Screamfest: Friday the 13th Part III – 25th anniversary reunion
After launching with the West Coast premiere of George A. Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD on Friday, Hollywood’s Screamfest horror film festival continued on Saturday with a series of short subjects, followed by a violent German murder-mystery titled DEAD IN 3 DAYS. The big event of the day did not arrive until late in the evening: two back-to-back 25th anniversary screenings of 1982’s FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III – in 3D! Thanks to the film’s 3D supervisor, Martin Jay Sadhoff, lucky patrons got to see the film in its original Sirius-Scope process, complete with the souvenir glasses with artwork designed to suggest Jason’s trademark hockey mask (which he wears for the first time in this film). Personally, I would have preferred a complete hockey mask with the polarized 3D lenses embedded in the eye sockets, but I guess you take what you can get.
I was never a big fan of Jason or FRIDAY THE 13TH. I think he ranks as the slasher movie equivalent of the Mummy; somehow he’s earned a reputation as a classic horror character, but he’s really just a big, ugly, slow-moving guy. In fact, PART III was the first film in the series that I bothered to see in a theatre, just because I was a 3D fan. I was not particulary impressed with the movie, but I did have to admit that it was sometimes effective (those sheets on the clothesline, ruffling in the wind, were really spooky thanks to the 3D enhancement, which had you expecting Jason’s appearance at any second).
Consequently, I had my doubts about the value of sitting through the movie again, but the lure of 3D won me over, and the the screening turned out to be a cult-audience experience not to be missed. The battered print (from the 1982 release) jumped and crackled like a trailer for GRINDHOUSE, and time has not been kind to the movie in other ways as well – the execrable dialogue and wooden performances are even more painfully obvious than they were back in the day. But the audience took it all in stride: they laughed at the contrived 3D tricks (which include antennas, baseball bats, and rattlesnakes aimed at your eyeballs); they moaned in mock sympathy whenever nerdy Shelly had another speech about how pathetic he was; and of course they applauded with wild enthusiasm for each of Jason’s kills. It wasn’t quite THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, but it was close.
After the first screening, there was a question-and-answer session with select members from the cast and crew: Larry Zerner, who played Shelly; Tracie Savage, who played Debbie, the obligatory girl who has sex and dies; Paul Kratka, who played Rick, the male lead whose eye pops out in 3D; David Katims, who played the pot-smoking Chuck; Harry Manfredini, who composed the score; Martin Jay Sadhoff.
Unfortunately, time was short (the show was running late, and a crowd outside was waiting to see the second screening of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III), so each guest had time to answer only one question.
MARTIN SADHOFF ON THE HOCKEY MASK:
The real story about how the hockey mask came about… I’m from Buffalo, New York, and [producer] Frank Mancuso Jr. is my neighbor, and we’re hockey fanatics. The day of the makeup test, we didn’t really know what Jason should really look like, but we had to come up with some kind of makeup test in 3D. I had a hockey mask there, and I said, ‘Why don’t we put it on and see what it looks like?’I only wish I had registered the hockey mask [as a trademark] because every Halloween, that’s all I see!
LARRY ZERNER ON BEING CAST AS SHELLY:
I was standing on a street corner handing out tickets to THE ROAD WARRIOR, and these people came up to me and said, ‘Are you an actor?’ I was a struggling actor like everyone else in this town, so I said, ‘Yeah,’ and they said, ‘We wrote this movie, and we think you’d be perfect for it.’ I auditioned and got the role. That was the beginning and end of my acting career. Now I’m an entertainment attorney.
TRACIE SAVAGE ON HER CASTING AND HER DEATH SCENE:
I haven’t seen this movie in 25 years. I can’t imagine why I gave up my acting career! [heavy irony] I had so much potential! I come from a showbiz family and had done my first commercial at 2. My mom was my agent and said they were casting this movie. I said, “No, I’m done; I’m in college. Well, I went and I got it, and it was so much fun. It was really the last thing I did. I went to college, got a degree in broadcast journalism, and have been a journalist ever since.
[My death scene] was amazing. First they had to make a replica of my upper torso – that was bizarre! Because it was 3D it took hours to film that one little three-second shot – hours to set up the makeup and the lighting, because they didn’t want the seam to show where the fake torso joined my neck.
PAUL KRATKA ON RICK’S FLIGHT THROUGH A WINDOW:
The night they were shooting the scene, I was very glad I was not a stunt man. My character had to be projected through the window, so they had this air ramp that would launch a person. They pulled the window out of the frame so it was open, but the guy kept hitting high, hitting low. They could not have paid me [to do that!] Whatever they paid that guy wasn’t enough!
DAVID KATIMS ON WHAT HE WAS REALLY SMOKING:
This is pre-crack, so… I’m actually not a cigarette smoker. The first night, it was cigarettes I was really smoking. I couldn’t handle it, so I sent them over to a health food store and had them get barley. I smoked barley; that’s also what I ate!
RICHARD BROOKER ON THE HELP HE RECEIVED FROM THE DIRECTOR:
Steve Miner told me absolutely nothing. He said, ‘Never come up to me and ask your motivation for the scene. You have no motivation. You are just a senseless killer. You are like Jaws. You have no feelings, no nothing. You just go out and kill people.’ Seriously, that’s what he told me. Studying acting most of my life, I didn’t necessarily buy that. I tried to put a meaning to the character. I honestly believe that you don’t have to talk to be an actor; you can walk and you can move. I think that’s what I brought to the role, and I think that’s what made Jason Jason. After all the episodes since then, people still come up to me and say, ‘FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III was the scariest ever!’ We’re sitting her 25 years later, so we must have done something right.
HARRY MANFREDINI ON THE DISCO VERSION OF THE FRIDAY THE 13TH THEME:
At the time Steve Miner called me, I was working on a musical that closed after two weeks and a day; otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here. This is actually the first time I’ve seen this movie. I saw the parts I scored, but I only had a couple of days so we used music from the old film. So I finally got to see the whole film tonight, and I thought the 3D was spectacular! I had a ball. So who came up with the disco idea? Back then that was really hot. A guy named Michael Zager, a good friend of mine who was really into this, said, ‘We should do this.’ So I went over to Michael Zager’s house and played him various pieces of the FRIDAY THE 13TH score. I told him, ‘You need to use these three chords and this tune.’ I said, ‘When you come to the right part, just call me. I’ll come in and go… [Manfredini whispers the famous Jason echo motif].
[NOTE: Before the panel departed, there was mention that there are extremely tentative plans for a revamped 3D release of the film.]