Monday, July 02, 2007

These Are Jason's Woods

Friday, August 13, 1982—time for another FRIDAY THE 13TH movie. And in 3D. The surprising box office grosses of a junky Italian western called COMIN’ AT YA! made the concept of 3D movies hot like it hadn’t been since its faddish flameout in the 1950s. Paramount actually wanted to film its first STAR TREK sequel in 3D (man, that would have been cool!), but instead trusted its bulky equipment and stressful shooting schedule to director Steve Miner, who was rewarded for the success of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 with the opportunity to helm the next in the series. It was probably the most difficult job of Miner’s career, as difficulties with the untested equipment, shooting delays, and much reshooting of scenes to get the focus correct and the special effects functioning properly caused the production to drag on for long hours over many months. The result of the cast and crew’s hard labor was an efficiently frightening picture that works even in 2D. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III has never been released on home video in its original form, but some who have seen theatrical 3D prints consider it to be among Hollywood’s most effective 3D accomplishments.

On the day after the events of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, more young people head out to the Crystal Lake area to party, get high, have sex and die. The Virgin Who Vanquishes Jason At The Climax is Chris (Dana Kimmell, also in LONE WOLF MCQUADE that summer), whose groovy van (complete with shag carpeting) contributes to the exciting finale, as it runs out of gas and threatens to fall through a wooden bridge with masked madman Jason Voorhees (6’3” stuntman Richard Brooker) in foot pursuit. Chris' comrades include her sex-crazed boyfriend, a perpetually horny couple, a Latina, a fat nerd prankster and a racially diverse trio of bikers who pop into the story for the sole purpose of becoming Jason fodder. The more creative gore effects include a spear in the eye, a snake leaping out, and an eyeball being squeezed from its socket. That said, PART III is less gory than its predecessors, but the 3D effects provided an extra “jump” factor.

In terms of story and structure, writers Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson pretty much follow the tried-and-true formula created by Sean Cunningham in the 1980 original. Characterization and logic go out the window and are replaced by a body count of a dozen or so. What differentiates this sequel from the others is the 3D, which appears to have been well-handled by Miner, who shoves as much as he can into the camera lens, be it a sharp blade or a potful of popping corn. I say "appears", since I have only seen the film in 2D on DVD; however, the novelty of seeing ordinary items thrust into my face for no apparent purpose whatsoever lends a campy sheen to the film, and Gerald Feil's cinematography is clear enough to enjoyed without the benefit of cardboard glasses (which is more than can be said for many 3D features of the era).

Harry Manfredini returns to score the proceedings, replacing his sinister-sounding main theme with a driving disco number that punctuates the in-your-face opening titles. Miner filmed in California, the third different location to represent the Crystal Lake area; fitting, perhaps, since Brooker was the third different actor to essay the Jason Voorhees role.

Paramount released FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER two years later, but you know better than to believe that, right?

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