FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 – 3D gets a rare screening at QUAD on Friday 13th December. The third of the long-running Friday franchise, this is notable as being the movie in which Jason Voorhees acquires his trademark hockey mask (his ma being responsible for the stalking and slashing in part one, and JV having sported a fashion statement Elephant Man-esque ‘burlap bag on head’ look, all the rage in those anything-goes early 1980s, for part two). It is also memorable as forming part of the wave of 3D movies which hit our cinema screens in 1983, alongside JAWS 3D, AMITYVILLE 3D, METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED SYN, SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE, and COMIN’ AT YA!
The first major crop of three dimensional flicks were produced in 1953, one of Hollywood’s methods (along with CinemaScope and stereo sound) of attempting to drag audiences away from their newfangled home entertainment system, the ‘television’, by giving the something they couldn’t experience in their living rooms. Arch Oboler’s jungle adventure BWANA DEVIL famously promised “a lion in your lap”, and naturally it wasn’t too long before the horror and science fiction crowds were being catered for – HOUSE OF WAX, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and sequel REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, THE MAD MAGICIAN, even the 3 Stooges in their short horror comedy SPOOKS, were among the films to aim their chills and thrills somewhere towards row 17 of the local movie theatre. An even earlier short, MGM’s experimental THIRD DIMENSIONAL MURDER from 1941, had included a witch, a skeleton, an Indian warrior, an archer, and the Frankenstein monster menacing our host Pete Smith as he visits an old castle, all packed into a frantic 8 minute running time! Copies of THIRD DIMENSIONAL MURDER have survived, I’ve seen it at a couple of film festivals and it is as much fun as it sounds!
The mid 1970s saw 3D make a minor comeback, with Paul Morrissey’s FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN (aka ANDY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN) proving to be one of the most outrageous attempts to stick horror in your face! Oddly for such a 3D success, it’s a line of dialogue from the film (Udo Kier’s glorious pronouncement “to know death, Otto, you have to fuck life – in the gall bladder!”) which has shown most staying power among the movie’s cult fanclub, but it contains visual delights and disgust galore too, notably the hilarious climax with Baron Frankenstein’s internal organs flopping about on a pole sticking through his body and waving two inches in front of your nose! Equally daft but less seen and much lesser known was Paul Leder’s dreadful Kong rip-off, A*P*E, with a giant gorilla terrorising South Korea, after of course destroying a sea-going vessel, doing battle with a gigantic serpent, and inevitably fending off the snapping razor-sharp teeth of a JAWS-style great white shark. All of which appears on the movie’s spectacular poster, and all of which appears in the first ten minutes of the film (believe me, if it’s excitement you’re seeking you’re better off just looking at the poster…)
As the perceived threat of TV in the early fifties and video in the eighties had spawned a revival in visual gimmickry at the cinema, the movie industry’s major weapon in the fight against DVD, hi-definition, internet downloading and so on was, once again, good old 3D. And despite their bid to give it some class this time around, via Martin Scorsese’s HUGO, Wim Wenders’ PIÑA, and Werner Herzog’s CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, the technology has again proved an ideal format for trashy horror and exploitation subjects to throw dumb stuff at the folks in the stalls. The remake of MY BLOODY VALENTINE had slasher critic par excellence Justin Kerswell enthusing at his ‘Hysteria Lives!’ website about its use of 3D – “in loving, unflinching close-up eyeballs pop from heads, a jaw is ripped off, and blood and guts fly out of the screen” – while TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D managed a fantastic conversion job on decades-old footage from the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE in a truly impressive opening montage before expanding the franchise with a new story which surprisingly, didn’t suck, and which even more surprisingly, got considerable mileage out of its use of three dimensions, notably in a scene where a sheriff’s deputy heads down to explore a dark, gloomy cellar…
Proving that cheesy is best when it comes to 3D, horror fans have been spoilt by not one but two hugely entertaining PIRANHA films – PIRANHA 3D and the wonderfully-titled PIRANHA 3DD, both of which colourfully revel in grand, old-skool sex and violence, with toned jocks and bikini-clad babes being chomped on unmercifully by the toothy sea critters. FINAL DESTINATION 4 was subject to a rather poor, post-production hasty 3D conversion, but part five of the franchise, simply and starkly called THE FINAL DESTINATION, was a dream for gimmick buffs, with a stunning set piece sequence featuring a collapsing bridge which had audiences ducking in their seats, and a parade of gruesome shock scenes (featuring everything from lazer-eye surgery to gymnastics practice!) which utilised the visual process to tremendous effect.
Despite advances in the technology, I must say that the old-style anaglyph system, with viewers perching a pair of cardboard red & green-lensed specs on their nose and peering at various clawed beasts, severed body parts, and deadly murder implements (not to mention Udo Kier’s spleen!) still has a certain, uh, ‘charm’ about it. I’m proud to say that my collection of horror film memorabilia includes a pair of 3D glasses from a screening of the sixth NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movie, with the title of the film, FREDDY’S DEAD, printed along the side, almost daring/warning you not to use this eyewear while viewing anything else! Enjoy FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 – “the CITIZEN KANE of three-dimensional horror sequels featuring Jason Voorhees” – and keep an eye out for more!