The American Society of Cinematographers

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DVD Playback
Friday the 13th
Magnificent Obsess
ASC Close-Up
Friday the 13th Part 3-D Deluxe Edition (1982)
2.35:1 (enhanced for 16X9 televisions)
Dolby Digital 5.1
Paramount, $16.99

When Friday the 13th Part 2 proved to be an unexpectedly successful sequel in 1981, a third installment in the franchise became inevitable. Equally inevitable, however, was the series’ stagnation if it failed to find a new approach to its slasher formula. The massive popularity of Comin’ At Ya!, a low-budget Spanish import that revived the 1950s 3-D craze, gave Friday 2 director Steve Miner the hook he needed for his follow-up: he quickly convinced the powers that be at Paramount that 3-D was the way to differentiate Friday the 13th Part 3 from its predecessors. The result was a horror landmark that was not only the first Friday to be shot in 3-D, but also the first to use a ’scope aspect ratio and the first to feature the unstoppable killer Jason in his soon to be iconic hockey mask.  It was also the most playful of the Fridays, thanks largely to the filmmakers’ awareness of what their audiences would want from 3-D — the movie was packed with tongue-in-cheek effects that exploited the format, everything from popcorn popping to fists, spears and baseball bats shooting out of the screen.

Audiences laughed, cheered and (when the 3-D extended to bloody body parts landing in their laps) screamed with delight, largely unaware of the massive effort that went into utilizing the specific properties of the 3-D process. Director of photography Gerald Feil, ASC, had already been researching 3-D for months (for an aborted Mike Nichols production of Peter Pan) when he was offered Friday 3, and he put his knowledge to use by designing a visual plan in which 3-D would be used not only for cheap thrills, but also for its expressive possibilities. Working closely with production designer Robb Wilson King, Feil used forced perspective and specially designed sets (many of which were built to give an impression of the walls closing in on the characters) to generate the most striking three-dimensional images possible — an effort that went largely unnoticed at the time because of the admittedly generic screenplay. 

Indeed, the plot of Friday 3, in which an ensemble of actors is introduced only to be killed off one by one by Jason, is as pedestrian as they come, yet if ever there was a genre movie elevated by its execution, this is it — the characters may be one-dimensional, but the film is exciting and energetic in its use of technique to generate suspense. The combination of 3-D and a 2.35:1 frame gives Feil maximum options in terms of using both width and depth to manipulate and surprise the audience as his compositions deftly direct the viewer’s eyes around the milieu in which Jason lurks. This attention given to realizing 3-D’s full potential — from lowbrow gore to more serious considerations of spatial relationships and camera movement — makes Paramount’s shoddy new DVD treatment a serious disappointment. A 3-D video release of Friday 3 has long been a holy grail for Jason fans, but this edition — presented in the anaglyph format with red and blue glasses as opposed to the polarized lenses used on the theatrical release — is not worth the wait. The image is consistently blurry, and the color is drained from Feil’s palette. The famous opening-credit sequence in which the names fly off the scressen is not even presented in 3-D. It is fun to see some of the movie’s signature moments, such as an eyeball that shoots out of the screen and a yo-yo aimed at the camera, in 3-D for the first time since its theatrical release, but the sporadic high points are not worth the headaches created by the primitive 3-D process. Given that Martin Jay Sadoff, the 3-D supervisor on Friday 3, has been vocal about his desire to restore the film using one of the modern digital 3-D processes, it is a shame the disc’s producers seem to have opted for a transfer in which expediency clobbers quality. 

The DVD also features a 2-D edition that is far superior in terms of color and clarity but not a considerable improvement over the version included in Paramount’s 2004 Friday boxed set. On the plus side, the 5.1 surround track is solid, with effective use of the rear channels to reinforce the creepy atmosphere. The disc does not include any extras aside from a theatrical trailer — not even the commentary track and interviews featured on the 2004 pressing of the film. The bare bones treatment is mysterious given the recent supplement-laden special editions of the first two Fridays (parts four through six are on the way later this summer), though fans can fill in some of the gaps with His Name Was Jason, a superb documentary Anchor Bay has released concurrently with the new Paramount discs. This two-DVD package is a treasure trove of interviews with filmmakers and actors from the entire Friday saga, lovingly assembled by genre enthusiasts Dan Farrands, Thommy Hutson and Anthony Masi. It is essential viewing for fans of the series — something that, unfortunately, cannot be said about the flawed “deluxe edition” of Friday the 13th Part 3.

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