I became a fan of horror movies early on in my life, starting out with the Universal Studios Monsters and their ilk on the various Chiller Theater type shows during the weekends of my youth. In 1978, Halloween turned me on to a new kind of horror movie - the R rated slasher movie!
In those pre-internet days, we had TV advertising and word of mouth from kids like my cousins, who got to go see most horror flicks opening weekend thanks to my aunt and uncle, both big time horror junkies. One movie I was itching to see was this new scary killer movie Friday the 13th.
SPOILER ALERT - From this point forward I'm going to be chatting about all of the Ft13 movies - and I'm definitely going to be revealing a fair amount - so if you've never seen them and hate spoilers - this post is not for you!
The movie came out Friday, May 9th, 1980. When my parents announced they were going to go see some movie released in the spring of 1980 - not entirely sure what it was, but the odds were pretty good it was Tom Horn, starring Steve McQueen - I saw in the newspaper ads that it was playing at The Saluki, a two screen theater in nearby Carbondale Illinois. I charmed and cajoled my way into a solo trip into that other theater to see the movie while my folks hunkered down with Mr McQueen next door.
|The Saluki Theater, circa 1982|
Well, when I walked into the theater it was obvious that the previous show was still screening, as the auditorium had no lights on. The theater was brightly lit, however, because it was a daylight scene on the big screen. There was a young woman in a canoe, obviously the lone survivor in the closing moments of the flick. I went ahead and grabbed my seat as she slowly awoke. Here's what I saw as I sat:
So, yeah, no problem, the scary stuff's over, and I will have this wrapup and the credits to get myself ready for the horror to come my way when my showing starts. I needed that time too - at my tender age and with only Halloween under my belt, seeing one of these scary movies was like going on a rollercoaster - I was looking forward to it, but hoping it wouldn't be too much for me to take - so yeah, I needed to compose myself.
Then this happened:
Twitching and mumbling, I popped up out of the seat even as Alice is waking up in the hospital, made my way up the aisle, out and quickly over to the other theater, where my parents sat in the well lit silence that used to be movie theaters before the movie started - no slideshow, no video clips, no movie trivia, and no hot new dance track playing - and sat down beside my parents. "I'm not sure I can do this." I tell my mom what I've seen. She offers the only other option - I can stay and watch their movie. This isn't really an option. I have to go back in there and face the fear. And truth be told, just like those rollercoasters when the ride's over - I was looking forward to it! So I tromped back over as the last of the credits moved up the screen and planted my tush back in that seat.
I got to tell this story to Adrienne King recently when we spoke on the phone - it was wild to hear her laugh at my story about her movie scaring me. Almost surreal.
But I made it through the movie just fine, in the end. And you know what, when we got back to the end - even knowing it was coming - Jason got me again! I jumped like a Mexican jumping bean when he popped up the second time too!
|Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer). Loving mother. |
Batcrap crazy killing machine.
|Yes, with several weapons and a |
not-very-flattering face sculpt.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie - it's rough around the edges, but it has a nice feeling of dread throughout, and Betsy Palmer kicks ass as the crazed Pamela Voorhees.
Back around this time I became that kid when I became kind of known as the guy who tells horror movies - verbal recreations of the flicks I'd gotten to see that the other kids in my circles hadn't - in those crazy hazy lazy days before home video or the internet...if you didn't see it in the theater you were kind of out of luck, at least until the movie played on television. And these movies didn't play much on television back then - too many R rated elements. Halloween was a popular item in my repertoire, Friday the 13th became another. I was especially proud of my verbal performance of the "arrow through the neck" scene.
Almost exactly a year later, the sequel appeared, on May 1st, 1980:
This one ended up playing at the very same theater, the Saluki Twin in Carbondale Illinois, so it was another split viewing experience - my parents seeing something in theater one while I went solo in theater 2 with Part 2. The experience was much the same for me - anticipatory terror at whether I could handle what I was about to see - followed by handling what I saw just fine.
|Masked: Steve Daskawicz|
|Unmasked: Warrington Gillette|
For years, I thought Warrington Gillette appeared in every Jason filled frame of Ft13P2, but now know that he only appears in the Final Jump scene, when he leaps through a window sans head-covering bag. For all the rest of the movie, stunt performer Steve Daskawicz is the guy on view. Both are fine, though neither top my list of Best Jasons.
|Yes, with pitchfork and natty|
This time, however, two things were different: I had definitely read the Ft13P2 article in Fangoria #12, which supplied spoilers for lots of what I saw that night; and I was disgusted to find out the biggest slasher involved in the whole enterprise was the Motion Picture Association of America, which demanded all the graphic gore be cut from the film prior to release. As a newly minted teen gorehound, this did not make me happy.
Also, there were discrepancies that started to rear up in this series as early as this entry - and they only got worse as time wore on - for example: Mrs. Voorhees poisoned a well, started fires, and eventually killed about a dozen people, all because her beloved son had drowned in 1957. So, having successfully prevented a return by Momma V with an onscreen beheading, who do the filmmakers turn to for their new killer? Why, that very same beloved son! So, while you can easily explain Alice's vision of a waterlogged Jason popping up at her as a dream - she does wake up in the hospital, after all - are the filmmakers trying to tell us that Jason went into the lake in 1957, and somehow washed up on the opposite shore or something? Then spent 23 years living off the land in the woods around the camp? And somehow forgot to go see his mom or tell her he was okay? Well, don't ask the filmmakers - because from what we get onscreen they'd answer by pointing off into the distance and yelling "Look!" Then when you turned back they'd be gone. So, it's at this point - the second film in a cycle of eleven plus one remake, that you have to turn off your logic circuit and just go with it.
But I gotta ask one more question - the opening scene of Part 2 features a shock moment with Pam's head turning up in a fridge - so again, we're supposed to believe Jason isn't aware/smart enough to let his mom know he survived for almost a quarter century, but he can not only track down the only survivor of his mom's murderous rampage sans internet, but also somehow manage to steal her head from the scene of her demise? Man, now that I think about it - that must have been quite a crime scene for the forensic boys, huh? Yeah, I'll bet the Crystal Lake Police Department still rings with the legends about the guys who investigated over at Camp Crystal Lake on Saturday, June 14th, 1980...
Still, director Steve Miner does well with a more slickly made sequel that has grown on me over the years, climbing high up the list of late.
Although I had ceased performing horror movies for my friends by this time, a friend actually used to act out one scene from this movie - it was the scene where Ginny (Amy Steel) is hiding under a bed while Jason (Steve Daskawicz) searches the room for her. Describing it further here wouldn't be one bit funny, but seeing my pal Dave act the whole sequence out, complete with Jason grunts of pain when the chair he's standing on breaks and dumps him to the floor, always had me rolling on the floor... with laughter.
One year later again...but late summer this time, Friday August 13th, 1982 to be exact...
Oh man, was I lying in wait for this one! Once again, a big spoiler-filled article in Fangoria magazine (I was a subscriber by this point) had prepped me for this movie, especially since it was in 3-D!!!!
3-D had made a blitzkrieg return to the pop culture radar a few months previously with the first attempts to send out 3-D on television, with syndicated showings of Gorilla at Large and The Mad Magician in red/blue analglyph 3-D; and the theatrical release of the "hit-the-nail-on-the-head" titled Western Comin' at Ya! I had gotten to see Comin' at Ya!, and I was enraptured by this 3-D stuff, which in the theater was not red and blue lenses and weirdly colored movie, but like modern 3-D, smoky polarised lenses that did cut down on the lighting, but added that wonderful third dimension.
|Unmasked, and looking for a bandaid for that scalp wound.|
Richard Brooker got the best credit for Jason - "And Richard Brooker as Jason" and proceeded to back that up with a fine hulking performance - and he takes his spot in film history as the first Jason to wear the hockey mask! Definitely one of my faves of the series.
|Yes, in a premium format figure with a price tag that |
might make your wallet feel like it was axed.
I got to see this one twice at Toler Cinema in Benton Illinois. I don't remember the circumstances of the first one - I think it was a "drop off with friends viewing." The second one came about after I talked up the spectacular 3-D to my mom so much that she and her friend decided they wanted to see it, even though neither were big horror fans.
By the way, I've seen a dozen or two 3-D movies in the theater in my life - 1981-1983, and 2009-now, and this one wins hands down as the best 3-D experience I ever saw. And that's with 30 year old technology trumping the new stuff and double trumping upconversions!
What this movie had that newer ones don't: there was a lot brought off the screen at you - sometimes fast, more often slowly - so the field of depth extended from about your hand stretched out in front of you, back into the depth of the picture, which was deep. Here's what I mean:
|Stuff would come off the screen and stretch out to about here.|
So, when the credits came off the screen - they stretched out to where they appeared to be where my hand is in that picture.
When someone stretched a clothesline pole out at you, or juggled apples up at you, they appeared to come out to the same proximity. Other than one extended shotgun in My Bloody Valentine in 2009, it appears that all the modern 3-D is mostly from the screen's plane extending back in, depth wise, and very little extends off, other than occasional CGI flying objects that are moving too fast to really look cool anyway. I'm not sure why this is, but anyone shooting a movie in 3-D would do well to check out Ft13P3 to see how it should be done. I wish I could tell you the 3-D on the Friday the 13th Part III DVD is as good as it was in the theater - but it's not the polarized lens version - it's been converted to red/blue, which has never worked as well, in my opinion. Maybe the Blu-Ray edition for 3-D TVs will be as high in quality - if it is, I highly recommend watching it in that format.
I can't show you what that excellent 3-D looked like - but here's a promotional Part 3 poster in red/blue - if you have a pair of the glasses lying around - check this out!
The next spring - 1983 - brought us...
Yeah, they didn't make a Friday the 13th movie that year!
So we waited another year...it was Friday, April 13th, 1984....
And this time, they decided it was going to be the last one.
Not sure I believed that even then.
|Ted White, uncredited in the film as he wasn't|
thrilled about appearing in the flick.
|White again. He seems to have warmed up to the idea as|
he does now appear at Friday events at horror conventions.
Ted White surprised me when he didn't take credit - after Richard Brooker got the last front screen actor credit on Part 3 - "And Richard Brooker as Jason" this guy didn't even have his name in the end credits! But if it is true that actions speak louder than words - Ted White's definitely your man! Another one of my favorite Jason actors!
|Yes, with machete and split hand.|
In addition to the usual Fangoria article pimping the movie before its release in the spring of 1984, I got to go to a combination Starlog/Fangoria convention in Chicago. It was a fortuitous turn of events, with my father travelling up for a few days of business meetings for his work, and my mom and I getting to tag along. So, I spent two days wandering around my first science fiction and horror convention. It was pretty wild.
Well, at one point, there was this room kind of next to the dealer's room, where all the merchandise from the various dealers is on display. This much smaller room had kind of caught a few spill over dealers, with five or six more tables of pop culture memorabilia on display. Well, as I wandered through this room, I got to the table at the back of the room. And there's no way today to express the surprise of finding movie makeup effects maestro Tom Savini sitting at this backmost table! Just sitting there! There were a couple of fans standing there chatting. He'd be mobbed today at a convention if he was just sitting around like that! Mr. Savini was surrounded by several makeup effects pieces he'd constructed, like Fluffy, the crate creature from Creepshow; a couple of recognizable severed heads; and best of all, several pieces from the brand-new-in-theaters Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter!
|Fluffy. Yes, I can manage to digress even in pictures.|
I got to shake Mr. Savini's hand, and tell him how much I enjoyed his work. Then came the obligatory photo:
|Tom Savini - makeup master and cool guy.|
After that I attended Mr. Savini's presentation - it was really very cool. He told some great stories from as far back as his early work with Romero, up to stories of the movie he'd recently wrapped - Ft13:TFC. He told us he'd taken the job because Paramount wanted to end the series, despite the profits, as they were kind of embarrassed by the movies and their success. Seemed a little weird to me, but what did I know? I just worked there. In any case, he liked the idea of putting the finishing touches on what he'd started with the first movie, so he signed on.
From The Final Chapter Mr. Savini had brought along the effects cleaver from Jimmy's death - with Crispin Glover's face shape artfully cut out, so the blade would look like it was sunk deep into his head; he had a Jason torso that took Trish's machete chop to the chest; the Jason hand that Trish splits open with the same machete; and another, more articulated Jason torso and head for the big climax. There are pictures of all these things below - but I did have my crappy Instamatic camera with me that day - 110 film, if that tells you anything - and I got a few pictures from a few rows back during the show. No zoom lens in those days. Here's the most Friday-centric:
|Tom Savini showing off that Jason head/torso who took the |
machete hit to the head...fell to the ground...and slid down
the machete blade. BLECH!
And by BLECH I mean AWESOME!
|Jimmy getting cleaved. Ted White yanked the cleaver off|
Crispin Glover's face, and they reversed the film to make
it look like he developed an instant splitting headache.
Note Ted White's off camera hockey mask-less face.
|Here's Crispin Glover showing the cleaver away from set, and the |
prop itself, just as I saw it in Chicago.
|I think this is the non-articulated Jason dummy. |
This one took the machete to the chest.
|Jason shows his open hand policy to Trish.|
|The prop hand today. It was in mint condition in 1984.|
This one jumped up beside the original as my favorite, and may have edged the original out. Director Joseph Zito turned out a gleefully nasty entry with lots of positives, not the least of which was the presence of Crispin Glover, who'd recently come onto my pop culture radar with his appearance on Family Ties and in the TV movie High School USA and feature film My Tutor.
|The Stadium Theater|
Mt. Vernon Illinois
I got to see this one again with my buddies back in Southern Illinois at the Stadium Theater in Mt. Vernon, and in addition to our usual crew, my friend Dave's friend Mark, who didn't hang with us much - came along. The showing turned out to be pitch perfect, with an audience totally into the movie, and some choice verbal jabs being thrown at the movie, including some by my pals. Some of my faves:
(After watching Jason mash about ten people into hamburger, a flashlight beam exploring a basement falls on a rat.)
Mark: A rat? That's disgusting! (Huge laugh from audience)
(After realizing someone has mashed about ten people into hamburger next door, Final Girl Trish enlists her brother in nailing their front door shut.)
Dave: Sheesh! Ya darn dummy! He hasn't used a door in four movies!
(much audience laughter, followed by HUGE audience laughter when a body comes flying through the window next to the door seconds later, opening the house to any kind of invader who could get over the sill.)
That hour and a half remains one of my favorite moviegoing experiences ever, and one of the top times of the whole decade of the 80's for me.
And that wrapped up the series. Friday the 13th was done. Over. Finished.
Yeah, right. With opening weekend box office that would put the entire low budget movie in profit, there was almost no chance Paramount would kill off this cash cow, no matter how "embarrassed" they were. You can always hide a blushing face behind stacks of money!
So, yes, Virginia, there were more Friday the 13th sequels to be seen, but we're going to take a look at them in a continuation of this blog post tomorrow.
Do come back. If you don't, Jason might get angry. And you don't want to make Jason angry.
Until then, you can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Out Of Here!