The only film Dominique Dunne appeared in.
One of the earliest films to deal with EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon).
Stephen King was briefly approached to write the screenplay. It would have been the first written by King directly for the screen, but the parties could not agree on the terms.
James Karen at the time was also the commercial spokesman for PathMark supermarkets. He received hate mail from people saying they would never shop there again because of his character's treatment of the Freelings.
One of the reasons Steven Spielberg spent more time on-set than he should have done as a producer was due to delays on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
The scene in which Diane opens the bedroom door and is met with a fearsome scream was the first to be filmed.
When questioned about who had the greater control over Poltergeist (1982), Steven Spielberg or Tobe Hooper, Spielberg replied "Tobe isn't... a take-charge sort of guy. If a question was asked and an answer wasn't immediately forthcoming, I'd jump in and say what we could do. Tobe would nod agreement, and that became the process of our collaboration." Co-producer Frank Marshall spoke out to the press and claimed "the creative force of the movie was Steven. Tobe was the director and was on set every day. But Steven did the design for every storyboard and was only absent for three days during the shoot, because he was in Hawaii with (George) Lucas." Hooper later claimed that he did half of the storyboards. Spielberg then sent a letter to Hooper to clarify matters: "Regrettably, some of the press has misunderstood the rather unique, creative relationship you and I shared throughout the making of Poltergeist. I enjoyed your openness in allowing me...a wide berth for creative involvement, just as I know you were happy with the freedom you had to direct Poltergeist so wonderfully. Through the screenplay you accepted a vision of this very intense movie from the start, and as the director, you delivered the goods. You performed responsibly and professionally throughout, and I wish you great success on your next project." Zelda Rubinstein disagreed. While Hooper set up the shots, it was Spielberg who made the adjustments, and most of the time, Hooper was "only partially there" on set. The issue then of who had creative control over Poltergeist is still a muddy issue even today.
Zelda Rubinstein auditioned for the part of medium Tangina four times.
Poltergeist's special effects were nominated for an Academy Award, but they lost to Spielberg's other big film of the year, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The score was also nominated for an Oscar, but again the film lost to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Poltergeist came about from Steven Spielberg's failed attempt to do a sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Though on-screen credit goes to Tobe Hooper, a wealth of evidence suggests that most of the directorial decisions were made by Steven Spielberg. In fact, Spielberg had wanted to direct the film himself, but a clause in his contract stated that while still working on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Spielberg could not direct another film. Members of the cast and crew, including Executive Producer Frank Marshall and actress Zelda Rubinstein, have stated that Spielberg cast the film, directed the actors, and designed every single storyboard for the movie himself. Based on this evidence, the DGA opened a probe into the matter, but found no reason that co-director credit should go to Spielberg.
In one scene, Steve and Diane Freeling are in their bedroom and the movie A Guy Named Joe is playing on their television. Not only is this a movie about a dead person who is still "hanging around" as the spirits in this film are, but Steven Spielberg remade A Guy Named Joe seven years later as Always.
When Steve Freeling first meets with the university paranormal specialists, he states that his wife, Diane Freeling, was "32" at the time, and their eldest daughter, Dana, was "16". Thus, Diane was only sixteen years-old when she gave birth to Dana.
Steven Spielberg offered Tobe Hooper the script for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, but when Hooper declined Spielberg gave him the script for Poltergeist instead and directed E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) himself.
Zelda Rubinstein supposedly had genuine psychic ability, claiming to have visions of things before they happened.
In addition to the two times that the Beast appeared in the movie (the face that appeared in the closet and the creature that guarded the kid's door), the script had it appearing during the scene where the family and investigators are looking at the tape of the manifestation. The giant ghost that they saw visually slowly resolved itself into the image of a face of a cruel old man: the man we know in the later films as 'Reverend Henry Kane.'
Steven Spielberg worked on Poltergeist and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial literally back to back. Principal photography on Poltergeist ended in August of 1981, then Spielberg took a few weeks off and began work on E.T. Spielberg also supervised the visual effects for both films simultaneously (which were produced at Industrial Light & Magic under the supervision of Richard Edlund and Dennis Muren). Once post production work on Poltergeist began in early 1982, Spielberg was in total control. He was responsible for the editing of the film (Spielberg's usual editor Michael Khan edited this film while Carol Littleton edited E.T), the final sound mixes and loops, the supervision of the visual effects, and the selection of Jerry Goldsmith as the composer of the score. Poltergeist and E.T opened to theaters nationwide only a week between each other during the summer of 1982, Poltergeist on June 4th and E.T. one week later on June 11th. Spielberg later said "If E.T. was a whisper, Poltergeist was a scream".
The highest grossing horror film of 1982, and the eighth highest grossing film of the year. The film was reissued in October, 1982 to take advantage of the Halloween weekend. It was also shown in theaters for one night only on October 4, 2007 to promote the new restored and remastered 25th anniversary DVD, released five days later. The event also included a documentary about poltergeist phenomena, which is available on the DVD.
(at around 34 mins) There is a 'jump cut' from the scene where Diane is explaining to Steven about the feeling you get when the spirit pulls you across the floor. The scene jumps mid sentence to the scene where they are both on their neighbours doorstep, again in mid sentence. The reason for the cut was because in the original scene Steven says how he hates Pizza Hut. The scene was edited (rather crudely) after Pizza Hut took offence.
Two of the film's cast members were subsequently murdered: (1) Dominique Dunne (Dana Freeling) was strangled by her former boyfriend in the driveway of her West Hollywood home on October 30, 1982 and, having been declared brain dead, died five days later at the age of 22 and (2) Lou Perryman (Pugsley) was killed with an axe by a 26-year-old man named Seth Christopher Tatum in Austin, Texas on April 1, 2009. He was 67 years old at the time of his murder.
The highest grossing film of Tobe Hooper's career.
Body count: 1 (the bird in the cage).
Poltergeist and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial were filmed within 20 minutes of each location.
When Jo Beth attempts to flush the dead pet bird it casts a shadow in the shape of a Shark (JAWS)
When writers Michael Grais and Mark Victor first met with Steven Spielberg, they were being hired to write the film that eventually became Always (1989). When Spielberg happened to mention he also had an idea for a ghost story, Grais and Victor said they'd rather write the ghost story than Always and that's how they got this job.
Zelda Rubinstein filmed her part in six days.
The scene in which Marty hallucinates in the bathroom was the last to be filmed.
Steven Spielberg first approached Universal about distributing the film before he sold the idea to MGM.
One of the few Steven Spielberg films not to feature music by John Williams.
A common translation of the German word "Poltergeist" is "rumbling spirit".
The sign at the Holiday Inn reads, Welcome Dr. Fantasy and Friends. Dr. Fantasy is a nickname for producer Frank Marshall.
During Steve Freeling's (Craig T. Nelson) interview with Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight) and her associates at the college, the backward writing on the office door reads "Department of Popular Beliefs, Superstitions, and Parapsychology".
The spirits trying to snatch back Carol Anne and the destruction of the Freeling house takes up the last 14 minutes of the film.
The Rams (then Los Angeles Rams) vs. Saints football game seen near the beginning of the film, is taken from a Monday Night Football game in 1980.
In the scene with Robbie looking at the clown doll, You can see a Kenner Darth Vader Star Wars action figure case on the shelf behind him.
Shirley MacLaine was offered a starring role in the film, but backed out in order to make Terms of Endearment.
[WILHELM SCREAM] When the TV plays Go for Broke!, one of the soldiers screams.
According to William Finley he was originally cast as Marty but replaced before filming.
The original cast of Poltergeist included veteran actor Edward Ashley, who portrayed Dr Lesh's older and wiser colleague, who convinced her to bring in Tangina to handle the case. The scene was cut from the film.
JoBeth Williams was hesitant about shooting the swimming pool scene because of the large amount of electrical equipment positioned over and around the pool. In order to comfort her, Steven Spielberg crawled in the pool with her to shoot the scene. Spielberg told her, "Now if a light falls in, we will both fry." The strategy worked and Williams got in the pool.
During the scene where Robbie (Oliver Robins) is being strangled, the clown's arms became extremely tight and Robins started to choke. When he screamed out, "I can't breathe!" Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper thought that the boy was ad-libbing and just instructed him to look at the camera. When Spielberg saw Robbins's face turning purple, he ran over and removed the clown's arms from Robbins's neck.
The skeletons that emerge from the swimming pool while Diane searches for help are actual skeletons. JoBeth Williams didn't know this until after the scene was shot.
The sound effect for the beast that attacks the house at the end of the movie is the source for the current MGM lion roar.
Despite being a horror/thriller film, there are no murders or fatalities depicted in the film.
The house that gets sucked into a black hole at the end was actually a model about four feet across. The model took several weeks to complete. The shot was arranged with the camera placed directly above model, which was mounted over an industrial strength vacuum generator (the front door was facing directly up, straight at the camera). The model also had about 100 wires attached to various points of the structure. These wires went down through the back of the house, and down through the vacuum collection sack. The camera was turned on, and took 15 seconds to wind up to the required 300 frames per second. The vacuum was turned on, the wires were yanked, and several SFX guys blasted the house with pump-action shotguns. The entire scene was over in about two seconds, and they had to wait until the film was developed before they knew if they would have to do it again. Luckily, they got it right on the first take. The finished scene was sent to Steven Spielberg, who was on location shooting E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He gave it to a projectionist, who assumed it was dailies from ET and was startled by the images. Spielberg had the remains of the model encased in perspex, and it is now sitting on his piano. The model itself was worth well over $25,000.
After the procession of ghosts that go down the stairs from the Carol Anne's bedroom to the living room, Dr. Lesh reviews the videotapes together with her assistants and Freeling family, showing them in different TV screens. In one of them the ghosts seem to be dressed in old suits with hats. In Poltergeist II: The Other Side, it's revealed that under the Freeling's home there is a mass grave of a sect of the 19th century, who buried themselves in the belief that the end of the world had come. Members of the sect, shown in flashbacks, strongly resemble the ghosts recorded by Dr. Lesh.
PG | 1h 54min | Horror, Thriller | 4 June 1982 (USA)
A family's home is haunted by a host of ghosts.
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writers: Steven Spielberg (screenplay), Michael Grais (screenplay)
Stars: JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, Craig T. Nelson