A Very Brief History of a Very Famous Mask

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William Shatner as Captain Kirk as Michael Myers in Halloween (1978).

 

It’s one of the most iconic props in modern horror movie history, but what was it, anyway, and where is it now?

The first mask used for the character of Michael Myers in the now-classic John Carpenter flick Halloween (1978) was a store-bought Captain Kirk mask, made by Don Post Studios (DPS). DPS had created what are called “life casts” of various actors during production of The Devil’s Rain (1975), and these molds made of the actor’s faces were then used for facial prostheses during the melting scenes. In my old Shatnerthon post linked above, you can see Ernest Borgnine in a goat mask made from what must have been a life cast, and Ida Lupino in an eyeless mask using the same process.

halloween-kirk-mask-travolta-mask-devils-rain-332px    halloween-kirk-mask-5-life-cast-from-michael-myers-net

To the left, a replica of the Devil’s Rain life cast for John Travolta. To the right, a replica of William Shatner’s, the face that went on to become Michael Myers.

 

Many, myself included, have thought Shatner was wearing a full mask during some scenes of The Devil’s Rain, and that exact mask was later used in Halloween. That’s not the case; in Devil’s Rain, he was only wearing a facial piece or pieces, not a full mask. The reason there is a striking similarity between the Devil’s Rain facial prostheses and the Captain Kirk mask used in Halloween is because both were made by Don Post Studios, and both made from the above life cast of William Shatner. The year after Devil’s Rain, DPS produced an entire series of “Star Trek” masks, sold in stores during the mid and late 1970s. The masks used in Halloween were the store-bought versions, chosen after considering another Don Post Studios creation: an Emmett Kelly sad clown mask. Can you imagine the nightmares?

halloween-kirk-mask-10-adOriginal 1975 catalogue page for the “Star Trek” masks, courtesy The Blood-Curdling Blog of Monster Masks.

 

 

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halloween-kirk-mask-11-adGene Roddenberry in promotional photos with the “Star Trek” masks. (Via and via.)

 

 

halloween-kirk-mask-7-johnnybisco-636pxAn unidentified photo of the Kirk and Spock masks from the 1970s. I found this unlabeled, with no indication how old the photo is, or where it’s from, but it’s got some great detail. The Spock mask was also made from a life cast.

 

There were at least three Kirk masks bought for Halloween, one for filming and two for stunts, all modified by enlarging the eye holes, getting rid of the space sideburns (they’re triangular! just like space!) and painting the faces white.

halloween-kirk-mask-4-wrap-party-from-michael-myers-netAbove are three cast members in a band apparently called The Coupe DeVilles playing at the wrap party for Halloween. (via) It’s this picture that confirms there were three masks, not just two, though there are always rumors that there were more, now in the hands of secret collectors.

Below is a pic that is said to be of two members of The Coupe DeVilles, John Carpenter, Halloween director, and Nick Castle, stuntman and actor who played Michael in the original film. This picture was also taken at the wrap party; however, they’re not wearing the same clothes as anyone in the wrap party band picture above, so it’s equivocal whether they were really Coupe DeVilles members or not. (Via.) If I understand correctly, the mask on the right was worn by a stuntman, and the one on the left was probably worn by Castle during filming:

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Nick Castle in a series of behind-the-scenes photos:

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halloween-kirk-mask-nick-castle3-600px

halloween-kirk-mask-3-nick-castle-w-1975-don-post-mask(via and via and via.)

 

The same masks were used in Halloween II, where Myers was played by Dick Warlock:

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Photo courtesy Anatomy of the Halloween II Mask. Though a lot of people think the H2 mask was not the same as the original Halloween mask, they definitely are — you can see the same facial landmarks on the two masks in this comparison photo.

Debra Hill, producer on Halloween, had — depending on who you talk to — either kept one mask in a box under her bed and brought it in for use for the sequel, or had all three masks. The two stunt masks were apparently burned during scenes for the finale of Halloween II. The only one that still exists, officially, is the one worn by Castle and Warlock and seen on screen in Halloweens I and II.

After filming of H2, Dick Warlock took the mask and other Michael Myers props home. Here is a short video comprised of segments from a 2001 interview with Warlock, showing the mask up close.


 

Warlock with this mask can also be seen here at From Midnight, With Love, in a terrific post that has photos of all the actors who played Myers over the years, posing with their respective masks. The original Michael Myers mask was never used on film again after H2.

If you’re like me, and of course you are, you’re wondering where the mask is now. After owning and displaying it for years, Dick Warlock sold it to a collector who (I think) displays it in a haunted house in Ohio. This is apparently the “last known picture” of the original mask, with Warlock and its new owner, who doesn’t allow photos to be taken of the mask anymore:

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Meanwhile, the original mold used by DPS was either stolen or misplaced, who knows. The studio has since made replicas based on similar molds, as have other companies who have purchased molds used for subsequent Halloween films. Collectors spend hundreds or even thousands on various DPS masks, the original molds, and the originals from the films if they can be found. Original 1975-era Kirk masks go for a pretty penny and are quite rare, apparently because the latex simply doesn’t age well, and also because many of the masks were cut up to look like the Michael Myers mask and didn’t survive after the modification. Here’s a great thread on The Official Halloween Message Board from someone who purchased an original 1975 Kirk mask a few years ago. You can see how the latex has degraded over the years, and how much the conversion of the mask to look like the Halloween one made it difficult to preserve. For most of these masks, this conversion was done by original owners back in the 1970s and 1980s.

The collecting of these masks is confusing and expensive and I can’t tell you anything of substance about it, but this thread at MichaelMyers.net has a lot of great info on the masks used in the original movie and sequels. I can tell you that things get kind of sticky with Halloween IV, when Don Post Studios didn’t make the masks for the sequel, yet a Shatner-esque mask was still seen on screen, in a possible violation of both copyright and ethics.

It’s a strange history for such an iconic film prop. One would assume it had been well preserved, in storage, and easy to locate for research if not viewing. One would, of course, assume wrong. Hopefully the mask has been preserved and will see the light of day sometime soon.

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The photos used in this post are found all over the web at different sites; I tried to find the best quality pics to put them in one location, and I have credited all sources for the photos, which are linked in the captions below them. Also note that there’s conflicting information about the masks and, as with all collector’s items, outright lies and misdirection to be had, plus I’m no expert, so I’m bound to get some of this wrong. Feel free to correct any mistakes you see!

14 Comments

  1. KC says:

    That photo of the band at the wrap party is hilarious! You must have a lot of gallows humor on the set of horror movies. Those masks are plenty scary without the paint. Heck, all masks are terrifying. Fascinating post.

    1. stacia says:

      Oh I agree, I think masks just in general are really scary. Somewhere around here I have a copy of a photo taken where someone cut the eyes out of a pic of Marilyn Monroe and held it over her face, and it’s really upsetting!

  2. Fresca says:

    I HAD NO IDEA.
    So funny, and I love how you do such thorough research (like with Neil Diamond!). Thanks!

    1. stacia says:

      Thanks Fresca! This all started when I went to post a close-up of one of the advertisements in this post and thought I’d look up where the mask was today. Thought it would be a quick Google and done — boy, was I in for a shock!

  3. LK says:

    First off, good post. Most of the information seems to be in line with a lot of the other research I’ve done. However, a discrepancy has recently emerged concerning the whereabouts of the mask and how it was cared (or not cared for) between the wrapping of the original Halloween and the filming of Halloween II.

    The story usually goes like this (or something similar): Debra Hill took the mask home after the first movie wrapped and kept it in a shoe box under her bed for three years where it was exposed to a lot of cigarette smoke which caused the mask to discolor and have more of the yellowish look that we see in part II. Unclear amongst the various sources who make this claim, however, is how many of the (at least) three versions of the mask that Tommy Lee Wallace made did Debra Hill actually have in her possession. As we know, there was at least two other masks made along with the best looking one which is referred to as the “hero” mask and is the one that had the most screen time in the original movie and also the one carried over to part II. And despite several variations of the story, the one constant consensus among any who tell it is that Debra Hill, whether it was one, two, or three masks, definitely at least had possession of the hero mask.

    The discrepancy, however, began at Monster Mania Con 17 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, at a Q&A panel with Nick Castle (the original Michael Myers) and Tommy Lee Wallace (the man who converted the Captain Kirk mask into “The Shape”) where Castle states that HE had the original mask in his possession for “a couple years” after completing work on Halloween. He says he had the mask on display in his home until right around the time Halloween II was about to begin production. Castle claims Debra Hill called him, looking for the original mask because they could not make a duplicate one close enough to it and no one remembered who had it. Nick Castle confirmed he indeed had it, allowed them to use it for Halloween II, and stated Debra Hill told him he would get it back as soon as the movie wrapped. But, Castle states “I never got it back” which lends credibility to the widely known story that Dick Warlock was allowed to keep the mask after production on Halloween II concluded. It is also believed that Halloween II is where the one or two other versions of the part 1 mask disappeared due to them most likely being used for the burning sequence at the end of the film.

    The hero mask’s history is pretty well documented after H2 all the way up to Warlock selling it to a fan in Toledo, OH in 2004. But, Castle’s claim definitely creates a huge rift in the timeline of the mask as well as it’s rightful ownership. How could Debra Hill have it in her possession for three years between the first two movies when Castle claims it was on display in his home and she called him looking for it before H2 began shooting? And, if Castle did have it, is HE to blame for it’s condition beginning to deteriorate? Personally, from what I’ve read, all Don Post masks from the 70’s broke down over the years due to the type of latex used to make them. I mean c’mon, if the Captain Kirk mask was purchased by Tommy Lee Wallace in 1978 for $1, it couldn’t have been very good quality. I think you’d have to keep it in an air-tight case in a climate-controlled setting away from sun and florescent lighting to have any chance of preserving it for 35 years. Might still be impossible with that kind of material and the heavy use it endured in the filming of two movies. But, certainly interesting that we now have a big discrepancy in the mask’s timeline. Castle doesn’t strike me as the type of guy who would make up stuff, but there are several people close to the project who are under the impression Debra Hill owned the mask between the first two films. And since she has now passed on, we may never know the truth.

    But, humorously enough, if Castle is telling the truth, the guy from Ohio who bought the mask from Dick Warlock is in possession of stolen property, however unintended the whole thing may have been.

    To see the Q&A panel with Nick Castle, hit the link below and skip to 1:35.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjU5jqmPoJg

    (If the blog owner’s wordpress spam settings kill the link, go to youtube and search “Nick Castle (original Michael Myers) & Tommy Lee Wallace Q&A Part 6.AVI”)

    ~LK

    1. stacia says:

      Hi LK, and sorry it took me so long to respond. That is some great info, thanks for sharing it!

      It’s so frustrating to not be able to get definitive answers about some of these details. Also, I can see Castle having the mask but then Warlock taking it without realizing it was supposed to go back to Castle, and no one thinking anything about it until many years later.

  4. Michael Balsley says:

    Great story on the History of the Halloween Movie Mask. I remember going to the Premier with my girlfriend, {both of us 17} and trying to stay all macho. You know, so I could protect her in my arms. Macho be Damned is all I can say. That Movie scared me Stupid, and the Music still creeps me out til this day. Halloween, started the Industry in Slasher mode in my humble opinion. Thanks for your post, and remember to always “Post the Most”.

    1. stacia says:

      HALLOWEEN is legit scary, no joke. In the early 1980s when I was a kid, back when you saw movies edited on network TV, I saw a lot of horror movies, and all of them scared the stuffing out of me, but HALLOWEEN was probably the worst. The scenes where you can see him from a distance across the street just kind of moving around gave me nightmares.

  5. Hell, the original Kirk mask is creepy left untouched!

  6. ClassicBecky says:

    Good heavens, Stacia, this is fascinating! I never knew anything about the use of the Shatner mask — now I can’t look at psycho Michael Myers without seeing Captain Kirk! What an interesting and totally thorough article about something I never even thought of. Yet another thing to use to make fun of Shatner! LOL!

    1. stacia says:

      Shatner is inescapable. He’s everywhere!

      I was pretty freaked out by the mask when I was a kid and first saw HALLOWEEN on TV, but I was also confused. It looked so much like William Shatner that I thought there must be some connection, and I was young enough that I couldn’t wrap my head around it just being a mask the crazy dude happened to grab at the hardware store.

  7. hecubot says:

    Worth noting that Carpenter was inspired by the blank faced mask of Eyes Without a Face (1960) in creating Michael Myers’ mask.

    1. stacia says:

      Oh, absolutely. And I think it’s possible he was inspired by The Eyes of Laura Mars, or at least the poster. After I wrote this article I discovered the poster for Laura Mars is actually in the picture of the Coupe De Villes band. Here’s a better closeup of that area showing the poster:

      http://shebloggedbynight.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/halloween-coupe-de-villes-by-halloween-mmn.jpg

      I mean, it kind of looks like Leni Riefenstahl, but compare it to this Laura Mars poster:

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/9/9c/Eyesoflauramars.jpg/220px-Eyesoflauramars.jpg

      and I’m pretty sure that’s it.

      Just FYI anyone reading this: I don’t remember where I got the better closeup of the Halloween band — it was on a forum that I abbreviated “MMN” but that’s all I know. If you know who posted it and have a link, please share so I can credit properly!

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