In the original Halloween, Donald Pleasence played the antihero Dr. Loomis as an eccentric, but one who ultimately proves himself good, rescuing hunted baby sitter Laurie Strode from a psychopathic Michael Myers.
Leave it to bloodthirsty director Rob Zombie and actor Malcolm McDowell who specializes in villainous characters to craft the ambitious doctor as much less of a white knight in the "reimagined" Halloween, opening today.
"It's a very different storyline. We are reinventing the characters," says McDowell, who appeared this month at Horrorfind Weekend at the Hunt Valley Marriott. "I am not Donald Pleasence, and I didn't want my character to be an imitation of his."
McDowell's icy eyes and booming voice are just as piercing in person as they are on screen. But he is doting about Zombie.
"When I first saw him sitting there I thought, 'Holy God I'm having lunch with Charles Manson,'" McDowell says. "And he turns out to be the sweetest guy I ever met."
No horror fan, the British actor hasn't seen the original film. But he has faith in the one-time heavy-metal frontman who now makes such movies as House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects.
McDowell's own film resume starts with the gleeful rebel in If, Lindsay Anderson's 1968 tear-the-old-school-down epic. That caught the interest of Stanley Kubrick, who cast him as the nihilist gang leader Alex in A Clockwork Orange (1971).
Even people who hated the movie, like famous critic Pauline Kael, said that McDowell had the amoral magnetism of James Cagney in his gangster roles.
McDowell's mean streak has continued in film and in voice roles for video games and cartoons.
Recently he has been seen on HBO's Entourage and as the villain Linderman in NBC's Heroes. Of all his roles, who is the most evil?
"It would probably be Linderman, from the standpoint of a character deliberately choosing to be evil," McDowell says.
While the character died in the first season, he says not to assume he is gone forever.
"When I left, they told me, 'Malcolm, just so you know - nobody ever really dies for good on Heroes.' I'm glad, because I loved doing it."
See more photos from Halloween at baltimoresun.com/halloweenmovie