On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday The 13th
By David Grove
AuthorMike Dark Ink – 2013
$24.99, 226 pages
Crystal Lake Memories was a big beautiful book about the entire Friday The 13th movie series. I loved it. But if you are a true fan of the box office killing first film Friday The 13th, then you positively must get this new book On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday The 13th.
David Grove (who’s written a bunch of other books, including the outstanding Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen) pulls out all the stops to tell the full production story of Sean S. Cunningham’s hugely successful slasher. If you are like me, I can never get too much information on how a film was made, especially one as dear to my heart as Friday The 13th.
Grove has somehow tracked down most of the cast and crew, including investors & distributor personnel to compile the history of this often copied film. He tells exactly what happened before, during and after the Blairstown, New Jersey shoot. He takes you not only to Camp-No-Be-Bo-Sco but downtown Blairstown and the surrounding shooting locations. You’ll be transported back inside the hotels, restaurants where the cast and crew were lodged. The author chronicles the relationships made during the shoot and their interaction since.
You’ll read about how the initial idea came to Sean Cunningham. You’ll discover the development of the script and exactly who was responsible for writing it.
One of the things I found most interesting about this tome was that in no way was this film a creative endeavor for Sean Cunningham. After coming off the luke-warm performance of two children-oriented family films, Cunningham needed something to be successful. He re-mortgaged his house and put all his chips on the table for this film. I’ve always said a desperate director is dangerous because they put everything into making it a success.
Cunningham didn’t really want to work again with the three investors from Boston (originally called Hallmark Releasing then Georgetown Productions). But there was nobody else that was willing to fund the project. In fact, at one crucial point Cunningham decided not to work with them, only to change his mind the next morning (after a sleepless night) and caught them right before they were going to invest their money into another venture.
Grove then takes you through the location scouting and casting of the movie. Betsy Palmer came aboard mid-way through the shoot after the first four actresses either couldn’t commit or come to a financial agreement. This is particularly noteworthy because Palmer knocked the role out of the park and it became the most identifiable performance of her long career.
Cunningham’s choice to re-team with Director of Photography Barry Abrams (who had shot Cunningham’s previous films Manny’s Orphans & Here Come the Tigers) was probably one of the top-five things he did in terms of how good the film turned out. Finding Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco proved the perfect place to set the counselors up for fun times and later isolated terror.
Hiring Tom Savini, fresh off his work on George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, was critically an important move on the filmmaker’s part. Savini ended up creating ingenious splatter effects that have terrorized a worldwide audience ever since. Not only that but Savini crafted the iconic mongoloid look of young Jason Voorhees and even gave the low-budget film a big shot in the arm with stunt work it could not have afforded otherwise.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the intricate details of the entire principal photography phase. What scenes were shot on what day-week (the shooting schedule and some of the script comes as a bonus) was invaluable to me. About 10 years ago, I visited Blairstown and the Boy Scout camp, so I have first had knowledge of the locations. While reading about the shoot, I could imagine where the cast & crew made this movie. This volume is the closest thing to being there thirty-four years after the fact.
The wealth of information about cast and crew on set provides for some fascinating stories, most of which I’ve never seen or heard in any other media platform. On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday The 13th is easily the most comprehensive authority on the history of how Friday The 13th as made.
Grove updates us with what everyone has gone on to do since making this classic.
This is a lightning quick read. In fact, the quickest written work I’ve read this year. On a scaled to one to ten, with ten being the best, this would get the max score.
If you only purchase one book the rest of this year, then I’d make On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday The 13th your choice. The fact the book will hit stores on Friday September 13th is totally cool and wise date by the publisher.