Friday the 13th - From Crystal Lake to Manhattan
By: Drexl on April 26, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Paramount (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85.1, 2.35:1 (III Only) (16:9 enhanced). English 1.0, French 1.0, English DD 5.1 (VII Only), English DD 2.0 (VI, VII, VIII), French 2.0 (VIII Only). English, Spanish Subtitles. 734 minutes
The Movie
Directors: Sean Cunningham, Steve Miner, Joseph Zito, etc
Starring:Adrienne King, Amy Steel, Kane Hodder, Corey Feldman, etc
Screenplay: Victor Miller, Ron Kurz, etc.
Tagline: 'Eight Films. Five Discs. No Mercy.'
Country: USA
Year: 1980 - 1989
This set contains the Paramount era Friday… movies (with regards to the USA):

Friday The 13th
Friday The 13th Part II
Friday The 13th Part III
Friday The 13th Part IV - The Final Chapter
Friday The 13th Part V - A New Beginning
Friday The 13th Part VI - Jason Lives
Friday The 13th Part VII - The New Blood
Friday The 13th Part VIII - Jason Takes Manhatten

While fans of Michael and Freddy got their respective franchises bundled together in neat, bonus-packed boxsets (in various territories), fans of the Crystal Lake butcher, Jason, were, justifiably, feeling a little short changed. Drip fed the series over a fair few months, Voorhees fans had to make do with 'R' rated prints and featureless releases, much to the annoyance of those wanting to see Jason's handiwork in all it's gore-drenched, unrated glory. Following huge amounts of internet bitching and moaning from fans, Paramount announced the release of a feature-packed boxset of their episodes of the series with the possibility that 'some of the episodes may well be released unrated.' Fingers were crossed in the hope that Paramount would ditch their beloved 'R' rating and deliver the ultimate slasher boxset.

The plot really needs no explanation: a young boy drowns in the lake at a summer camp - cue much revenge-fuelled hacking and slashing of camp councillors from a bitter and twisted relative. One plucky councillor fights back and lops off the head of the person responsible for the mayhem and, figuring that all is now well at Camp Blood (as it will soon be known), waits for the authorities to show up and clean up the mess. (Un)fortunately the boy who supposedly drowned in the lake is on hand to view his beloved's messy end and now bitter, deformed and even more twisted, makes it his life's work to smash, slice and hack anyone foolish enough to come anywhere near Crystal Lake. One of the genre's favourite madmen is born. From Part II onwards, it's the Jason show. The plot is simplicity itself, although various efforts are made throughout the series to throw the tiniest bit of originality into the paper-thin framework - Jason Vs chick with psychic powers, Jason in a major city, Jason in 3D, zombie Jason and even a Jason wannabe. Of course, all of this is secondary to what the series does best, i.e. provide cheap and gory thrills for an audience craving by-the-numbers splatter-y entertainment.

Viewing this boxset, in order, over a weekend, it was quite fun to try and pin-point what makes an effective slasher flick or, in the case of this set, what makes one episode better than another. Part I is an acknowledged classic of the subgenre and differs from the following chapters for obvious reasons but from part II onwards it's really all the same thing - 'boo' scenes, creepy scenes, gratuitous nudity and imaginative kill scenes all lead up to the inevitable showdown with the bad guy at the end. So what makes one chapter better than another? In all honesty, I haven't the first clue. Just to make things even more puzzling, these repeat viewings changed my opinion of a couple of episodes - part V has gone up in my estimation from 'worst episode' to 'pretty good episode' while part VII just wasn't as much fun as I remember it to be. Go figure. If anyone's interested, I still think that the gothic horror influence found in part VI makes it the best movie in the set but the slasher fanatic in me loves 'em all.

Anyone laying down their hard-earned for this set knows exactly what they are going to get for their money. High points are plentiful: Jason's appearance at the end of part I, the introduction of the hockey mask in part III, the terrific graveyard scene at the start of part VI (my personal favourite sequence), the Savini created death sequences in parts I and IV - I could go on but I'm sure everyone has their own personal favourites. The Friday… franchise is easily my favourite slasher series since all the movies are fun and none really disappoint and, therefore, the set makes for a consistently entertaining few hours of brainless fun. Add to this what, IMHO, is easily this particular subgenre's baddest bad guy, Jason Voorhees. I can't believe that that wisecracking bitch Freddy even had the nerve to square up to Voorhees...
The eight movies are spread over four, dual layer, single-sided DVDs. Pop the disc in the player and you are asked to select which film you wish to view. From there you are then taken to the chosen movie's set-up menu to select chapters, audio tracks etc. All films are presented in their correct aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen televisions. The transfers are great throughout the set - print damage is minimal and grain is not intrusive at any point in the set. I can't find fault with any of what's on offer here as the presentation is more than satisfactory although I will mention that my PAL release of part I seems more colourful and detailed than the transfer in this set. (There is another reason for bagging the UK or Australian releases of part I but we'll get back to that.)
Again, of a high standard. The audio tracks are clear and clean with no noticeable background noise or other defects. Parts I - V get good quality mono tracks, parts VI - VIII get stereo tracks and part VII has the added bonus of a reasonably effective 5.1 surround track. The only nit I would pick with the audio is that the sound effects and music seemed overly loud on part VIII, causing me to reach for the volume control a few times while viewing. Other than that, there are no complaints about the audio presentations. All films also carry French language tracks and subtitles in English and Spanish.
Extra Features
The real reason for Friday fans to shell out (again) for this series is found on disc five of the set. Bonus goodies galore.

Firstly we have a few commentary tracks. Part III gets a cast and crew track. Pretty good fun and fairly informative. Part VII gets a commentary from John Carl Buechler and Kane Hodder. Again, a decent enough track but it is quite obvious that Buechler is not a happy bunny. Parts VI and VIII get commentaries from the respective director with Tom McLoughlin's track for part VI being the best commentary in the set - informative and entertaining. It's a little odd that Tom Savini doesn't get to offer a commentary or two since he's heavily involved in the other bonus materials but never mind.

Next up we have 'The Friday The 13th Chronicles', a hefty 8 part documentary covering all of the films in the set. Most of the main players are present and correct - Savini, Hodder, Cunningham, Buechler, Zito, King and Corey Feldman, who is good for a laugh throughout. The time devoted to each film varies, with episode one getting around twenty minutes while part five's section runs for less than ten minutes. As far as these things go, "…Chronicles" is both interesting and entertaining and it's long running time flies by. It was pretty interesting hearing the DOP from part three talking about the difficulties and differences encountered when shooting in 3D. Good stuff. I'm not so sure that I'll ever view this feature again but it's a welcome addition and a worthwhile feature for Friday fans.

'Crystal Lake Victims Tell All!' follows next. Playing a little like Friday the 13th Confidential, this feature shares some behind-the-scenes stories from the shooting of the movies. I can't figure out why this wasn't simply included in the previous feature but never mind. At 15 minutes, it's another worthwhile addition to the set.

'Secrets Galore Behind The Gore' is a three part feature dealing with the special effects created for parts I, IV and VII. Buechler, Hodder and Savini share some of the secrets of their trade and Savini also gives the viewer a fascinating tour of his special effects school. Excellent stuff and essential viewing for gorehounds.

'Friday Artefacts And Collectibles' is a short feature showing some of the souvenirs that cast and crew members have 'borrowed' from the series. A bit of a space filler and nothing more but it does contain one amusing story concerning Jason's tombstone from part six, the director's garden and a thoroughly spooked meter-reader.!

Carried over from the single disc releases we have the promo trailers for each of the films. All get theatrical trailers except part six, which has to make do with a teaser trailer.

The final extra on the set is, probably, the most eagerly awaited. When the final specs. for this set where announced, fans of the franchise were looking forward to the 'Tales From The Cutting Room Floor' featurette and the opportunity, at last, to see what the MPAA didn't want you to see. (Not in the comfortable surrounds of the 'R' rating at least.) Parts I, IV, VI and VII all get a mention in this feature. Part IV can be considered first since it only contributes non-gore footage, in decent, full-frame condition. The other three films offer the gore scenes rescued from the censors, shown in split-screen to allow a comparison between the release print and the uncut print. The material from the first chapter is in excellent condition which is not surprising considering it's availability in other territories. (Australia, The UK and the Far East all have uncut releases - go buy one of them as well.) Oddly the full version of Annie's death is ignored for some reason. Part six had a shit-load of gore hacked out of it prior to release and it's available here to view in average condition. Part six is my favourite episode and this material should be cleaned up and reinstated - pronto. There is some great gore here which would only make an excellent episode even better. Lastly we have footage from Buechler's legendary workprint for part seven. The MPAA must have had kittens when this was run past them in the hope of gaining an 'R' rating. Virtually every kill is extended and the nastiness is cranked up to the max. Part seven, in it's complete print, would be an absolute bloodbath. (The full version is occasionally screened at film fests and fan events.)

So that's it for the (extensive) bonus goodies. It's nice to see the gore footage (or some of it) presented at long last, even if it still smacks of compromise. The packaging for the set is a neat little embossed slip case which houses the five slim-line DVD cases. There are no inserts or chapter lists present. Each of the DVD cases carries the 'R' rating three times, just to hammer the point home and the 'Eight films. Five discs. No mercy' tagline is as lame as they come - it must have been work experience week at Paramount when that little gem was dreamed up.
The Verdict
So, to buy or not to buy? If you don't own the single disc releases then it's a bit of a no-brainer, assuming that you are a fan of the slasher subgenre of course. Good audio and video presentation throughout, entertaining movies, cool packaging (dig those slim-line DVD cases) and a fair few hours of extra features make this a value for money set. The question becomes a little more difficult when those who have already bought the single disc editions are considered. There is always eBay of course. Bung those bare-bones discs onto the world's favourite scrapyard to help fund the purchase of this set - that's what I did. It certainly helped ease the pain and expense of having to double-dip to get my hands on those bonus goodies. So are the extra features worth all the hassle? I guess so. I can't say I will revisit many of them in a hurry but they are plentiful and interesting so perhaps they do justify the upgrade.

Of course, the major let-down is the lack of any extended versions, or uncut versions to be more precise. Since at least two of the movies are readily available in their full strength cuts it's disappointing that they aren't found in this set. When MGM released their Special Edition of Brian DePalma's Dressed To Kill a year or two ago, the disc carried the MPAA approved cut of the film as it's main feature and the uncensored version as a bonus feature. This enabled MGM to rate the disc 'R' and, therefore, successfully shove it on the shelves of you-know-which videostore chain but still provide fans of the film with that they wanted - the untampered with print of the film. This neat little ploy could have been quite easily copied with this release but, sadly, it wasn't to be. To my mind this is inexcusable and will probably mean that a fair few fans will avoid this set like the plague.

As for the score. Well, I feel I must rate the set for what it is, rather than what it could have been. I'll push my grumbles concerning the commercial decision that guided what went on the discs to one side and rate this release favourably because it is of a high standard, both technically and entertainment wise but I'm not sure that all other fans will be so forgiving.
Movie Score
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