Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978)
Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis, determined psychiatrist
Illinois, Halloween 1978
Release Date: October 25, 1978
Director: John Carpenter
Wardrobe Credit: Beth Rodgers
Based on a timely recommendation that I received from my friend @agentlemansarmour leading up to Halloween last year, I’d like to commemorate October 31 this year with a look at John Carpenter’s Halloween, the influential 1978 horror flick cited as kicking off the “Golden Age” of slasher movies and one of the most successful and profitable independent films of all time, grossing more than $70 million with a budget of less than $325,000. The suggestion particularly requested a look at the fall-friendly tweed jacket and raincoat worn by the movie’s ostensible protagonist, knowledgable psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis as portrayed by Donald Pleasence, who would reprise the role four more times before Malcolm McDowell took over for Rob Zombie’s 2007 reboot.
Seeking a stately British presence, Carpenter had first approached Peter Cushing then Christopher Lee—who later told Carpenter and producer Debra Hill that he regretted his decision—for the role before he approached Donald Pleasence, who had reportedly agreed to star after his guitarist daughter Lucy shared her appreciation of Carpenter’s score for Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). As Pleasence was arguably the biggest star on set, Carpenter was initially intimidated by the Tony-nominated actor but was delighted by Pleasence’s good-hearted nature and thoughtful approach to the character of Sam Loomis. It was reportedly the low salary that Cushing had cited for his refusal to take the role, but Pleasence received $20,000 for his appearance; adjusted for inflation to nearly $80,000 today, this is hardly a payday to sneeze at for five days of work.
After the Halloween 1963 prologue that depicts a pre-teen Michael Myers (Will Sandin) killing his teenage sister Judith (Sandy Johnson), Dr. Loomis is the first face we see in the “present day” as he accompanies nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) to Illinois State Hospital on the eve of Halloween 1978, preparing her for her encounter with a now-grown Michael Myers (Nick Castle) on the 15th anniversary of his first murder. Loomis is one of the few who is convinced that the cold-hearted Michael is “purely and simply evil” and should never see another minute of freedom, but it’s the process of returning to take the killer to court that facilitates the opportunity for his escape. Hours later, Michael is back in his fictional hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he crosses paths with kindhearted babysitter and archetypal “Final Girl” Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, in her cinematic debut), the only Haddonfield resident who seems to share Dr. Loomis’ suspicions, though even she is dismissive that the masked figure is the “bogeyman”… at least until he starts killing her friends.
Sheriff Brackett: I have the feeling that you’re way off on this.
Dr. Loomis: Then you have the wrong feeling.
The skeptical sheriff would be proven wrong in the most tragic way possible after the brutal murders of three local teenagers (as well as the Wallace family dog and one undiscussed mechanic who, in death, provided Michael Myers with his now iconic boilersuit), prompting Laurie and Loomis to join forces in their attempts to stab, shoot, and ultimately eradicate this monster in their midst.
What’d He Wear?
John Carpenter’s decision to contain the action to mostly a 24-hour period was prompted by budgetary reasons as this meant reducing the number of costume changes required, though many actors still wore or purchased their own clothing, with Jamie Lee Curtis’ entire wardrobe purchased at J.C. Penney for less than $100 and Michael Myers’ iconic “Captain Kirk” mask purchased for a mere $1.98 from a Hollywood Boulevard costume shop.
Given his seniority in the cast and the prominence of the character, it’s possible that Donald Pleasence’s costume as Dr. Sam Loomis was more strategically chosen, designed, or purchased. Loomis’ earthy tweed jacket and tie bring an appropriately professorial and grounded touch to the character that also subconsciously aligns him with the county policemen in their khaki uniforms.
Dr. Loomis wears a rich chocolate brown sports coat made from a rugged Donegal tweed, woven in a woolen twill flecked with colorful threads in many colors including red and green, the former echoing the bold but barely seen scarlet red inside lining. The single-breasted jacket has natural shoulders and broad notch lapels that roll down to a two-button front. The sleeves are finished with three-button cuffs and there is a single vent in the back. Though there is no breast pocket, the sporty flap-covered bellows pockets on the hips bring additional character to this piece.
Dr. Loomis’ ecru shirt harmonizes with the brown themes of his outfit. The shirt’s large point collar is very consistent with fashions of the mid-to-late 1970s with considerable tie space for Loomis’ wrinkled dark brown tie, possibly constructed from cotton with a broad width also consistent with ’70s trends. The shirt has a front placket and squared button cuffs.
While set photos reveal that Pleasence’s shirt did not have a breast pocket, behind-the-scenes shots from Halloween II (1981) show Pleasence wearing a shirt with a breast pocket, though the rest of his costume in the sequel is otherwise generally the same as it directly follows the events of this movie.
The lack of contrast between Dr. Loomis’ dark brown lower-rise trousers and his similarly colored jacket would be a problem if not for the textural contrast delivered by the tweed jacket. His flat front trousers are worn with a dark brown leather belt with a gold-toned single-prong buckle. The trousers have frogmouth welted front pockets which curve up to about an inch shy of the belt line, and the bottoms are plain-hemmed.
Given the abundance of brown across the rest of his outfit, Dr. Loomis makes a reasonable choice to sport his well-worn brown calf apron-toe derby shoes that get their most focused screen time during his visit to Judith Myers’ recently vandalized grave at the Haddonfield cemetery, filmed at the Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery that had also made a cinematic appearance in Hitchcock’s Family Plot (1976), two years earlier.
When evening falls, Dr. Loomis wears the same lightweight raglan-sleeve raincoat that had gotten drenched the prior evening, the quintessential “dark and stormy night” that precipitated Michael Myers’ escape. Stalking the streets of Haddonfield in search of the murderer, Loomis looks a bit like the classic noir hero, furtively keeping his .38 at the ready under the folds of his beige raincoat… though the rumples and wrinkles are a bit more Colombo than Marlowe.
The lightweight balmacaan-style coat has a soft Prussian collar, long vent, and five sew-through buttons on the covered-fly front. Each raglan sleeve has a single-button pointed-tab strap at the cuff. (Pleasence would go on to wear a similar raincoat in Halloween II, albeit of a slightly heavier construction with a wider collar and set-in sleeves, rather than raglan sleeves.)
This classic, simple, and timeless coat design is a helpful addition to any man’s wardrobe. An affordable option with many details consistent with Pleasence’s screen-worn coat is a taupe polyester/nylon knee-length raincoat from Adam Baker by Cianni, available on Amazon for $129.99 as of October 2019.
Dr. Loomis wears a gold watch on his left wrist that gets little screen time other than a glimpse at the round white dial and the gold bracelet when he takes aim at Michael Myers. Given the “Jubilee”-style bracelet and the fact that many of the actors wore their own clothing and accessories, it’s reasonable to deduce that Donald Pleasence is wearing his own personal yellow gold Rolex Datejust, a wristwatch that Jake’s Rolex World photographically confirms that he owned around this time of his life.
The raincoat was one of few character elements that Rob Zombie maintained for his 2007 re-imagining, dressing Malcolm McDowell’s Dr. Loomis in a light khaki trench coat over a black turtleneck sweater.
“You must think me a very sensitive doctor,” Dr. Loomis titters to Sheriff Brackett after drawing his revolver when a ball thrown through the window interrupts their nighttime tour of the decrepit Myers house. “Oh, I do have a permit,” Loomis assures him, flashing the slip of paper that allows him to carry the Smith & Wesson Model 15 that he would again draw and fire during the film’s famous climax.
After World War II, Smith & Wesson evolved its .38-caliber revolver offerings beyond the venerated Military & Police model, introducing the K-38 Target Masterpiece in 1947 so named for being a .38 Special revolver built on the brand’s medium-sized “K” frame. Impressed by the accuracy of the 6″-barreled Target Masterpiece, police departments and federal agencies requested a service-friendly model with a 4″ barrel and a Baughman Quick Draw front sight as opposed to the Patridge front sight, and the K-38 Combat Masterpiece was developed two years later to meet this demand.
When Smith & Wesson began numbering its models in 1957, the K-38 Combat Masterpiece took on new life as the Model 15, which would be continually reproduced until December 1999. (The K-38 Target Masterpiece would be known as the Model 14.) The Smith & Wesson Model 15 was a popular police sidearm for many decades, and even the U.S. Air Force authorized Model 15 revolvers for police use across the latter 20th century.
According to the eagle-eyed viewers who logged the film’s weaponry on IMFDB, Dr. Loomis’ Model 15 is fitted with target grips rather than the “more common slimline Magna grips of the same era.” Loomis would carry the same Model 15 in the direct sequel, Halloween II (1981), where the good doctor recalls that “I shot him six times! I shot him in the heart! He’s not human!”
The next time Dr. Loomis appears in the series, in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), he has updated his sidearm to a semi-automatic Smith & Wesson 639 pistol with pearl grips. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) arms Loomis with an M1911A1 pistol, and Pleasence’s final appearance as Loomis in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) features him back to a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, in this case a Model 10 with a four-inch barrel.
How to Get the Look
Donald Pleasence’s countrified attire as Dr. Sam Loomis is not without its trendy 1970s elements—notably the width of the jacket lapels, shirt collar, and tie blade—but the psychiatrist takes a timeless approach with a staid brown tweed sports coat worn with tonal shirt, shoes, trousers, and tie… not to mention the raincoat that briefly serves to transform him into a pistol-packing noir hero.
- Brown mixed Donegal tweed single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with wide notch lapels, flapped bellows hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Ecru shirt with large point collar, front placket, and squared button cuffs
- Dark brown cotton tie
- Dark brown flat front trousers with belt loops, frogmouth welted front pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark brown leather belt with gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Brown calf leather apron-toe derby shoes
- Beige lightweight balmacaan-style raincoat with Prussian collar, covered-fly 5-button front, slanted side pockets, single-button pointed-tab cuff straps, and single vent
- Rolex Datejust yellow gold watch with round white dial on gold Jubilee-style bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Death has come to your little town, sheriff. You can either ignore it, or you can help me to stop it.
While Dr. Samuel Loomis’ name was inspired by John Gavin’s character in Psycho (1960), the passionate psychiatrist isn’t the only character in Haddonfield whose name has a classic Hollywood connection. The sheriff, Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers), shares his name with the prolific female writer known as “Queen of the Space Opera” for her many planetary romance science fiction works as well as contributions to the script of The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Ms. Brackett’s credits also include The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959), and The Long Goodbye (1973), and the young Tommy Doyle was named after Detective Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey) in Rear Window (1954).
Fantastic read as expected! My friends and I still find the change in his collar width between the first and second film amusing lol. Cutting from the first films footage to the second film’s in the opening act REALLY shows the difference, especially considering Donald likes to pop his collar in Halloween II a great deal lol. I appreciate how you acknowledged his aesthetic begin more akin to a noir detective. It fits very well with the character, his dress wear and ultimately his final act of shooting Michael to rescue Laurie. The trench coat is iconic. Happy Halloween!
Loomis is the greatest hero in the horror realm, and the look of the character has a lot to do with that. The trench coat, the goatee, the old-school, blued steel revolver….there is just an unmistakable aura around the character. He LOOKS the part, but not of a ‘High Noon’, traditional hero….but rather of the kind of hero you would expect to see prowling through your shrubbery at midnight. A hero who is every bit as much at home in the shadows as the killer he is stalking. Pleasance is absolute perfection in the role…but somehow, without the trench coat and the revolver, it wouldn’t be quite the same.