Friday the 13th appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. With its serious low-budget origins, I expected little from the picture, but it turned out to offer a reasonably appealing transfer.
Sharpness was usually good. Some shots seemed a little softer than I’d like, but those were fairly infrequent. The majority of the movie offered positive delineation. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and only a sliver of edge enhancement showed up during the movie. Mild amounts of print flaws cropped up through the film. Some specks and spots occasionally manifested themselves. These were never heavy, but they created a few distractions.
Colors presented a moderate strength. I figured they’d look drab and dated, but instead the hues came across as pretty positive most of the time. Unfortunately, blacks tended to be somewhat inky, and shadows could be too dense. This was especially noticeable during the film’s third act, as a lot of the action became tough to discern. While I believe some of the darkness related to the original photography design, I still thought too much of the nighttime material appeared awfully dim. Despite these concerns, I felt the image held up pretty well, especially given its roots.
In addition to the original monaural audio, this DVD includes a new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I also didn’t expect much from it so it turned into a real pleasant surprise. The soundfield boasted very nice stereo music as well as some good use of ambient effects. The thunderstorm provided the most active material, but other elements like vehicles opened up matters. Those aspects of the track even showed the occasional example of split-surround information, such as when a car zipped to the back right speaker. Otherwise, the surrounds mostly reinforced the forward channels and the environmental bits. That was fine with me, as the scope of the soundscape fit the movie.
Though the quality of the audio showed its age at times, it still fared well for the most part. Speech probably sounded the most dated, as the lines tended to be a bit thin. Nonetheless, they lacked edginess and remained intelligible. Effects were pretty clean and clear, and the music usually sounded very good. The banjo-based tune heard early in the movie suffered from dull qualities, but the Bernard Herrmann-influenced stuff demonstrated very nice vivacity. The score elevated the rest of the track and made this a strong “B” mix.
How do the picture and sound of this 2009 disc compare to the 2004 release? Unfortunately, I was unable to directly compare the two; the version I reviewed in 2004 was available only as part of a boxed set called “From Crystal Lake to Manhattan”, and I gave it away years ago.
I do know I was pretty impressed with the visuals of that 2004 DVD, and that may mean it looked better than this one. However, I’d be reluctant to stay that with certainty. For one, I watched both discs on different set-ups, and my current 50” plasma is more revealing than my old 36” CRT was. Also, I expected Friday to look terrible, so I may have forgiven some of its minor sins because it offered stronger visuals than I’d anticipated. I suspect that both the 2004 DVD and this 2009 release look a lot alike, but I can’t make clear judgments since I’ve not seen the former for a few years.
I did rent the original Friday DVD from 1999 and thought that the new disc presented superior visuals. Both suffered from the same concerns – especially the murky low-light shots – but the old disc was a bit dirtier. In terms of picture quality, the 2009 release offered a clear step up when compared to the original 1999 disc.
A more obvious change came from the audio of the 2009 DVD. It offered a new 5.1 remix, while the two prior discs went solely with the original monaural soundtrack. I had no problems with the 1980 mono mix, but I did rather like the new 5.1 edition. Since the 2009 disc provides both the mono and 5.1 tracks, it acts as an auditory “best of both worlds”.
Expect a pretty decent collection of extras here, almost all of which are new to this set. We start with an audio commentary from director Sean S. Cunningham, Crystal Lake Memories author Peter Bracke, editor Bill Freda, screenwriter Victor Miller, assistant editor Jay Keuper, composer Harry Manfredini and actors Adrienne King, and Betsy Palmer. All the participants sit separately for this edited piece. The track looks at Cunningham’s early career and the development of Friday, the script and influences, score and editing, cinematography, cast, characters and performances, ratings concerns, gore and makeup effects, themes and the film’s tone, its success and sequels, and some stories from the shoot.
I know many dislike the “audio anthology” format featured here, especially when it’s as non-screen-specific as this one; the commentary discusses the film’s ending well before we reach the halfway point! Nonetheless, I think this is a very good piece. It covers quite a lot of appropriate topics and does so in a concise, compelling way. Some apparent faulty memories appear, such as when Palmer says she was told not to act like Jack Nicholson from The Shining; since the Kubrick film came out three weeks after Friday hit the screens, I’m not sure how she could impersonate him. Nonetheless, the commentary works quite well and deserves a listen.
After this we find a mix of featurettes. Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th goes for 14 minutes, eight seconds and provides notes from Miller, Manfredini, makeup effects artist Tom Savini, and actors Ari Lehman and Robbi Morgan. “Cuts” covers the movie’s origins, cast and performances, stunts and music, the flick’s ending and its success. Essentially “Cuts” acts as a repository for little nuggets of information that didn’t make the commentary. It’s not the most cohesive collection, but it’s interesting.
We learn more about the director via The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham. It lasts eight minutes, 58 seconds, and features Cunningham and his son Noel. We learn about the elder Cunningham’s career and the impact Friday had on his life. He repeats some of the info from the commentary but he throws out a few decent notes here.
We catch up with movie alumni in A Friday the 13th Reunion. During this 16-minute and 44-second piece, we see a September 2008 panel gathering that collected Savini, Miller, Lehman, Palmer, Manfredini, and King. They talk a little about how the various participants came onto the project, characters, the ending, and the impact the flick had on their lives. Expect a few more stories already heard elsewhere, though we do get a smattering of intriguing tidbits such as the one about how the Friday producers tried to get Palmer to appear in some of the series’ other entries.
In addition to the flick’s theatrical trailer, the set finishes with Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part 1. The show runs seven minutes, 32 seconds and provides some new Jason mayhem. It’s pretty pointless, as we see a couple of quick killings and little else. Maybe “Part 2” will be more interesting, but I doubt it.
Horror fans owe the original Friday the 13th a debt since it heavily influenced their favorite genre. As a movie, however, it doesn’t work particularly well. It lacks creativity and comes across as slow-paced and cheesy. The DVD presents generally good visuals along with surprisingly positive audio and a few nice extras. I don’t care much for the film in question, but I think Friday fans will feel pleased with the manner in which the DVD replicates the movie.
To rate this film visit original review of FRIDAY THE 13TH