FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART 3 - Blu-ray review

...the casting director continued to find young performers who were wonderfully cute people and woefully bad actors.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

The thing is, I always feel sorry for poor old Jason by the end of these movies. I mean, he goes around all through the stories omniscient and omnipotent, killing off people right and left, and then he gets his comeuppance when he confronts one last, helpless, screaming young female, who does him in. Seems kind of unjust.

After Paramount found two low-budget gold mines in "Friday the 13th" (1980) and "Friday the 13th, Part 2" (1981), they decided to give it another try in 1982 with "Friday the 13th, Part III," this time in 3-D. Apparently, the studio remembered all those three-dimensional pictures from the 1950s, like WB's "House of Wax" and Universal's "Creature from the Black Lagoon," and decided to adapt the process for their own modest little movie. Fortunately, on this Blu-ray disc Paramount offer the film in both versions, 2-D and 3-D, so if the 3-D approach and the 3-D glasses bother you, as they did me, you can watch the film in a more traditional format.

"Part III" is pretty much the same as its predecessors: At a remote, woodsy location on Crystal Lake, a maniacal killer, Jason Voorhees (Richard Brooker), murders a group of young people in various gruesome ways. Director Steve Miner, who helmed the previous film, adds nothing new or innovative to the formula. We start with a flashback to the ending of "Part 2," and then we move on to a new batch of youngsters spending the weekend at a small ranch on the lake, apparently near the campgrounds where the two earlier slaughters took place. The bunch includes the all usual stereotypes we've come to expect: the two leads, a girlfriend and boyfriend (Dana Kimmell and Paul Kratka), a designated nerd (Larry Zerner), a pair of hippies, and several other beautiful people. The faces change; the characters remain the same. In the movie's only meager attempt at diversity, there is also a trio of biker hoods who momentarily terrorize the youngsters (Nick Savage, Gloria Charles, and Kevin O'Brien). Guess who gets it first?

Also as usual, we get a slew of red herrings, a common trait of Miner and his screenwriters in these films. They fake us out so many times with false scares that when they actually want to frighten us, we're immune. Composer Harry Manfredini replays his anticipated "Psycho" and "Jaws"-inspired soundtrack music, which by now has become trite but remains one of the best parts of these things. And the casting director continued to find young performers who were wonderfully cute people and woefully bad actors.

Random questions: Didn't Volkwagens have safety glass by the 1970s and '80s? Doesn't Jason have anything better to do than lurk around other people's cabins? Is an old country barn really the best location for a killing spree? If the filmmakers were going to tone down the blood and gore, as they did here, shouldn't they have replaced it with greater tension and suspense? If they were going to rip off other horror movies like "The Shining" and their own "Friday the 13th," shouldn't they have done it more creatively?

Well, at least Jason gets his hockey mask in this one and doesn't have to wear that silly sack on his head anymore. And, as in all good horror movies, you can't keep a good monster down. Shoot him, stab him, hang him, burn him, or bury him, he always comes back for more. It doesn't mean we have to come back, though.

Paramount offer the film in two high-definition versions, one in regular 2-D and one in extra-dimensional 3-D, and they use a dual-layer BD50 and an MPEG-4/AVC encode to do it. I must admit that the 3-D version offers its pleasures, not the least of which is that the gimmick takes your mind off the plot and characters for a while. But a gimmick it is, and after about a half an hour of watching in 3-D, I started getting a headache and continued from there in 2-D. The fact is, the picture quality isn't very good in 3-D, either. It's slightly blurry, with odd, muted colors, the result, no doubt, of having to view it though two different colored lens, red and blue. The filmmakers packed the movie with any number of flashy, often silly 3-D effects, and things like poles, TV antennas, baseball bats, snakes, cigarettes, yo-yos, pitchforks, popcorn, apples and oranges, eyeballs, and the like come popping out of the screen at you; but for me it wasn't worth the effort of trying to refocus my eyes every few seconds and put up with the eccentric hues.

Incidentally, the first six minutes or so of the movie, the prologue, are in 2-D in both versions, so if you're watching in 3-D, be patient until the opening credits roll.

In 2-D the picture quality isn't all that much better than the 3-D, although the colors are a bit brighter and more natural, and delineation is a little sharper. Still, this was a low-budget movie that has seen the passage of several decades, so be aware that you will find a good deal of grain and noise throughout, a generally rough appearance, and only moderate black levels. There are also miscellaneous pieces of debris on the screen or on the camera lens from time to time in both versions.

You can play back the English soundtrack in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, but who'd want to when there is a new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 remix available. The audio quality is much better than the image quality, although it's not by any means state-of-the-art. It has a reasonably strong dynamic impact and a fairly wide front-channel stereo spread, with a warm, firm midrange. There is some nasality in the dialogue and a touch of forwardness in the lower strings, however. As for the surrounds, the new mix uses them primarily for ambient musical reinforcement and, later on, a little wind noise.

The major extra here is the inclusion of the 3-D version of the film, with two pairs of 3D glasses; as I've said, with this format, you take your chances. More traditionally, there is a series of featurettes, all in high def. "Fresh Cuts: 3D Terror" is a thirteen-minute piece with Peter Bracke, author of "Crystal Lake Memories," and others on the use of the 3-D process in the film. "Legacy of the Mask" is a nine-minute bit, again with Bracke and others, on the decision to utilize the iconic hockey mask in the film. "Slasher Films: Going for the Jugular" is a seven-minute item with makeup artist Tom Savini and others on the making of the films. And "Lost Tales From Camp Blood, Part 3" is five more minutes of tedium.

The extras conclude with fourteen scene selections; a 1.78:1 ratio theatrical trailer (HD); pop-up menus; bookmarks; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles, and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Parting Shots:
"Friday the 13th, Part III" is neither better nor worse than the other entries in the series. It follows the same pattern set out by the original movie, with little or no originality or ingenuity added, beyond the use of 3-D and Jason's finding his hockey mask. However, there is one remarkable aspect of the film that bears mentioning: With "Part 2" we got an opening title screen that used an Arabic numeral and then a theatrical trailer that used the Roman numeral "II." With "Part III," we get an opening title screen that uses a Roman numeral and a theatrical trailer (and a keep case) that uses an Arabic numeral. Any little change of pace is a relief in these affairs.


Film Value