They started out wanting to make nothing more than a low-budget rip-off — a quickie exploitation attempt to cash in on the surprise success of John Carpenter’s Halloween. Instead, producer/director Sean S. Cunningham and writer Victor Miller were in for a big surprise of their own: a hit — and the start of one of the most famous (or infamous, if you will) franchises in movie history.
Friday The 13th (1980) was hardly anything new, really; it had all of the standard, stereotypical slasher movie “rules” that the characters in Wes Craven’s Scream would joke about more than a decade and a half later. There’s the flashback sequence at the beginning of the film establishing the killer’s motive (and sometimes identity); the modern-day tale of crazy reckless kids being crazy and reckless (not to mention naughty by drinking, fornicating, and smoking the marijuana); and the silent, seemingly-faceless murderer who hacks the aforementioned crazy, reckless, naughty kids to bits.
Now, if that’s not pure Americana, then I don’t know what is!
Actually, Friday The 13th didn’t start out as “Americana.” No siree, kiddies! Truth be told (and this part is for those of you who aren’t old enough to really remember or hadn’t yet been conceived during one of the movie’s ten sequels a few years later), Friday The 13th was something of the ultimate taboo at the time — the critics hated it and warned moviegoers to avoid it while the film only fueled the fire for the conservative parents who would complain and protest against such tripe.
Of course, the best way to promote a film is to get someone else to do it. For free. By badmouthing it and telling kids not to see it. Duh.
Upon its unexpected success, countless imitations were quick to follow, and Friday The 13th Part 2 was rushed into production. Much like its source of inspiration (Halloween), the sequels took on a distinct supernatural feel to them, but the original Friday stands out from its successors (which range from good to downright silly) as being a genuine slasher film — Jason Voorhees is not the killer in this movie (granted, he does appear, in the end, albeit in a dream — or is it a dream?).
The film stars Betsy Palmer (who needed a new car) as Pamela Voorhees, the crazed mum of the long-dead Jason, who returns to Camp Crystal Lake every time somebody tries to open it in order to kill, kill, and kill. Why? Because some horny teens neglected to keep an eye on her beloved Down syndrome son (I was gonna say “mongoloid” but decided against it) and he drowned. That was in ‘58. Twenty-two years later, the ol’ woman’s still goin’ at ‘em (hey, everyone needs a hobby, right?), and her victims on this Friday the 13th include Adrienne King (who gained herself a stalker from playing her part as Alice), Bing Crosby’s son Harry, and a young Kevin Bacon (who sports a l’il bit o' wood in his Speedos and gets an arrow through his throat for it).
The movie also stars several other actors and actresses as well (most of whom never worked again), who are shown in various states of bad '80s-style bathing suits — although it’s Peter Brouwer as Steve Christy who really takes the cake with that one. When we first see him, he’s wearing a handkerchief around his neck and a pair of cutoffs (paging Dr. Fünke).
Maybe Mrs. Voorhees was just a disgruntled fashion critic and had finally had enough. Ain’t a jury in the land that would convict her if that was the case.
Not only has Paramount released Friday The 13th, Uncut on Blu-ray for the first time in history, but this also marks the epic moment in time that they’ve released it uncut. Yes, you can throw away your bootleg from Japanese laserdisc now, you crazy, reckless, naughty, bootleggin’ kids, you — all of those missing ten seconds have been at long last reinserted into the movie. Are the ten seconds of extra blood and gore very noticeable? Do they really show off Tom Savini’s make-up skills? Not to this critic, no — but I haven’t seen the film as many times as some people out there have (and besides, Savini’s had better days: Maniac, Day Of The Dead, Dawn Of The Dead, The Prowler, etc.).
The video on Friday The 13th, Uncut on Blu-ray is quite a treat. The 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation has been cleaned up and remastered quite well — and the scenes of actress/victim Robbi Morgan being chased through the green green leaves of New Jersey will have you in awe (especially when you compare the same footage with the old VHS tapes we used to have to watch). In fact, the movie looks rather new — and the only thing that really dates it would be the clothes, the hairstyles, the automobiles, the actors, the music…
Speaking of music, Harry Manfredini’s iconic “Ki-ki-ki, Ma-ma-ma” score (as well as his blatant “borrowing” of the Psycho theme) comes through loud and clear with the Blu-ray’s new 5.1 TrueHD soundtrack. Unfortunately, like so many other companies have been doing lately, Paramount seemed to forget that there are two rear speakers included in your average 5.1 setup and, as clean and clear as the new mix sounds, it doesn’t completely satisfy. Also on hand for your listening pleasure is the original English Mono Stereo, along with additional Mono Stereo tracks in both French and Spanish. Subtitles for all three languages are also included.
Moving onto those extras I’m sure you’re wondering about: first off, most of them are indeed presented in High Def (with the exception of two, which will be noted with an SD). Special features for Friday The 13th, Uncut begin (like all special features should) with an audio commentary with director Cunningham, composer Manfredini, writer Miller, actresses King and Palmer, editor Bill Freda, and assistant editor Jay Keuper. This track has been imported from the Region 2 UK issue and appears to be a patchwork job that has been compiled from several separate interviews.
Next up in the Land of Bonus Goodies are a slew (heh) of featurettes: "Friday The 13th Reunion" is taken from a September 2008 convention wherein a lot of unbathed-looking fans (I’m kidding, kids) listen to and ask questions of Tom Savini, Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Victor Miller, Harry Manfredini, and actor Ari Lehman (cinema’s first Jason). As great as it to see these folks together after 28 years, the featurette covers mostly material we learn throughout other special features on this disc and is so poorly put together that it comes off as being kind of “Huh? What?”
Additional featurettes include "Fresh Cuts: New Tales From Friday The 13th" (another Q&A session, this time including Robbi Morgan); "The Man Behind The Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham" (the title of which should be a giveaway as to what it’s about); "Lost Tales From Camp Blood: Part 1" (an amateur horror short that is mostly unrelated and mostly unwatchable if you don’t like amateur horror shorts); "The Friday The 13th Chronicles" (SD), a carryover from the older SD-DVD release; and "Secrets Galore Behind The Gore" (SD), which gives Tom Savini a chance to discuss his masterful work.
The last extra is the film’s original theatrical trailer, which is an exploitation cinema masterpiece in itself.
So, with a whopping ten seconds tacked back on and a new High Def transfer to boot, is Friday The 13th, Uncut on Blu-ray worth it? Well, of course it is! I mean how else will you find out how to play Strip Monopoly?