Saturday, December 14, 2013

All I Want for Christmas Countdown #11: G.I. Joe Adventure Team - Secret of the Mummy's Tomb

Reader Top Ten Greatest Toys of Childhood: Roman Martel of Roman's Movie Reviews and Musings


Blogger extraordinaire and friend, Roman Martel, of Roman’s Movie Reviews and Musings, presents his list of top ten toys of his childhood below.

Roman writes:

“Time for another trip down memory lane, and this time with toys! Sounds like a great idea. For me there were pretty much three toy lines I was obsessed with as a kid. I was trying to figure out if I could put them in any order, but it is kinda funny, I went through phases where I focused on one of these more than others. Because of the differing sizes of these, often I didn't have much cross over between them.

When it came to fantasy worlds, it was really hard to beat the Masters of the Universe line of toys. I remember really being into these when they first came out, prior to the cartoon being aired in my neck of the woods. The box art still had that Frank Frazetta look. Not to say I didn't still enjoy it when the cartoon did come around, but I remember it being a bit sillier than the more hard core adventures I dreamed up. 


My favorite vehicle was the Battle Ram. This blue tank-like transport fired red battering rams. And the front detached to become an airborne attack fighter. I loved the odd detail of the horse head on the front and face on the battering ram, and it just looked other worldly. The great thing was, both heros and villains ended up using this sucker in my adventures. And it was fun to fire those battering rams at Castle Greyskull.



Speaking of the castle, my favorite play set was Castle Greyskull. This was just so darn cool, for so many reasons, most already covered by other folks already. I can't tell you how many times that trap door was used. The villains always fell for it.


My favorite figure was Triclops. The mini-comic he came with said he was a deadly hunter whose three different eyes made it impossible to hide from him. I loved this idea, and he quickly become the deadly assassin in my He-man adventures. I also loved the fact that his sword was longer than nearly all the others in the toy line and he held it in one hand! What a bad ass! 

Like most boys my age Transformers was HUGE. Robots in disguise, and how awesome were those disguise. And I loved the toys, the cartoon, the comics, you name it - I was into it. My best friend was a very good artist and he would spend hours drawing his favorite characters. We even caught Transformers: The Movie in theaters. That's how huge it was for us. That said, my favorite transformers came from the original line.


Megatron was too damn cool. He looked like a real gun... A GUN! He had all those attachments, and the telescopic sight became his arm cannon. Unfortunately his arms were flimsy as all hell. So most of my friends had Megatron's with broken arms. I actually didn't get him till much later, when the Transformer craze of the 80s was dying down. My cousin had a whole box of Transformers he gave to me, and Megatron was the prize at the bottom. And I made sure his arms stayed on. 


One of the first Transformers I got was Soundwave. His sleek cobalt blue color was awesome. His "batteries" became his weapons (including a rocket launcher). Best of all his "tapes" turned into a myriad of mini robots all ready to wreak havoc on the autobots. And that digitized cold voice he had in the cartoon was super cool. I remember all my friends trying our best to imitate it. Probably worried our parents there.




But the king of the Transformers was Optimus Prime. Not only was he a full blown semi-truck, but when he transformed, he looked so darn cool. And that trailer would open up into an attack base with spring loaded car. Or take that car out and you could hold a couple of the mini robots in there (like Cliffjumper or Cosmos). I remember how thrilled I was to get him for my birthday and how much I played with him. I ran into him during a move a few years ago and saw how chipped his paint was proof that he had a lot of adventures. 


And then there were the Legos. Specifically the Castle system of the 1980s. I loved these, with their knights, soldiers and bandits. I had the black knight's castle, and I remember coming up with stories for all the little guys it came with. Eventually I got the bandit's hideout and the black castle with the dragon standards. Great stuff. I turned the whole living room into a tiny kingdom of Legos. I even wrote a novella based on a huge battle I played out. My first piece of fan fiction.

But I've got to face facts here, I was a Star Wars fan the longest. Even when Transformers were all the rage (and I was a huge fan) I still loved my Star Wars figures. And even though "Jedi" was my favorite film, I had more toys from "Empire" than any other film. It is so hard to pick a top three, but here we go.



My favorite figure was my 12 inch Boba Fett. The detail in his armor and weapons caught my imagination. He had a rocket pack that fired. He had Wookie scalps! How bad ass is that? You could look through the back of his head and see in Fett vision (which just made everything look kind of blurry). While he was much bigger than the rest of the toys, I still played with him constantly, and his miniature version was always taking on the rebels and the Empire, depending on who he felt like fighting that day. 



My favorite vehicle was the Slave One. For some reason I'd always team up Fett and Bossk and they would fly around in that ship. I loved all the moving parts: the wings, the cannons, the command chair. But it also came with Han Solo in carbonite. That alone made it cool. Because when it came to the movies, Han Solo was my favorite. And anyone who could catch Solo had to be dangerous. So having that reminder of Solo in stasis was kind of like always facing that darkness in the movie. Odd, but I can tell you the freezing of Han really disturbed me as a kid.


My favorite play set was The Death Star hands down. Others have already explored why this was so cool. But I vividly remember getting this toy. My parents got a gift card to a local toy store, enough to purchase a bike (it would be my first bike ever). But they also had a toy section in the back. And back there, they had the mother load of Star Wars toys, all discounted (because GI-Joe and Transformers were the hot toys at that time). And there it was, the Death Star. I'd seen it in those little catalogues that came with Star Wars vehicles and play sets, and I always dreamed of having one. My parents tried hard to point me toward a bike, any bike. But nothing doing. They had the Death Star, unopened, and on sale. It would be mine, oh yes. And once I had it, I got back into Star Wars full bore. 

Honorable mention: the Millennium Falcon and Imperial Attack Base (which had exploding base, and an awesome rotating turret to mow down rebel soldiers.

So there you are, long winded as usual, but it was fun trip down memory lane.”

Roman: I loved reading your list, and totally dig all your choices.  I think I am a few years older than you, so although I always wanted Transformers and He-Man toys, I felt pressure to “grow up” and not buy them.  What a mistake!!!! 

Now Star Wars toys, on the other hand, I was all over!  I also love that Death Star playset (it made my top ten list), and I have one for Joel, which he loves.  That’s just a great toy, and has held up beautifully.

Great list!

Reader Top Ten Greatest Toys of Childhood: Bruce Nims

Reader and friend, Bruce Nims, starts us off this Saturday morning with his list of the top ten greatest toys of his childhood.

Bruce writes:

"As always, it is a pleasure to be speaking with you and another interesting top 10 list.  Here is my top 10 list of toys I played with a boy.  As always, these are in no particular order:



1. Starbird -- Based upon what other readers have submitted this was an extremely popular toy and probably my overall favorite.  Because of a lack of organization between my parents and my uncle, I ended up with 2 of these for Christmas and it was pure heaven.  Once of the most beautiful space ships toys of the era with really interesting sound affects (the engine sound would change pitch as you pointed the nose up or down).  The front part was detachable as were the vertical stabilizers (which were actually small fighter craft.).  You could remove the main engine and attach to the front section and make a much smaller craft.  The detail on the toy was really well done (for example, there were landing rocket vents on the ventral side of the wings).


2. Big Trak  - Programmable futuristic tank with a laser cannon.  What more do you want!  A lot of fun and I spent countless hours to program this thing to navigate throughout my house shooting at imaginary targets.  A lot of fun.



3.Millennium Falcon – An excellent version of one the most interesting looking space ships in movie history.



4.X-wing  -- Who didn't want one of these?  I never understood the light in the nose cone as that was not a weapon.  It would have been much cooler if there was a little LED light at the end of each of the 4 laser cannons, but that was probably asking too much.



5.TIE fighter - Another great toy, but like the Xwing, the LED light made no sense.  There should have been twin LED lights in the front to emulate the twin laser cannons of the actual ship.  J



6.Eagle One -  A lot has been said about this toy by others and I agree with it all.  An amazingly detailed toy.  The thing I like about this more than any other toy on this list is that the proportions and scale seems a lot more realistic.  (The Star Wars toys were obviously squished to fit a certain size package but still work with the figures for instance).  The eagle one and the figures felt just right.  Only downside is that this thing was huge (at least for a small boy).



7.Ramagon – A tinker toys knock off but I preferred these because they allowed for more interesting shapes, looked futuristic and had snap in panels so you could make enclosures.  I really loved these things.



8.Micronauts Rocket Tubes – Another futuristic toy that I just loved and spend many hours playing though truth be told, there really wasn't much you would do with it.  The aircars could go forward or backwards there were not enough track (tube?) sections to have much variety.  Just the whole thing just looked cool as hell and those cars moved pretty damn fast.

  

9. Shogun Warriors Mazinga – A giant robot with a laser sword and a hand that shot rockets (and shot them FAR).  Nothing more needs to be said.  Just awesome
  


10. Super Joe Avenger Pursuit Craft – From what I understand this was supposed to be a spin off from the GI Joe line of toys.  Super Joe was about 8 inches tall, instead of 12 inch tall normal GI Joe figures of the time, which allowed for more interesting vehicles such as this one, the Avenger Pursuit Craft.  I think these toys were only made a couple of years and I don't know if any other vehicles were made.  This was a VTOL designed vehicle (the wing would pivot to allow the engines to point down) that could land on land or sea and had several different modes.  It also had a nice storage compartment in the back to hold all of Super Joe's gear.



11.  Colecovision (yeah, I'm cheating but I really need more than 10 here).  – This was the most powerful game system of its generation by a long short.  The arcade ports where the best ports you could get (in fact, some of the ports were better than the arcade gameplay wise).  It can with Donkey Kong packed it.  It was expandable and one of the expansion modules would let you play Atari 2600 games.  Another of the expansion modules was a true roller ball controller."

Bruce: I love your list, and our lists share at least three items in common (Big Trak, the Eagle, and the Star Bird).  All of your choices are excellent, but I was most thrilled to see that Super Joe plane/vehicle.  I have never seen one of those toys, but as a kid I loved the Super Joe toy line. I had the villain ("The Intruder?") and Joe with his light-up chest pack.  However, I didn't even know that vehicles were made for those figures.  

I also had a dear friend in my home town who had the Colecovision, which -- by the time it came out -- rather significantly outclassed my Atari 2600.  I still remember playing Zaxxon and Donkey Kong on the Colecovision at his house...

I also had the Rocket Tubes. They were a birthday gift from my Aunt Patty and Uncle Bob, and I loved them. I've been wanting to get a set of those for Joel, but I'm always afraid to pull the trigger on E-Bay, because I don't know if the toy will still work once I get it here.  There would be nothing worse than assembling it together, and then finding out that it's non-functional.  We had that happen not too long ago with a Terminator 2 Bio Flesh Regenerator...

Anyway, this is such an awesome list.  We must have had very similar childhoods because I had eight of the eleven toys on your list, and positively played them OUT!

Friday, December 13, 2013

All I Want for Christmas Countdown #12: The Sectaurs Hyve

Reader Top Ten Greatest Toys From Childhood: Duanne Walton


My friend, and regular reader Duanne Walton presents a list of one type and brand of toy.  And it’s a great list of one, as you’ll see:

“This isn't a top ten list because there's only one answer for me - and not subject to change. 
 
Star Wars action figures.

I didn't even get into Star Wars when it first came out. My taste in Sci-Fi was very selective. If some unusually large creature didn't cause large amounts of property damage, I had no interest. 



But C-3PO did catch my interest. A golden robot that spoke with an English accent? What a concept! I saw his figure in the store and my folks got him for me. I remember the time I had unsticking his arms and legs so they could move. I was scared I'd break them off! 

Of course I figured he'd need his little buddy to keep him company. And then, I figured I needed the Jawa to keep them both in line. 



At this time, I read the Star Wars Storybook and became hooked. Now I had to have everything! I started collecting in earnest. I got the Death Star for Christmas and moved all my figures in. Of course, I eventually used all the pegs that held the figures in place, so I put everyone where I could. The Death Star became quite crowded. 

I started having my own Star Wars adventures. Of course, they were nowhere near the level of the movies. Mostly, the plots consisted of rescuing someone from Darth Vader, rescuing Han from the Cantina gang (as I dubbed the four aliens) or the bounty hunters. The trash compactor regularly overflowed and the trash monster got loose.


It became clear that I'd never get every toy that Kenner came out with (my parents never ceased to remind me), so I focused on the action figures. I eventually stopped my adventures with them and just focused on collecting them. I got the original collector's cases and two Darth Vader collector's cases and placed them all in them. I occasionally displayed them at the Morris (Illinois) Library, much to the delight of the kids. One guy offered me a lousy fifty dollars for them, and I declined. 

No other action figure line held my interest. But when no new Star Wars figures were in, I'd read the files on the backs of the G.I. Joe figures. That appealed to me: giving them names and backstories. I did end up buying Destro. I only got figures from other lines if the characters appealed to me. 
 
The line finally did run its' course. I collected all of them except for three: the original Snaggletooth (the tall one in the blue suit), Luke as a Stormtrooper (from the first movie, coming out in the last wave of figures), and Yak Face (Who was never released in the U.S.). I put them away, only taking them out for the occasional library display. But I knew they'd be worth a lot. 

Two decades and several hard knocks later found me spending most of the summer of 2005 unemployed. I had to sell my collection sooner than I expected. Most dealers were unprepared to see a nearly complete collection in such good condition - and most were unprepared to buy them. 
 
Finally, a collectibles store in Chicago bought half of them for less than their worth (that's the first thing I was told: you will almost never get what the price guides say they're worth). The rest I sold to a lady at an antique mall. It felt very strange having to sell them, like I was losing a large chunk of my life. I do wonder sometimes where they ended up and if they've been as well cared for as when I had them. 
 
I've only collected two other action figure lines as closely: Batman the Animated Series and Doctor Who. But I'll always remember where it started: not so long ago, in a galaxy not so far away.

Duanne: I loved reading your reminiscences about Star Wars action figures, and how your love for them developed and grew over time.  I suspect that many kids of our generation could tell a love story that is similar in nature. 

I remember in the early days, when not all the playsets were available yet, I had a land speeder, the Cantina Aliens, and a few other figures.  So my “game” became the adventures of Sheriff Snaggletooth and Deputy Hammerhead at Mos Eisley.  It sounds silly, I’m sure, but I loved playing that game, and having Snaggletooth arrest Greedo and Walrus Man (the bad guys).

I’m sorry to hear about the necessity of selling your collection.  I have had spells where I too needed to sell some toys, and as I’ve written before, I intend to divest myself of large chunks of my collection soon, to help save for retirement.

Great memories, Duanne.  I really enjoyed reading this.

Reader Top Ten Greatest Toys of Childhood: Nowhere


A regular reader who goes by the handle “Nowhere” provides us our first reader top ten toys of childhood for this Friday (the 13th!)

Nowhere writes:



1: LEGO - My number one choice and very non-specific. It's the one toy that stayed with me all my childhood and changed with my interests over the years to become just about anything I wanted it to be. LEGO was very basic with relatively few specialized parts when I got my first set (the early, clunky, all-blue Lunar Lander set) but even before the more sophisticated parts started showing up by the 80's we managed to make an amazing amount of things out of those blocks.



2: Dinky - Just Dinky in general as they made an amazing array of great toys. Well built, fairly accurate, they all did something (eg. fire missiles, drop bombs with caps in them, motorized propellers, functional swing-wings and retractable landing gear etc.) Being an aircraft nut I had many planes and helicopters but also had the blue Space 1999 Eagle Transporter and the Starship Enterprise. Always wanted the Klingon D-9 Battlecruiser too but never got one.



3: Corgi -  See Dinky. One that I owned was the Spy Who Loved me submarine Lotus Esprit but I coveted my neighbor's 007 Aston Martin DB-7.


4: Matchbox - I always preferred them over Hot Wheels as they included cars that were fairly unknown in North America as well as a range of aircraft and ships. They played well with Hot Wheels cars and accessories though! 



5: Estes model rockets. Especially once you got your hands on the D size motors! I used to put powdered water colour paint in the parachute compartment so that when the chute ejection charge fired there would be a cloud of red to make the high point easier to see.



6: Kenner large Star Wars vehicles - Already pointed out by others but worth another mention. These toys were really nice. Accurate and well made, all with some active feature. Only ever had Luke's landspeeder and the T-47 snowspeeder myself but a friend owned that awesome Millenium Falcon. The "hovering" feature of the landspeeder (accomplished by springs and tiny wheels) was surprisingly convincing.



7: Kenner small Star Wars vehicles - I still have most of a Millenium Falcon from this series. Die cast and plastic construction. The Y-Wing I had came with a droppable bomb and rotating turret, the X-Wing's foils worked. Much cheaper than the full scale ones so most kids I knew had many more of these little guys.



8: Skydiver action figure. I have not been able to find out who made this but it was a doll a little bit smaller than Barbie/Ken decked out in an Evel Knievelish-looking daredevil jumpsuit and equipped with a big nylon parachute. If you packed the chute up as per the instructions and threw it as high as possible the chute would open and it would descend gently to the ground every time.



9: The original big GI Joe.  I had one with the deep sea diver outfit and "Kung-Fu Grip!" One thing I liked about this era of Joe was that he was not given a particular character or story so you made up all your own when it was time to play. I was in Junior High by the time GI Joe was revived with the smaller figures and the TV show.


10: The little 60mm telescope my Dad owned but seldom used after we moved away from the seaside when I was five. it let me see the Sea Of Tranquility, the phases of Venus, the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter and more despite the shaky tripod.”


Nowhere: I also had a lot of Dinky and Corgi toys as a kid…and I loved them too.  I also like that you included the little Star Wars ships from metal.  I had the small, Die-cast Star Destroyer, and I remember that the under-side docking bay door could slide open.  Inside was a tiny – and I mean tiny -- Blockade Runner.  I loved that toy (and wish I still owned it...).

Friday the 13th Day: Friday the 13th: The Series - "The Inheritance"


A chapter of the Friday the 13th saga that I enjoyed but is long-forgotten by most is Friday the 13th: The Series, a syndicated TV program from 1987 that ran for three seasons and seventy-one hour-long episodes.  In broad terms, the series involves two unlucky souls, Micki (Robey) and Ryan (John D. Le May), who inherit their dead uncle’s antique shop. 

They are unlucky because Uncle Lewis Vendredi (R.G. Armstrong) made a pact with the Devil to become immortal, but then attempted to back out on his end of the bargain.  Dragged down to Hell, Vendredi leaves behind on Earth hundreds of cursed antiques in his shop.  Each one is imbued with a murderous, monstrous spirit.   

Alas, many of these cursed items are soon sold during a going-out-of-business sale held by Vendredi’s niece and nephew, meaning it is their responsibility -- with the help of occult expert Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins) -- to retrieve them. 

For the buyers, it is literally a matter of life and death.


The Curious Goods Team
Thus, in most of the seventy or so episodes of the series, the action involves the team from “Curious Goods” attempting to recover an evil relic, collectible, or antique.  During the run of the series, these objects came in all shapes and sizes, from an evil tea cup (“A Cup of Time”) and cursed make-up compact (“Vanity’s Mirror”) to sinister comic-books (“Tales of the Undead”) and even a diabolical weed-mulcher (“The Root of All Evil.”)

If this format sounds a little bit familiar, it may be because it echoes the details of an Amicus horror anthology film from the 1970s directed by Kevin Connor, From Beyond the Grave (1973).  There, Peter Cushing was the antique shop owner selling dangerous goods.

Friday the 13th: The Series received mixed reviews during its original run, but has nonetheless become a cult treasure to horror aficionados today.  Writing in 1987, Variety opined that the series was “a successful terror tease blissfully devoid of blood and full of the supernatural and imagination.” 

Meanwhile, Time Magazine’s Richard Zoglin concluded that “Friday the 13th’s worst sin “is an obsession with clunky, over-explanatory dialogue…but the show delivers a stronger dose of pure horror than anything else on TV.” (November 6, 1989).

“The Inheritance” is Friday the 13th’s premiere episode, and it first aired the week of October 3, 1987.  Written by William Taub and directed by William Fruet, “The Inheritance” quickly sets up the premise of the series by first introducing viewers to mean old Uncle Lewis, and then to his niece and nephew/odd couple, Micki Foster and Ryan Dallian. 

Micki is engaged to a wealthy (and snooty…) attorney, and sees Curious Goods as a detour from her appointed destiny.  Ryan, meanwhile, is one of cult-television’s early “geeks,” a comic-book collector and science fiction fan.

The first order of business for Ryan and Micki is the recovery of an evil doll, named Vita, who has fallen into the possession of a little girl, Mary, played by a very young Sarah Polley (Dawn of the Dead [2004]).  Before, Ryan and Micki can recover the doll, it murders her cruel stepmother.


Sarah Polley plays Mary in "The Inheritance."
While Ryan and Micki attempt to recover the doll (and place it safely in a locked vault in Curious Goods’ basement…), they must also countenance Jack Marshak’s belief that we are all surrounded by a “world of spirits, of a netherworld,” and that Vendredi tapped into that world to dabble in deviltry.  For Micki and Ryan, this means a rude awakening about the nature of reality itself…

Looking back today, Friday the 13th and its series premise seem to comment deliberately on avaricious and materialistic nature of the late 1980s.  For instance, Lewis Vendredi is described as a man who is passionate about two things: wealth, and eternal life.   

If you consider the “wealth” part of that equation as the era’s obsession with upward mobility and the “not growing old” part a comment on the pervasive 1980s aerobics/fitness craze, you see how the problems faced here stem from two central pillars of the yuppie movement.  Micki herself seems a bit like a callow yuppie, though over the course of the series she grows and matures, and eventually leaves her judgmental and elitist beliefs behind.  In some sense, the events of the series teach her how to care about other people, and not just herself.

There have been a plenty of evil dolls in cult-television history, and Vita makes a fine heir to The Twilight Zone’s Talking Tina.  There is a truly horrifying quality to her porcelain white face – especially as it looms in the blackness -- and “The Inheritance” also imbues the monster with a horrible, raspy voice.  During the course of the episode, the malevolent doll rips out a man’s throat, suffocates Mary’s stepmother, and pushes a heavy piece of furniture over on an elderly neighbor, proving herself a real menace.  


Evil Doll.
Many folks who remember Friday the 13th: The Series remember this scary doll well, and thus this particular episode.  That seems about right given Vita’s monstrous nature.  In terms of writing, acting and direction, however, “The Inheritance” seems somewhat primitive today, in some ways even more dated than older horror series such as Ghost Story/Circle of Fear (1972 – 1973) or Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974).

In part this may be so because the DVD prints are muddy and cheap-looking.  A re-mastering would certainly seem to be in order. 

But contrarily Friday the 13th: The Series in some moments feels like a gonzo low-budget horror movie.  That means that it sometimes takes detours into weird horror that feel far afield from homogenized television standards.  I remember watching the series late at night when I was senior in high school, for example, and feeling that anything was possible, and that -- at any moment -- something truly horrible might happen.

Taken on a whole, “The Inheritance” is a solid start for Friday the 13th: The Series, and the presence of Vita as the cursed object of the week helps it rank a cut-above some of the other first season installments. Also, the late R.G. Armstrong remains a delight in this series.


R.G. Armstrong as Uncle Lewis Vendredi.

Friday the 13th Day: 13 Reasons I Love the Friday the 13th Movies



Given that today is Friday the 13th, it seemed a good time to pay my respects to the original films; the ones I grew up with as a teenager in the 1980s, and love with affection...even when they are really, really bad.

So, without further introduction, here are 13 reasons I love the Friday the 13th movies:




1.) There's a consistent, Old Testament-style, conservative argument to be made in the interpretation of the old school Friday the 13th films (1980 - 1991). I describe this thesis a bit in my book, Horror Films of the 1980s, referring to it as "vice precedes slice and dice." 


That means, simply, that misbehaving teenagers (screwing, drinking, snorting coke, and getting high...) are punished (violently...) for their moral transgressions. Jason, whose trusty machete might as well be the wrathful Hand of God Himself, is the Punisher. The not-so-subtle subtext of these Reagan Age horrors is that if you play...you pay.



2.) There is an alternative interpretation of the Friday the 13th films too. Stated bluntly, it is implicit in the original films that Jason Voorhees -- hockey mask, machete and all -- is the natural (or supernatural...) result of a modern world in which there are no more predators for man. 


Jason is therefore but a mechanism, a response from nature, to man's invasion of a natural terrain (in this case, Camp Crystal Lake). Screening the Friday the 13th film together, it's clear that the one factor in common is not Jason himself (who, technically, doesn't appear in Part V: A New Beginning), but rather...a storm. 

Yep, bad weather inevitably brings thunder, lightning., and evil, serial-killer predators (whether Mrs. Voorhees, Jason, or the Jason Impostor). The arrival of bad weather is important in the various Friday the 13th narratives for practical reasons, of course. Storms knock out power (and particularly lights...) plunging frightened teens into darkness, preventing telephone calls for aid, and making the youngsters ripe for the picking off. 

But it's more than that. It's as if nature is rising up and rebelling against these aimless, decadent humans and Jason is the mechanism to destroy them. If Jason didn't exist, Mother Nature would have to invent him. 

Consider also that Jason is tied to nature in an interesting fashion: he is believed dead for years when in fact he is alive and "incubating" at the bottom of Camp Crystal Lake.




3.) The Survivors. They were no longer little women...they were final girls.

Horror-hating moralists and not a few feminists perpetually and blindly misinterpret the Friday the 13th films as misogynistic when nothing could be further from the truth. Virtually every Friday the 13th film provides the audience a laudable and heroic "final girl" who outsmarts, out-thinks, and out-fights the powerful (and male) Jason Voorhees. While her friends are fucking, getting high, or getting drunk, the final girl alone is actually paying attention to what's happening around her, and able to sense -- and ultimately combat -- looming danger. Tell me that's not a positive message to send to teenagers. Keep your wits about you, don't submit to peer pressure, and remember where you left the chainsaw...



4.) The sleeping bag kill. This is a murder featured in Friday the 13th: The New Blood (1988), and it's my all-time favorite sequence in the franchise. As you may recall, Jason zips up an unlucky camper in a sleeping bag and then -- like she's a sack of potatoes -- repeatedly slams the bag and camper into a tree trunk.  

It's not the goriest kill; it's not the silliest kill; but in some ways this basic bludgeoning is the most brutal and -- oddly -- the funniest kill in the series. I get a kick out of it every time I see it.



5.) The Cassandra Complex. This character archetype appears in several Friday the 13th films (particularly the first, Part 2, Jason Lives and Jason Takes Manhattan). There's always a drunk stumbling around the perimeter of Crystal Lake warning oblivious teens that they're all "going to die." This Cassandra figure goes right back to Greek myth -- the tragic seer who is never believed by those in danger. Critics and moralists can accuse the Friday the 13th films of being pandering, stupid horror movies as much as they want...but many of the entries are actually constructed with an eye towards some classic literature, both in terms of Mother Love (the relationship between Jason and Mrs. Voorhees) and in the inclusion of the discredited seer. 


6.) Tom McLoughlin's sense of humor. McLoughlin directed Part VI, Jason Lives! and once more found the fun in the aging Friday the 13th saga, injecting the series with fresh blood in a number of clever sequences. The film opens, for instance, with a nod to the famous James Bond gun barrel sequence, except this time Jason is on-screen armed with a machete. 

The humor permeates in the film in little ways too. A child camper at Crystal Lake is seen, briefly, reading No Exit. Again, the meme that these are just "stupid" horror movies is proven wrong.




7.) The Stars in Waiting. Kevin Bacon, Crispin Glover, Corey Feldman, and Martin Cummins are just a few of the young actors who showed up at Camp Crystal Lake, got horribly murdered by a Voorhees, and moved on to bigger things.  Everybody's got to start somewhere...




8.) Harry Manfredini's trademark "chi-chi-ha-ha" riff. Okay, so it's not the Halloween theme by John Carpenter. But this creepy, classic composition defined the Friday the 13th sound for a generation of teenagers, entered the pop culture lexicon, and was widely imitated and mocked. And, if I'm not mistaken, the cue is resurrected for the 2009 remake.





9.) The trailer for Jason Takes Manhattan. I'm not certain how many of you are old enough to recall this TV advertisement...but it was bloody genius. To the chipper tune of "New York, New York," a camera crept up on a figure gazing at the iconic New York City skyline. As we moved in on the figure -- his back to us -- he whirled around and it was...Jason! T


his trailer was actually more inventive than the farmed out-to-Canada movie it was created for. I appreciated the tag-line too: "Now New York has a new problem."  Also, I can't help but think of The Muppets Take Manhattan...



10.) High Concepts Gone Horribly Wrong. The makers of the Friday the 13th films attempted desperately to keep the long-in-the-tooth series going, infusing new and crazy ideas into the later sequels. 

For instance, A New Blood was sort of Carrie Versus Jason, an idea that sounds great on paper but doesn't play so well, especially when "Carrie's" psychic powers miss their target and wake up Jason Voorhees from his deathly slumber at the bottom of Crystal Lake. 

And who can forget Jason X -- which sent Jason into deep space and brought in Star Trek: The Next Generation's holodeck technology? 

And in the underwhelming Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason is overcome by toxic waste in Manhattan's sewers...because you know, in New York, toxic waste gets flushed through the sewers every night! The toxic sludge doesn't kill Jason though...it just transforms, him into a pre-pubescent kid wearing his bathing suit.


11.) Amy Steel. Ginny from Friday the 13th Part II is my personal favorite "final girl" in the series.  Not every Final Girl can adorn a bloody wool sweater, talk sternly to Jason, and get the killer to back down. If I can't have Jamie Lee Curtis in a horror movie...give me Amy Steel any day.




12.) The Motive To Kill That Makes No Sense. So let me get this straight. Mrs. Voorhees went on a killing spree in 1980 (in the first film) because her little boy, Jason, drowned at Camp Crystal Lake in 1958 thanks to neglectful counselors. 


But...as the end of Friday the 13th proves...Jason didn't drown. He's still alive. So if Jason isn't really dead, why is Mrs. Voorhees after Alice (Adrienne King) and her friends?

It makes no sense at all. 

Then, Jason kills new teenagers because Alice killed his mother. But his Mother shows up alive in the lake at the end of Part III. 

It kind of reminds me -- in a really bad way -- of Jaws IV: The Revenge (1987). There, the great white shark wants revenge against all Brodys because Chief Brody...killed it.


13.) The sting-in-the-tail/tale from Friday the 13th. Director Sean Cunningham crafts a perfect, mind-shattering coda for Friday the 13th, even if it makes no sense in terms of the specifics of the narrative. 

A spent Alice is alone in a row boat, in the middle of Camp Crystal Lake when a deformed Jason Boy leaps out of the water to attack her. This sting-in-the-tale/tail is second only to Brian De Palm's Carrie (1976) in terms of terrifying impact. Everything about this finale is pitch-perfect, from the placid, idyllic look of the lake, to the tranquil, misleading music, to the sudden attack itself. Indeed, the longevity of the Friday series may originate from this unforgettable denouement (which passed the serial killer torch from Mother to Son).

There you have it. Happy Friday the 13th! Here's to you, Jason...with an arrow in the eye!