Directed by Sean S. Cunningham
Written by Victor Miller & Ron Kurz (uncredited)
Music by Harry Manfredini
Special FX by Tom Savini & Steven Kirshoff
Cast: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Mark Nelson, Peter Brouwer, Ari Lehman & Walt Gorney

1980/95 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/US/NTSC Region 1

Review from the Paramount DVD

The year is 1980, the present. The day is Friday, June 13. A group of teenagers re-open an abandoned campsite years after, unknown to them, a young boy drowned in a lake located nearby. One by one, the young and nubile counselors fall victim to a mysterious mostly unseen killer.

Without a doubt one of the most important and (in)famous horror film of all time.

George Lucas highly anticipated sequel to his box office juggernaut STAR WARS and Stanley Kubrick's to be rather controversial adaptation of Stephen King's THE SHINNING were probably the two most anticipated movie of the summer of 1980. But the movie that everyone ended up talking about and seeing was an independently made slasher film called FRIDAY THE 13TH. It is a very interesting story to discover just how that film came to be.

The humble beginnings of the film can actually be traced back to the early 1970s. A graduate from Stanford University with a Masters Degree in Drama and Film, Sean S. Cunningham started out by producing commercials and industrial films. He made his directorial filmmaking debut with the sex documentary THE ART OF MARRIAGE. But it was is next project that began years of friendship that would lead to the famous slasher film. TOGETHER was a pseudo-documentary about sex starring the soon to be porn superstar actress Marilyn Chambers. It was with this film that he began a working relationship with producers Stephen Minasian and Philip Scuderi under their Hallmark Releasing Corporation banner. It was also while working on that film that Cunningham first met and hired Wes Craven, a former college professor, to help him with TOGETHER.

After the surprisingly box office numbers of TOGETHER, Minasian and Scuderi wanted Cunningham and Craven to work on another film. With a budget of only $50,000 they worked on what was first know as SEX CRIME OF THE CENTURY. All dedicated genre fans already know which title this project will have by the time of its release, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. It is also interesting to note that it was in the Hallmark office that Wes Craven first met Peter Locke, who years later would produce his 1977 film THE HILLS HAVE EYES.

Meanwhile it was at that same time that Cunningham met Steve Miner who would go on to be a very important figure in the history of the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise. THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was released in 1972 to huge box office entries. That same year Hallmark also released the classic Spanish zombie film TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD and the infamous exploitation flick MARK OF THE DEVIL. But most importantly for the FRIDAY THE 13TH history was their release of Mario Bava's REAZIONE A CATENA first released as CARNAGE and then TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE. Looking at Bava's classic now and you can see just how much the film actually influenced FRIDAY THE 13TH, especially its extremely inventive death scenes that were recreated in the first two FRIDAY THE 13TH films. Much like Bava's film, the first FRIDAY THE 13TH also has a very giallo feel to it where the unknown mysterious black-gloved killer is replaced with one wearing a ring. And just like every giallo, once revealed the killer in FRIDAY THE 13Th feels the need to explain his evil deeds.

Around 1973 Wes Craven decided to leave for Hollywood, leaving Cunningham in New York. Cunningham tried his luck in other genres but they ended up being mostly failures. But he did met composer Harry Manfredini who scored both HERE COMES THE TIGERS and MANNY'S ORPHANS and would go on to score FRIDAY THE 13TH.

It was John Carpenter's 1978 masterpiece HALLOWEEN that had Cunningham going back to horror. That low budget film quickly became the highest grossing independent film ever. Both Cunningham and Victor Miller studied Carpenter's film very closely.

But the idea of FRIDAY THE 13TH began simply with its title. Cunningham came up with the title while he was sitting around thinking about titles. He hired a commercial artist to design an ad for Variety magazine. It featured the title in big blocky letters, on a black background and glass breaking. Most importantly it read: From the producers of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT comes the most terrifying film ever made. FRIDAY THE 13TH. Available in December.

A tremendous buzz built around the ad, the phone kept ringing with investors wanting the film. Cunningham had no choice but to actually make it happen. A LONG NIGHT AT CAMP BLOOD was the original working title for the film. It was Victor Miller that came up with the name Jason Voorhees. Producer Philip Scuderi insisted that Cunningham had the script reworked by Ron Kurz who ended up uncredited in the final film. The budget was set to $500,000.

The film was shot in the fall of 1979. Tom Savini and Steven Kirshoff were hired to create the magical special effects for the film which ended up being classic among the genre. There is no doubt that these gruesome FX helped elevate the film over the other horror films at the time. Savini and Kirshoff did it all for under $20,000. Another important element of the film was the haunting musical score by Harry Manfredini, especially his "ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma" that became a signature of the series. After assembling an interesting cast, which included soon to be megastar Kevin Bacon and the lovely Betsy Palmer everything was set for terror.

Once the film was finished, a bidding war erupted between Paramount, Warner Bros. and United Artist. Paramount won and bought it for $1.5 million while Warners got the foreign rights. Head of distribution Frank Mancuso at Paramount decided to go all out on promoting the film, which was released May 9, 1980. At the end of its run FRIDAY THE 13TH had grossed $39.7 million at the box office in the United States.

Word to mouth on the film was huge, I personally remember being a kid and hearing older kids talking about it and seeing posters at one of the three local theaters near my home. But it was probably Gene Siskel's passionate hate for the film that drove more people to see the film. Now almost thirty years later, people are still talking about FRIDAY THE 13TH. It has become part of Americana's history and the character of Jason is as weird as it might sound a pop icon.

Paramount has finally released FRIDAY THE 13TH uncut on DVD! For those who really want to know, this so-called deluxe edition restores about 10 seconds of gore, originally cut to get an R rating. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and it is anamorphic. The image looks incredibly good! I was surprised of just how good it actually is. The blacks are solid, the colors are rich and there is no defects, artifacts or compression. The remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track sounds good but nothing exceptional. Thankfully the original English Mono track is included. Also available are French and Spanish Mono tracks along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The disc also features many extras such as a commentary track with director Sean Cunningham with cast and crew members. Everyone was recorded separately so sometimes it feels a little weird, but it is interesting to listen to as I've learned a couple of new things about the film. 'FRIDAY THE 13TH Reunion' is a cool 16 minutes look at a recent convention were Adrienne King, Ari Lehman, Betsy Palmer, Harry Manfredini, Victor Miller and Tom Savini talked about the film to fans. 'Fresh Cuts: New Tales from FRIDAY THE 13TH' is a 13 minutes featurette with interviews with some of the cast and crew of the film. 'The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham' is an interesting 9 minutes interview with the creator of the series. 'Lost Tales from Camp Blood - Part 1' is the first of a new fan made FRIDAY THE 13TH film. Finally there's the incredibly well made theatrical trailer, which still remains one of the best ever made. The disc features static menus with background music. The film is separated in 15 chapters, comes in a keep case which itself comes in a neat holographic cover and without a booklet or inlay card.





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Review by Kim Dubuisson. All Right Reserved. 2009. ©

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