Few Hollywood families have owned as much intellectual property within a specific film genre as the Curtis family once owns within horror. In fact, Tony Curtis' former wife, Janet Leigh, and his daughter Jamie Lee Curtis share the title 'queen of scream,' because of their iconic performances in legendary scary movies. Their collective impact on the horror film category has influenced generations of fans and filmmakers.
Janet Leigh claimed the scream queen title with her classic shower scene screech in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 thriller, Psycho. Although her character, Marion Crane, was only alive for about 45 minutes in the film, Leigh won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for an Academy Award in the same category. Though Leigh appeared in over 50 movies in a diverse range of genres, she is perhaps best known for her appearance in Psycho. It shaped her image, and directly affected her daughter's acting career.
When it came time to cast the lead character in John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978, Carpenter tapped Curtis because of her lineage (in spite of the fact that this was her first movie role), hoping the familial connection would not only interest moviegoers, but also pay tribute to a Hitchcock and Psycho, which had a big influence on Carpenter when he saw the movie with his parents as a kid.
"Halloween had a little of Psycho in it, only we kicked our villain up into the stratosphere and tried to make him a force of evil rather than a person, like Norman Bates," said Carpenter in a 2010 interview. "But then every modern horror film owes a lot to Psycho."
Carpenter's next film, The Fog (1980), featured both Leigh and Curtis together on screen, bringing the former and current scream queens together for the fist time, though they did not meet on-screen until the end of the film.
1980-1981 were wonderfully horrific years for Curtis, as she screamed her way through four different scary movies: The Fog, Terror Train, Prom Night, and Halloween II, cementing her title as the queen of scream in just three years!
And then that was it.
Curtis did not make another horror film until 1998, when she starred in Halloween: H2O, again with a brief appearance from her mother. During the scene where Leigh appears she is standing in front of the exact same car she drove in Psycho and the music from Psycho is playing in the background. The dialogue Leigh has with Curtis was strategically written to tie the two together, interwoven with numerous references to their past horror films.
For fright fans, this was a suiting homage to the queens of scream, and final reminder of the scary connection they shared. Curtis did return to horror two more times, in 1999's Virus and then again in 2002's Halloween: Resurrection, which finished off her Halloween character once and for all. Sadly, Leigh passed away in 2004 at the age of 77.