If you've been hanging out recently you probably saw Casey's review of the new "Friday the 13th" special edition DVD's for parts 1 through 3. Since we posted that, there's been a lot of chatter as to whether or not these new iterations of the first three chapters in the series are worth the double dip. To say that Paramount, the company responsible for the first 8 films, has a sketchy record when it comes to releasing them onto DVD would be an understatement.
Well, I also got my hands on copies of the DVD's in question, so I'm here to take a look at each one and assess the special features specifically, to tell you what I think. DVD and Blu-Ray versions of all three of these films will be released on February 3rd, 2009. So, here it goes folks.
The original "Friday the 13th" is probably one of the most well known horror titles in pop culture history. As is admitted on the disc several times, Sean Cunningham and Co. were merely trying to copy John Carpenter's "Halloween", since at the time that was making a massive amount of money. Despite this, one has to admit that it's a simple, effective slasher that remains entertaining even to this day.
This is the official "Uncut" version of the film. It has never been released in the states, despite having been let loose overseas for years. The differences are not major, but do amount to a handful of the deaths being slightly snipped. Here, they're restored to their full glory.
The picture on this new release is "Mastered in High Definition" (there's also a Blu-Ray version) and I have to say I'm shocked how good the film looks. Specifically the colors seem to pop more than they ever have, and this new transfer seems to have cleaned up many of the problems with low lighting that have plagued prior versions. Trust me, this cut looks FANTASTIC.
FRIDAY THE 13TH REUNION
This amounts to a taped panel from a convention. I can usually give or take these as special features, but given that these cast of characters are so near and dear to us horror fans, I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised.
The panel includes Tom Savini, Adrienne King, Harry Manfredini, Betsy Palmer, Ari Lehrman and Victor Miller, who co-wrote the script with Cunningham. These are mostly stories that you've heard before, however, there are two things here worth watching for. Betsy Palmer, notorious for not pulling any punches, talks about how she thought the script was "a piece of shit", and figured she'd just get a paycheck and never think about it again. Priceless. Also, Adrienne King opens up about the stalker incident that forced her out of acting after the first film, and made things rather tense on the set of the second. Both things plus some other fun anecdotes make this a nice feature.
Those who own the first DVD will recognize the format of this feature, since it's just like the only special feature on the disc that came with the box set. It's a group of several "Friday" participants, talking about their experiences making the first film and dealing with stardom. There's a few shots from the film intercut here and there as B-roll, but it's nothing too fancy. My favorite part of this feature was the actress who played "Annie" in the film. All these years later she's still cute as a button, and relays an adorable story about how her husband brags that she was "the first one to die in Friday the 13th". I'm not going to lie... I totally would too.
This is a formal, sit down interview with both Sean Cunningham (producer/director of the original), and his son Noel who has since participated in "Friday the 13th" by getting involved with the sequels.
Cunningham is notorious for being fairly quiet when it comes to reminiscing about "Friday". He even addresses that here, saying that it's not that he's not proud of his work, but just that he "likes to look forward" at what the future holds, instead of looking backwards. To his credit, he does humorously admit that the very nice house he's being interviewed in is in many ways "the house that Jason built".
It only runs about 8:30, and personally I could have done with it being a bit longer, but as it is it's still my favorite feature on this disc. Getting Cunningham to speak unabridged on "Friday" is something of a rarity so it's really nice to see him here. Sprinkled throughout the interview as cover shots we see him showing some cool "Friday" memrobilia from his home, as well as some behind the scenes photos which I hadn't seen before.
This one is a freaking head-scratcher people. What it amounts to is a short film featuring two people asleep in a cabin who get killed by Jason. The production values are pretty non-existent, although there are a few gore shots when we see them killed. The kicker that really makes this shitty is that we don't even see Jason, except for a silhouette that you can't really make out. Quite honestly, this is one of the worst special features I've ever seen, which is unfortunate because the energy spent on this could have been MUCH BETTER served going towards something else. I can't even imagine who thought this was a good idea on any level. You're probably sitting there thinking "I don't really understand what he's talking about"... and watching it won't help with that one bit. Convinced of it's badness yet? Good. The worst part is that the "Part 1" in the title is making me concerned that there will be more of this nonsense in the future. Does Paramount really hate me that much?
On its own this DVD is a must have for Friday fans merely for the fact that it's the first time the Uncut version has been released in the US. Add to that the smoking new transfer and some adequate (save one) special features and you've got a pretty sweet deal. I wasn't crazy about the box art at first, but when I got the disc I realized that there is a 3D slip cover which really brings the artwork to life. And, at least this time Paramount used the official "Friday the 13th" font.
Here's where you have to make a choice though. Right now Paramount has special editions of parts 4-6 in the works, and it would take a fool to not realize that they're going to eventually release a new box set full of all these fancy new versions of these films.
So if you own the first box set and wouldn't be interested in buying the theoretical future one, I would cherry pick these and get the ones for your favorites in the series. If you're a completist and can see your future self buying that theoretical box set, I would hold your horses and wait for that.
Whatever you do, this DVD should be in your collection. The choice you have to make is whether you want it now, or as part of a box set yet to come. It's your move, horror fans.