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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Friday the 13th (uncut) [Blu-ray]


(Sean S. Cunningham, 1980)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Paramount Pictures

Video: Paramount Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 1:35:27.722

Disc Size: 40,763,657,652 bytes

Feature Size: 28,171,241,472 bytes

Average Bitrate: 39.35 Mbps

Chapters: 15

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 3rd, 2009




Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



Dolby TrueHD Audio English 2879 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2879 kbps / 24-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps



English SDH, English, French , Spanish, none



• Commentary by Director Sean S. Cunningham with Cast & Crew
• Fresh Cuts in HD (14:07)
• The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham in HD (8:58)
• Friday the 13th Reunion in HD (16:45)
• Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part 1 in HD (7:31)
• The Friday the 13th Chronicles in SD (20:34)
• Secrets Galore Behind the Gore in SD (9:32)
• Theatrical Trailer in HD




Description: Friday the 13th is an American horror franchise that consists of eleven slasher films, a television show, novels, comic books, video games and merchandise. The franchise is mainly based on the fictional character of Jason Voorhees, who drowned at Camp Crystal Lake as a boy due to the negligence of the teenage counselors. Decades later, the lake is rumored to be "cursed" and is the setting for a series of mass murders. Jason is featured in all of the films, either as the killer or as the motivation for the killings. The original film was written by Victor Miller, and was produced and directed by Sean S. Cunningham; later films brought in others for these positions. Originally created to cash in on the success of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978),[2] the success led Paramount Pictures to purchase the full rights to the Friday the 13th franchise.




The Movie: 5

If you've ever been to summer camp, you'll remember the obligatory scary story around the campfire. There's something about that flickering light across our faces, the blackness beyond the ring of campers, the soft-spoken, cold-blooded delivery of the counselor telling the story – usually a tale about a prior evil that threatens to return and snatch naive children as they walk back to their cabins or tremble under their covers. Such stories are a kind of rite of passage, and waking up the next morning unharmed was enough to shake one's belief in Santa Claus.

I think that transposing such an event to the cinema works in the same way only if the person we identify with isn't actually killed, and certainly not if the killing is explicit. But, then, the target audience for Friday the 13th and its relentless sequels and spin-offs is much older. For them there is no fearful walk back at night to their cabins. No, the intent here is quite different: it is intended to work as a kind of sadomasochistic foreplay to the inevitable sex that is expected to follow. It is, with one's date clinging to your arm while the other reaches for gobs of popcorn, the ultimate date movie.

Perversely, the campier the movie, the more effective it is in its objective. If it's too realistic, too explicit, the dating audience will require something more to numb their fears. Sex alone, even with the assistance of a six pack, probably won't cut it. So even while the sequels speak to this same audience, the effect is different as the gore becomes bloodier, as the hapless victim become smarter but falls to the knife all the same. The titillation is more likely to have run its course when the audience leaves the theatre.

Friday the 13th takes place over a 24-hour period at Camp Crystal Springs as part of the staff make preparations for the kids expected to arrive in a few days. Crystal Springs has earned its reputation as "Camp Blood" following a series of deaths and killings some years ago. This is the first summer in some while that the owners set out to beat the odds. Steve Christy is determined to whip his randy teenage crew into shape and get the mechanics of the camp in full working order. But first he has to leave on an errand in town for the better part of the day, after which the six or seven remaining counselors are dispatched by an unseen hand. One of them doesn't even make it to camp: Annie, the cook, has her throat cut after ignoring warnings by the local townspeople, whose relationship to Crystal Springs is not unlike the Transylvanian village to Dracula's castle.

What I found interesting about these victims was that, except until the last one, none of them suspects they are being cut down until it is too late. There might have been suspicious sounds in the night and power going off and on, but no one knows there is a killer loose on the premises. But the director makes certain they remain ignorant of the danger. Each one is killed as he or she naturally separates him or herself from the others – to go to the bathroom or their cabin and the like. It's like they don't have a chance. For the most part they don't even get to run. Surely there's a point to all this, I asked myself.


There is one idiot girl who chases down a faint cry for help through the woods in the middle of the night in the rain in her nightgown, but she is the exception, not the rule. And then there is the last girl standing who gets the upper hand not just once, but three times, and routinely runs away without ever thinking of tying up her unconscious assailant (who ties up our own loose ends eventually.) Such fools, we might say to ourselves, deserve to die. Of course, we make this pronouncement in the safety of our living rooms.

In any case, Friday the 13th takes its mood from its setting: it is the very definition of "camp." While not exactly a comedy, the movie certainly is funny. I can't say why exactly, considering the subject, but it isn't really mean-spirited, on part because it is not really sexist. The killer is an equal opportunity murderer. The fact that the music is so predictive and the script is so lame (though I've encountered much worse in the genre, then and now) and the line readings often more so, keeps matters light even as events intend to scare us.

Friday the 13th is hardly what we would call a good movie. But it's no Blair Witch Project either. It's shot with clarity on good film stock and with good audio (astoundingly so on this Blu-ray), even though the lighting doesn't always correspond to real events. The movie isn't nearly as suspenseful as Halloween, whose success was the direct inspiration for this movie, nor does it have John Carpenter's narrative drive. Of course, there is that ending (Be still, Carrie)! But, talent aside, I think the success of Friday has much less to do with its artistic merit than it does its, perhaps unconscious, effect on the audience.

By the way, in keeping with the commercialism of the Friday the 13th franchise, the "Uncut" version has an additional 10 seconds of what one could hardly call "footage" not contained in the "R"-rated original.



Image : 7/8  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

What surprises me about this image was how solid it is. Scenes shot in good light are outstanding: clear, sharp, nicely resolved with sensible color. A considerable part of the movie takes place at night, but only a little of it is shot in shadows that someone, unwisely, I thought, felt necessary to brighten, resulting in a proportional degree of noise. In those nighttime shots where the shadows are allowed to go to black there is no noise to speak of. The noise is really the only niggle worth complaining of. Otherwise, a very good image, indeed.

Note that the cover does not indicate the aspect ratio. Amazon lists it incorrectly at 2.35:1. It is clearly 1.78:1.















Audio & Music: 7/4
This Blu-ray includes the original English mono in Dolby Digital and a new uncompressed Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that simply doesn't seem possible could come from the original masters. While the dialogue is a little less focused than the mono, it is nonetheless clear. But the music track – that's another story. It is so bold and dynamic, I'm not even sure it is appropriate for the otherwise B-movie that Friday the 13th is. However once we give ourselves into this new sonic reality, I must say it is very effective. Since the music makes its presence known generally only when the killer is lurking about, it becomes a razor sharp accomplice in the killings. The surrounds are given a modest amount to do, supplying an immersive experience (very effective as Christy drives back to camp in the pouring rain), if not an entirely compelling directionality to events. As for the blatant and risible rip-off of Bernard Herrmann's music for Psycho, with its chanting of heavy breathing, I can only say it made a significant contribution to Friday's campiness.





Operations: 7
They're not animated, nor do they provide any detail about the extra features, but the menu is a breeze to operate. Thanks.

Extras: 6
The new Blu-ray includes a new full-length commentary hosted by Peter Bracke (author of a book about the Friday the 13th movies) that culls interview bits with the director and assorted cast and crew that takes a historical look at the making of this peculiarly historically significant phenomenon. There are also two self-explanatory bonus features in SD. New for this Blu-ray are four (count them!) extra features in HD and not all are a complete waste of time. "Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part 1" is a new short film (mercifully, very short), written and directed by Andrew Ceperley, that promises to be the first of a series of such exercises in gore for the following sequels. But the other three bonus items have much more to offer. "Fresh Cuts" is a collection of remembrances by the writer, Ari Lehman ("the original" Jason), Robbie Morgan (Annie, the hitchhiker), and Tom Savini (makeup designer). In "The Man Behind the Legacy," Sean S. Cunningham talks about what was on his mind when he made the original movie and how he feels now about the many sequels it spawned.

Finally, the 2008 Reunion is a fascinating exercise in the manufacture of a media event. Let's hear it for Betsy Palmer (Mrs. Voorhees), now 82, who manages to inject some life into a party threatened by the likes of Victor Miller, Tom Savini and Harry Manfredini (composer) and who appear to have made their speeches one time too many. Alas, Betsy and Adrienne King (Alice) were the only cast members who showed up. The reunion is actually a panel discussion in front of a live audience of fans who are given plenty of opportunity to ask questions. Worth a visit.



Bottom line: 7
Friday the 13th may not be a very good movie, but it certainly is historically important – and that in itself makes it worth watching – or, more likely, rewatching. The picture quality, except for the occasional face full of noise, is very good and the soundtrack is, well, like you've never heard it before – and that's an understatement!

Leonard Norwitz
January 17th, 2009









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