Soundtrack Saturday: “John Carpenter’s The Fog”

“There’s something in the fog!” Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) in John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980).

After the success of his iconic slasher movie, Halloween (1978), John Carpenter took two years to release his next feature film (though he did work on two TV movies during that time). Released in February of 1980, The Fog was a moderate financial success and reunited Carpenter with some of Halloween‘s key players, including its star, Jamie Lee Curtis. The film also starred Adrienne Barbeau (Carpenter’s wife at the time), Curtis’s mother, famed actress Janet Leigh (marking the first time she appeared on string with her daughter), Tom Atkins and Hal Holbrook.

The Fog tells the tale of Antonio Bay, a fishing town on the northern California coast, that is getting ready to celebrate its centennial. The celebration is soon marred by a serious of bizarre, unexplainable events, culminating in the appearance of a strange, glowing fog. that terrorizes the town. The fog, which quickly spreads over Antonio Bay, is not like any normal fog. There’s something — or, rather, someone — in the fog. Many someones, in fact. And they’re all out for vengeance against one or more residents of Antonio Bay.

I’ve read that Carpenter, who co-wrote the script with long-time collaborator (and former girlfriend), Debra Hill, has said that The Fog was inspired partly by the British movie The Trollenberg Terror (1958) (also known as The Crawling Eye), which was about alien creatures that inhabit a radioactive cloud at the base of a Swiss mountain, and by a visit that he and Hill took to a fog-covered Stonehenge while Carpenter was in England promoting Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). Further, Carpenter has also apparently stated that the ship wreck/plundering element of the film’s plot is based on a true event that happened in California during the 19th century.

Event though his budget for this film was considerably higher than Halloween ($1 million compared to $320,000), it was still very much considered to be an independent film. And, even though he didn’t have a huge budget, Carpenter still made the fairly risky — yet brilliant — decision to shoot the film in anamorphic 2.35:1 format to make it seem like it was a much more expensive film than it actually was.

The most interesting tidbit about this movie is that about one-third of the film consists of footage that was completely reshot after Carpenter viewed a rough cut. He added the prologue at the beginning in which John Houseman’s character, Mr. Machen, tells the campfireside ghost story to a group of children. He also added several other scenes, in addition to reshooting others that he felt didn’t work, in order to add some gore and to connect some dots that weren’t connected in the first cut. Because of his dissatisfaction with the first film, Carpenter greenlighted the remake, which was released in 2005. I haven’t seen it, nor do I plan to — I’ve heard it sucks.

In addition to the extensive additions/reshots, the score was also completely redone. Carpenter has said that he felt that the original score was “heavy-handed and obvious,” so he redid that, too.

The original score to The Fog has been released a couple of different times, but neither version contains the complete score that actually appeared in the film. In fact, the only way you could get the updated score that appears in the film is via the isolated track that appeared on the laser disc, which some kind soul on the Interwebs went to the trouble of ripping.

What I’ve provided is the out-of-print expanded version of the official soundtrack release. Personally, I like both versions. They are both distinctively Carpenter, with several cues that are very reminiscent of his score for Halloween. But I recommend checking out both versions yourself to see which you like better.

Score by John Carpenter

Prologue (Narration)
Theme from The Fog
Matthew Ghost Story
Walk to the Lighthouse
Rocks at Drake’s Bay
The Fog
Antonio Bay
Tommy Tells of Ghost Ships
Reel 9
Main Theme, Reprise
The Fog Rolls In
Blake In the Sanctuary
Finale
Radio Interview with Jamie Lee Curtis

Kelly Stitzel
After shutting down her own blog, Looking at Them, in mid-2008, Kelly migrated over to Popdose, bringing with her Soundtrack Saturday, the most popular column from her old site. Kelly makes a living as a fashion and marketing copywriter, which takes up a lot of her time. However, when she is able to write about things that have nothing to do with her day job, she contributes reviews and musings on music, film and a variety of other topics. In addition to Soundtrack Saturday, columns she's written include Filminism and Pulling Rank.