Friday The 13th: The Series: Season 1
When a popular movie is made into a television series there is always a lot of doubts with the fans. Most times something that works on an incredible level for a two hour film will not translate into an hour a week. Sure, there are some notable exceptions like ‘M*A*S*H’ but most times it is a recipe for disaster. These thoughts went through the minds of fans of the cult favorite ‘Friday the 13th’ franchise back in 1987 when it was announced that a series by that name would be shown. It seemed not only unwise but out right foolish to think that TV audiences would tune in each week to watch some demented killer slash his way through guest stars. Since the creator of the new series was Frank Mancuso Jr. who produced all of the many sequels to the original film this seemed like the right way to think about this idea. Fortunately for fans of the horror genre the only relationship the series had to the flicks was the name. It turned out to be an imaginative and well constructed anthology horror series. Unlike most such anthology series on television this one had a central cast to hold the show together and connect the stories presented in each episode. While the series never achieved more than a modicum of success during its three year run it has remained a cult classic in the truest sense and often discussed at horror fan conventions. My fans of the series, myself included, have treasured our old, well worn VHS tapes made off the air over two decades ago. Now, there is hope to replace those tapes with DVDs. CBS-Paramount has released he complete first season to disc. Hopefully it this sells well they will follow up with the next two seasons. If you enjoyed this show back in the day get it to show your support. One the other hand if you never heard of it but enjoy horror then do yourself a big favor and invest in some cutting edge television.
While many fans feel that the quality of the ‘Friday the 13th’’ film franchise diminished with each successive movie this series is completely outside the mythology and scope of those movies. It is a stand alone effort that just happens to share a name and a producer. Mancuso had a solid idea here to bring back the look and feel on those old EC horror comics that many of us loved much to the chagrin of our parents and teachers. There was an old school gothic sense to those pulp comics that is captured extremely well in this show. Most anthology shows on TV present a story each week that is completely independent from each other episodes. In this series there is a thread that ties them together but allows the benefits afforded by an anthology. The premise is beautifully simple and works fantastically well. Lewis Vendredi (R.G. Armstrong) is an antique dealer with a lot of ambition. He strikes up the proverbial deal with the devil to gain fortune and immortality. The catch is he must use his antique store, Vendredi’s Antiques to sell darkly cursed objects. For those who skipped high school French his surname literally means Friday which validates the use of the title to at least some extent. Eventually Louis grew weary of the deadly demands of his part of the bargain and broke the contract. The devil reacted by taking his soul. Upon his death the shop was inherited by his nice Micki Foster (Louise Robey) and her cousin by marriage Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay). The by marriage part of this equation is important since it left the idea that a beautiful young woman and handsome young man could start a romance although this was never really explored here. Unknowingly they continued to sell cursed objects until they were approached by an old friend of Uncle Louis, Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins). He was once a world renowned stage magician and an expert on the occult. At one point he was Louis’ best friend and even helped to gather some of the objects before they were cursed. Now the trio has to get back the objects. This weekly search for the objects provided a new story each week with the opportunity to have some notable guest stars along the way.
Since the cursed objects were indestructible the only way to make them safe was to recover them and store them in a special blessed vault beneath the shop. The store has been renamed ‘Curious Goods’ in a hope to break from the Vendredi name and ill fate. Typically the curse was specific to an attribute of the specific object, images for a camera for example. The curse would grant the owner some manifestation of his or her desires in exchange for the death on an innocent. Very often the desire would be one of the seven deadly sins taken to an extreme level. Having the power conveyed by the object is usually addictive to the owner so getting the object back was not an easy thing to accomplish. In many markets around the country the series was part of a trend called ‘Night Time after Prime Time’ and the show aired after the late news program. This was considered necessary since the series was more graphic in the use of violent images and themes than would be widely acceptable during prime time television.
The first episode served as the pilot and explains the situation and introduces the main characters. It also shows the first cursed object for recovery, a demonic doll that is sentient and kills those that oppose its owner. This episode features Sarah Polley, noted independent actress and director, as the child owner. When the Micki and Ryan first learn they inherited the store she wants to sell it and he reluctantly goes along with the plan. They begin to sell of the inventory but are stopped when Jack comes on the scene and the true nature of the objects is made clear. They use a sales registry that Louis kept to locate the people the items were sold to. Each week they consulted the book and went off to get another object back. One little piece of trivia for fans; the number of the store was 999, the infamous 666 upside down.
Some of the best fan favorite episodes are present in this first season collection. One concerns a scalpel that can be used to cure any disease. The one catch is it has to first be charged with life force by being used to take a life. The surgeon that gets it thinks it is a fair trade and will make him the most famous doctor in history. In one of the most popular stories a scarecrow will ensure good crops after three victims are killed. In another a crib from the Titanic can cure a baby but it has to murder seven people to do so. Each week was macabre and dark. The stories are well crafted and the acting is better than you might think.
The DVD from CBS-Paramount is better than those old tapes you might have. The video is muddy, especially in the numerous night time scenes but the day shots are acceptable considering the age of the source material. The audio is in two channel Dolby Mono and has held up fairly well over the decades. This is a classic of horror television and should not be missed. Like many out there I was elated to find out that a DVD of this series was coming out.