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HTF DVD REVIEW: Friday the 13th - The Series: The 1st Season (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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Friday the 13th - The Series: The 1st Season
Directed by William Fruett et al

Studio: Paramount
Year: 1987-1988
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 1180 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
Subtitles: CC
MSRP: $ 54.99

Release Date: September 23, 2008
Review Date: September 26, 2008


The Series

3/5

You’ll look in vain for Jason Vorhees to come creeping from behind the shelves and cases in the old antique shop that forms the setting of Friday the 13th - The Series. No, the hit syndicated horror anthology series merely borrowed the name and the suspenseful ambiance from the famous cycle of Paramount slasher films. As with most anthology shows (even classic ones like The Twilight Zone or Thriller), the episodes vary in quality and effectiveness. At its best, it can be creepy and startling. But in most cases, the hour long nature of the series (with running times of basically forty-five minutes) cause many stories to be padded that would have played like gangbusters if the show had only been a half hour.

Two cousins Ryan Dallion (John D. Le May) and Micki Foster (Robey) inherit from their uncle a curio shop with a most interesting history. Their Uncle Lewis (R. G. Armstrong) had bought and sold evil, cursed relics for years in a deal he made with the devil. With the shop now in their hands, the two cousins along with magician Jack Marshak go about trying to round up the wicked artifacts before they can inflict more damage on the world than they’ve already caused. The objects run the gamut from a lady’s compact whose glare can make someone fall instantly in love but turn the holder into a killer to a teacup whose ivy design can turn into a lethally strangling vine (this done years before The Ruins). Almost every one of these cursed curios involve murderous death, and while the censors at the time skirted around showing anything too graphic, there’s more than a little mayhem attached to every one of these episodes. There are some derivative episodes to be sure: “The Inheritance” involves a possessed, evil doll, similar to Talking Tina in “Living Doll” on The Twilight Zone. “The Pirate’s Promise” is a tiny bit reminiscent of The Fog. But despite the padded running times of most of the episodes, there is a fair amount of invention with these cursed artifacts and more than a few “boo” moments to keep the viewer primed for a good scare.

The actors go through their paces with natural ease and occasional good humor (most welcome since the series itself can be pretty grisly), especially the two young people who have a easy, flirty relationship that’s appealing. Actress Robey (first name Louise which is not used in the opening credits) is decidedly a victim of her time with some of the most ridiculous hairstyles of the era in full display. But it’s nice to occasionally find a really first rate actor appearing in a guest role. In addition to R.G. Armstrong who pops up four times in this first season, you’ll see Cliff Gorman, Carrie Snodgress, Enrico Colantoni, Keye Luke, Ray Walston, Gary Frank, and Michael Constantine.

Here are the twenty-six episodes contained on six discs in this first season set:

1 - The Inheritance
2 - The Poison Pen
3 - Cupid’s Quiver
4 - A Cup of Time
5 - Hellowe’en
6 - The Great Montarro
7 - Doctor Jack
8 - Shadow Boxer
9 - Root of All Evil
10 - Tales of the Undead
11 - Scarecrow
12 - Faith Healer (directed by David Cronenberg; my favorite episode of the season)
13 - The Baron’s Bride (a stylish vampire saga in black and white)
14 - Bedazzled
15 - Vanity’s Mirror
16 - Tattoo
17 - Brain Drain
18 - The Electrocutioner
19 - The Quilt of Hathor
20 - Quilt of Hathor: The Awakening
21 - Double Exposure
22 - The Pirate’s Promise
23 - Badge of Honor
24 - Pipe Dream
25 - What a Mother Wouldn’t Do
26 - Bottle of Dreams


Video Quality

2.5/5

The program’s 1.33:1 aspect ratio is presented as broadcast in this DVD set. Unfortunately, while the transfers appear mostly clean, their overall visual clarity is erratic. Some look as if they’ve been transferred from videotape masters as the image is soft and the color dull. Other episodes seem much sharper with more vibrant color and more solid black levels. Without anamorphic enhancement, aliasing, moiré patterns, and pixilation are all over the place, sometimes to very distracting effect. Each episode has been divided into 7 chapters.

Audio Quality

3/5

The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. There is light hiss with some of the episodes, but otherwise, it’s the expected low fidelity mono track of its era. Some of the ADR work is especially noticeable pairing poorly with the original recording.

Special Features

1/5

There are two launch promos which announced the coming of the series. Together they run forty-five seconds.

A sales presentation which was prepared after the successful launch of the series and was used to peddle the syndicated program to various stations uses clips from several of the stronger episodes including “Shadow Boxer, “ “Hellowe’en,” “Doctor Jack,” “The Great Montarro,” and “Root of All Evil.” It runs 9 ½ minutes.


In Conclusion

3/5 (not an average)

It’s not a great series, but there are a handful of great episodes to be found in Friday the 13th - The Series. Video quality is not always strong, but fans of the show are likely to be pleased that these episodes are available at long last.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC
 

Corey3rd

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The video will always be soft since this is a show that was shot on film, but all the editing was done on video. The titles and the effects are all video based. It's not going to get any better.
 

WaveCrest

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I'm still looking forward to getting my copy of the boxset in the post, after reading the above review just now and the TVShowsOnDVD review yesterday. Fingers crossed the first season set sells well enough for the second season to be released.
 

Duane Alford

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I'm torn whether or not to get it. This is Paramount which means if we get all 3 seasons they'll turn around and put out a Complete Series set with bonus stuff those buying season sets will get screwed out of. But if we don't buy, no season 2.
 

Joe Karlosi

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I know what you mean, Duane. But I'd say take the plunge because you never know.

I'm still waiting for my set to arrive in the mail. I'd like to begin watching the show tomorrow, for Halloween Month.
 

Joe Karlosi

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I got my set and watched the first two episodes. Yeah, they do like like crap. Audio ain't so hot either.

Now a question - what happened to the narration that used to start as the opening of each episode? The show used to have the voiceover saying: "Louis Vendredi made a deal with the devil to sell cursed antiques; but he broke the pact and it cost him his soul..." (etc..) which was accompanied by clips, BEFORE the official "FRIDAY THE 13TH THE SERIES" titles began. I'm wondering if this introduction may have been only starting with Season 2... or is there something missing? Anyone sure?

EDITED TO ADD: - I just saw over at Amazon that fans are saying that the original narration/introduction was cut for the SciFi Channel broadcasts and that these on the new DVD are, in fact, "snipped" of the intro also.
 

Matt Hough

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All of the episodes on the first disc look poor. By the time you get into the later discs, they do begin to look somewhat better.
 

Joe Karlosi

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I hope you're right, Matt. I just suffered through the eps on Disc 1 - they look just awful. Especially A CUP OF TIME, which I just finished... so dark in the night scenes that you can't make anything out.
 

TravisR

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^ Cup Of Tea was a really rough looking one but I'm on disc three and they've gotten better. Not good but better. That being said, I think for the age of the show and its technical limitations, this is the best it's ever going to look.
 

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