in black? He had the right persona and the right build. And those gaunt, glacial features. He was just the perfect person to play off of Donald. Imagine seeing those two on film together … in what turned out to be Donald’s final screen performance? It would’ve been insane. For horror film lovers and all the way back to the Hammer films. All those amazing films that they had both done. It would have elevated this movie to a place where no HALLOWEEN film had gone before.”

Remember, this was 1995 – a time when Lee wasn’t nearly as active or as well-known as he used to be. And the “powers that be” told the writer that “He’s too old. No one cares. No one remembers him.” A few short years later, Lee would make a huge come back appearing in both the STAR WARS prequel trilogy and Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

“Donald Pleasence, to me, deserved to be on screen with a contemporary,” said Farrands. “That was just another thing I remember being shot down and standing there thinking, “you can’t be serious!” Knowing in my heart that this was absolutely the right way to do this. And then having it made very clear that I wasn’t the one calling the shots.”

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Donald Pleasence and Christopher Lee did share one short scene together in a horror movie. They both appear in Gary Sherman’s 1972 cult classic DEATH LINE, released here in the States as RAW MEAT. In a 2006 interview I conducted with Sherman on Icons Of Fright, he noted that the biggest challenge to these 2 legends sharing the screen together was their height difference!

“I had to figure out how to put these guys nose to nose,” Sherman told us back then. “That determined the way I shot it. In the beginning, Donald was the dominant character, so I started with close-ups of Donald and wide shots of Christopher and as Christopher gained dominance in the scene, the camera kept moving closer in on him and further & further away from Donald. Until Christopher sat down they were never in a two shot.” Take a look.

How cool was that? Could you have imagined these two together in a HALLOWEEN movie?!

You can read the entire full length Icons Of Fright interview with HALLOWEEN 6 screenwriter Dan Farrands right here. Also, I was fortunate enough to moderate a “pirate commentary” for the theatrical version version of HALLOWEEN 6 with Farrands back in 2011, which is not featured in the box set or available anywhere else. Be sure to check that out right here.

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