"The Man Who Created Halloween" Book Review
Written by Irwin Yablans
2012, 259 pages, Non-Fiction
Book released on October 16th, 2012
Perhaps President Kennedy said it best, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” Serious genre geeks will connect the name Moustapha Akkad to the Halloween film franchise as readily as normal movie nerds will simply credit director John Carpenter with creating this horror “classic”. Producer Irwin Yablans hopes history will remember his name too, and sheds a little light on his contribution to the film with this new autobiography humbly titled, The Man Who Created Halloween. His story begins as a boy growing up in Brooklyn, sharing a home with his mother, father, sister, brother and countless roaches.
Yablans grew up with the working poor and struggled to get through school. He held a few shitty jobs before joining the army where he served in Germany. His tales of young adulthood include a few botched engagements and some awesome tales of the “hospitality” provided by the German women during the war. Upon returning to the States, he got a job with Warner Brothers and this sparked a desire to work in cinema. His brother, Frank, joined him in many of his adventures, both in the military and in the film industry. It is this troubled relationship that receives the majority of attention throughout the book and is the most interesting.
Life as a movie producer and film distributor fill the majority of the remaining pages with tales of working at Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures, MGM and Orion films. He formed Compass International Pictures as an outlet for maintaining autonomy over many of the projects he worked on. Having seen John Carpenter’s early work Assault on Precinct 13 (a title provided by Yablans), the producer helped it get a successful international release. Yablans was eager to work with Carpenter again and with the arrival of executive producer Moustapha Akkad, came Halloween. This film changed the way movies were distributed without major studio involvement and went on to become the most successful independent picture of its time.
The main problem I had with this book is that the autobiographical nature of the material shortchanges the coverage given to his biggest cinematic victory. Yablans is a successful man in his own right and the accomplishments of his life will not be hidden in the shadows of Halloween, but he will make damn sure readers know that he produced the film. With a title like The Man Who Created Halloween, one may expect a more thorough account of the challenges to making the film or the critical response to the product. The anecdotes provided are nice, but too brief for my liking and nothing is said about creating Halloween II or how his involvement with Halloween III started and ended with a paycheck.
This is Irwin Yablans’ first book and it is awesome that he chose to write his autobiography, but the title should be reserved for a production journal as fans would gladly devour 259 pages on this topic alone. His recollections are incredibly specific for many of the mundane aspects of daily life that it is incredibly frustrating when he rushes over the details of making Halloween in order to get to the next anecdote in a lavish life of building yachts, riding horses or taking Woody Allen to lunch.
The Man Who Created Halloween is about a man and his numerous accomplishments that changed many aspects of film distribution, and Irwin Yablans continues to work outside the lines of the mainstream by releasing it through Amazon.com’s independent publishing platform CreateSpace. It is a career decades in the making and without his efforts audiences wouldn’t have Roller Boogie. Genre fans that pick this book up for some entertaining production tales are in for a treat as Irwin Yablans rambles down memory lane…unless they are looking for Hell Night stories, in which case they are shit out of luck.