A couple conservatively peppy counselors sing in choir and play the banjo around the fire. Not exactly the kind of edgy opening one would expect from a movie with the notoriety of Friday the 13th – but yes, that’s how it all began. It’s 1958 at Camp Crystal Lake. A couple of the counselors sneak off and make a little love upstairs in the cabin, only to be assaulted by none other than the first person camera perspective. Slow motion screaming and then…a faux 3D title comes literally crashing through the screen. Friday the 13th. After that prologue, we jump to “Friday June 13 – The Present” where goshgolly Annie (Robbi Morgan) treks underneath a massive camping backpack through a small city on the east coast. She comes upon a diner. “Excuse me…how far is Camp Crystal Lake from here?” She’s met with silent stares and cryptic comments from the townsfolk. There’s a deep and dark history there that extends far beyond that opening kill.
It may look much better on bigger televisions, but the problem is that there is just way less there. The new Blu-ray and DVD are inexplicably zoomed in a robust 11% compared to the original 2004 DVD (10% compared to the 1999 DVD). This more often than not compromises the simple beauty of a lot of the shots, where previously comfortable group shots suddenly have hands chopped on the bottoms and shoulders on the sides. As the included screenshot shows, it’s a pretty significant crop, and something that Paramount really needs to answer for. Even all the uncut footage has been previously shown without crop, so one would think someone must have misframed, or mishandled this print somewhere down the telecine line. That doesn't look like the case. The cropping seems to change position from shot to shot, so there was clearly a conscious effort here to artistically manipulate the image. The DOP is nowhere to be found on the extras to this disc, so I highly doubt he gave approval - and I can't imagine Cunningham facilitating such a change. Someone went in and changed this, and someone has some 'splainin' to do.
An amalgam of old and new, this new special edition culls from both the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set and the overseas Warner special edition from 2004, as well as serving up some new footage exclusive for this release. It should also be noted that the Blu-ray has two supplements not on the new DVD – “The Friday the 13th Chronicles” and “Secrets Galore Behind the Gore”. Before we get into that though, let’s first cover the real bonus: uncut. The back of the box states “This unrated version contains 10 seconds of footage different from the original R-Rated version,” so this means that we aren’t being shown anything entirely new or groundbreaking, but now, finally, all the kills can be presented intact.
In the uncut version, Annie’s throat slit at the start stays on those extra few seconds as she falls out of frame and it fades to white. Previously, this scene was shown in full on the original 1999 release, but on the version included in the “From Crystal Lake to Manhattan” box set it faded to white almost right after the slash. Mrs. Voorhees’ beheading is also included in its entirety. Previously, on the 1999 version the scene cut almost instantly after the head was severed, whereas this version (and the one included in the box set) shows her headless torso with those male looking hands grasping at air. The longest addition is the Kevin Bacon kill, which for the first time is presented uncut and with a completely different viewpoint previously only shown in cut footage on the 2004 box set. This shot comes right after the profile shot of the throat stabbing, looking up from above. While this includes more blood and a different vantage point, it’s far less convincing than the angle that’s commonly shown, and in ways lessens the impact of the scene. Other than those additions, every other scene seems to be unaltered from previous releases.
Okay, now onto the extras. How does that wedding custom go…something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue? Well, the old includes two previously mentioned Blu-ray exclusives. “The Friday the 13th Chronicles” is the first segment from the feature-length documentary included on the 2004 box set, running about 20-minutes and exclusively on the first film. With interviews with Sean S. Cunningham, Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, and our first Jason, Ari Lehman, it’s a loving recollection of the whirlwind that was the first Friday. Palmer talks about how she thought the script was a piece of shit but agreed to do it for need of a new car. Lehman talks about how his swimming skills were the only pre-req for the job. King talks about the original reception, and Cunningham just can’t quite believe how it’s all become such a million dollar industry. If you haven’t seen if before, the piece at the very least treads water. The same can be said for the other Blu-ray exclusive carry over, “Secrets Galore Behind the Gore”. This one is 9-minutes, and is basically Tom Savini going through each kill and revealing the effects work behind it. Most of it is pretty common knowledge now, but the effects are all so good it’s nice to hear it again, and right from the source.
Something new? This Blu-ray (and the new DVD) has four fresh features fixed for this disc, which are all presented in HD. The first is “Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th”, and it delivers just what it promises – anecdotes that previously haven’t been heard. Savini memorably talks about how he helped stage the final bitch fight, or how he almost shot Sean S. Cunningham with an arrow. Victor Miller explains the motivations behind the scripting process (basically, ape Halloween) and talks about the original title of the film. Harry Manfredini finally talks about his notorious score, like how the final track was actually culled from a pop tune he had made years before. Ari Lehman talks about setting up for the famous finale, but the most surprising, and welcome, addition is Robbi Morgan to discuss her role as Annie and being Friday’s first post-credits kill. There’s a ton of other nuggets from the speakers and for 14-minutes the Friday the 13th anecdote bank gets a bunch bigger. Great stuff.
The next new extra is “Friday the 13th Reunion”, which is 17-minutes from a 2008 panel discussion featuring Savini, Lehman, Miller, Palmer, Manfredini and King. This extra has the benefit of spontaneity, where audience members ask Adrienne King to belt out a scream (and boy, does she deliver) and Betsy Palmer to talk about her declined offer to work on Freddy vs. Jason (“I’m an actress for God’s sake!). It’s all candid, mostly funny, and at times even serious, like when King addresses how a stalker stopped her from fully participating in the sequel. The only complaint is that it goes by so fast – it would have been nice to include the entire event in its entirety rather than truncating it for all the meat and potatoes.
Rounding off the new extras are a few shorter bonuses. The first is “The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham”. It would have been nice to hear him talk more about his career (from doing porn with Craven to making the awesome sex comedy Spring Break to crafting another hit with House to finally getting away from directing), but unfortunately this focuses almost entirely on Friday the 13th and how it paid for the beautiful home he tours us through. It’s 9-minutes of him talking about his reasoning behind making the film purely for profit purposes, and while not boring, it’s more redundant given all the other features. There’s also the trailer presented anew in HD and “Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part 1”, which has the novel idea of making a brand new kill scene using the Friday the 13th trademarks. Although in execution it comes off a little amateur, it’s still cool to see a new death with the Manfredini music. My one big gripe – you don’t even see the killer, let alone the mask. C’mon! Still, a great idea and one of the freshest extras to come around in awhile.
The something borrowed bit includes the commentary track leased out from Warner’s Region 2 special edition. It’s moderated by “Crystal Lake Memories” author, Peter Bracke, and in addition to the usual suspects (Cunningham, Palmer, King) there’s also words from the editor and assistant editor, as well as writer Victor Miller. It’s a big truncated and formal with introductions every time a new speaker is edited in, but they sure cover a lot of ground. Bracke does well in introducing several critical topics of interest to give the anecdotes more weight, like how the film is often embraced by the gay community for its “coming out” parallels and how it differentiates itself from most other slashers.
Blue? Well, the extras are solid and diverse, but there’s still a bit to feel blue about. There’s really no talk on the cinematography and specifically on production. Barry Abrams has always been curiously silent on his work as director of photography and most glaringly Steve Miner still hasn’t come out to talk about this film and the two he directed. More about how the shooting went would have been welcome, too, particularly how all those counselors got along on set. It would have been nice to have heard from more of the actors (come on, Kevin), although at least Annie finally came out of hiding. Forget all those Jason reunions, he’s a guy behind a mask…how’s about a counselor reunion!? This release does well in really archiving discussion from a lot of participants, but at this point it’s still not quite definitive. I look forward to more years down the road, but for now, this will more than fill the void that had been left open far too long.