In terms of modern cinematographers, you don't get any more iconic than DP Dean Cundey, who has worked on a myriad of influential films from the late 70's through the mid-90's, including the Back to the Future trilogy, Jurassic Park, The Thing, The Fog, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Apollo 13, Road House and many, many more.
Of course, genre fans know that Cundey first left his impression on the cinematography world when he stepped behind the Steadicam on John Carpenter's Halloween and created one of the most visually iconic films, horror or otherwise, of all time. Cundey, who oversaw and gave his stamp of approval on the transfer process on Anchor Bay's recent 35th Anniversary Halloween Blu-ray, recently chatted with Daily Dead about his involvement with this latest high-definition release.
And considering Cundey's cinematic pedigree, we also spoke to him about his experiences working on several other projects, like Halloween II and The Fog, and heard more from him about his favorite moments when looking back at his amazing career so far.
Daily Dead: Were you approached to take a look at this new transfer or had you heard about it and reached out to Anchor Bay to be part of the process?
Dean Cundey: I was approached actually; John had looked at this new version and thought it looked really good, but suggested that I go in to oversee some final work on it so that fans would finally have the version they deserve. See, a lot of the previous editions were made from a print or a previous digital version and the people working on those versions were just doing what they thought was right. When you have a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox though, that just doesn't translate; things get skewed.
So I was very impressed by the fact that, for this release, they used the original camera material because they wanted to make this the definitive version. For me, it's the most accurate portrayal of how John and I wanted Halloween to be seen. Most fans have never seen Halloween the right way either between all the TV, VHS and DVD versions over the years so this Blu-ray is really something special.
Daily Dead: At the time you made Halloween, Steadicam was still a relatively new filmmaking technology. What was behind the decision to go with Steadicam which seemed pretty risky and time consuming, especially considering this wasn't a film that had a huge budget and a lot of production time either?
Dean Cundey: Even though Steadicam was so new, it afforded us the ability to move in ways that were never possible before, and certainly not in ways ever really scene in horror movies before either. John and I both realized that using Steadicam on Halloween was going to give the film this great creepy and mysterious feeling because we could glide along following these characters without ever 'giving away' the camera movement. We knew this would make Halloween a distinctive film- horror or otherwise- and because of that, we knew that by using that it would only immerse audiences even more into this terrifying story.
Before Halloween, I had done various low-budget projects and other things that were conventionally shot, so they left me feeling a bit unsatisfying for me, creatively. When I met John, I quickly realized that he had a real interest in telling a story with the camera, which is the approach I preferred to take as well, so I knew that we were going to work well together.
Daily Dead: The next time you worked with John was on The Fog which also had a great, creepy atmosphere to it, but I think it's something wholly different than what you guys did with Halloween. How much did you guys change up your approach on that one from what you did while working together previously?
Dean Cundey: A lot actually; with The Fog, it was more about letting the locations tell the story more so than following around a murderer like we did with Halloween. I've always thought it was pretty interesting that even after the success of Halloween and other 'slasher' movies at the time, everyone always calls Halloween a 'slasher' movie. I've always thought of it as something more- that John would do a traditional ghost story for his next film. I really loved working on The Fog too because I felt like he built the perfect amount of suspense and atmosphere throughout that still feels untouched by time. The Fog still remains one of the eeriest horror movies and I think for John to do something so wholly different after Halloween was a wonderful risk for him to take. It's a wonderful movie.
Daily Dead: You also worked on Halloween II which I think is a sequel that doesn't get enough credit for how great it is. One of my favorite 'camera' moments is when we follow the ambulance to the Doyle's house to get Laurie because it felt like an homage to the opening of Halloween. Was that in the back of your mind when you were shooting it at all?
Dean Cundey: Definitely. With the first Halloween, that opening steady shot became such a signature moment, even to the point where people still reference it today, so when we were working on Halloween II, I knew that we had to have a similar kind of shot that would be distinctive in its own way. So that was that shot; I thought it turned out pretty well too and was definitely one of the trademark camera moments of that film. We put a lot of thought into that one.
Daily Dead: You've worked on so many iconic films over the years and built such an incredible legacy behind the camera over the last 35 years or so. I dare ask it but, are there films or moments in your career particular that stand out to you as favorites? Or is that like asking a parent to choose a favorite child?
Dean Cundey: (laughs) It definitely is. I think I have different favorite films for very different reasons. Back to the Future is a favorite because I think it was the most fun I've ever had making a film in my career and just how iconic the film has become over the years. Then Jurassic Park because we were creating cinema that truly had never been experienced like that before so you knew it was going to be special. And of course, Who Framed Roger Rabbit because the achievements in animation we were able to do on that film were- and still remain- unprecedented. I've never made another movie like Roger Rabbit and I don't know if I ever will have that kind of opportunity again. It was so special.
And of course Halloween is right up there too because it was such a great stepping stone in my career and really challenged me in ways I had never been challenged before. It was the film that got me noticed, and John noticed as well. It was such a milestone film in so many ways and how lucky am I that I get to talk about it 35 years later. I never would have expected that (laughs).