The Evolution Of Friday the 13th On VHS

This is for all of you VHS geeks out there who are diehards of the coolest video format to ever hit the consumer market. Since this writer is not only a Friday the 13th fan, but a fan of home video media and their place in cinematic history, I thought it would be fun to explore the different incarnations of the Friday the 13th films on VHS.

There were four printings of the Friday the 13th films on VHS. There was the initial printing when the movie was first released onto home video. Then, there was a reprinting of the first five movies in 1988. In 1994 all of the original eight Paramount movies were reprinted once again. The 1988 reprinting only shows in a few subtle changes to the box cover and VHS cassette, but the third priniting in 1994 was cheaply made with the help of Gateway and in Extended Play! Extended play was very poor audio and video quality. The last printing was in 2002 using the awful new artwork that plagued all releases in the 2000's.

The first two friday the 13th movies from the first printing of the film franchise on VHS were released in two versions of cardboard sleeves. The first version is the cardboard sleeve that we know today, however the second version of the cardboard sleeve is not really a sleeve at all. Instead of just a cardboard sleeve, the films rested in a box that would fold open from the face to reveal the cassette inside. From there, the cassette would slide out sideways towards the middle of the box. This packaging was used briefly in the late 70′s and early 80′s and is a true rarity to find nowadays. The distributor should have kept the packaging throughout the run of VHS as it protects the cassette better than just the cardboard sleeve. (Note: I had to use a picture of my Part 1 Beta tape as my version of the VHS is packed away)

There are two ways to determine if the VHS you own of Friday The 13th 1980 through Friday The 13th: A New Beginning are first or second printings. One way to tell the difference is by the Paramount logo used on the cover. The other way is to look at the copyright date either on the cover or on the label that is located on the VHS cassette.

As you can see the the first run of VHS cassettes for these five movies had Paramount Home Video spelled out on the VHS cover and on the label of the VHS cassette. As for the date, the example above of The Final Chapter shows the year 1988 on the label which signifies a second run production. The picture below the zoomed in image is of the first printing of the VHS and shows the date 1984.

For the third printing of the films in 1994, Gateway partnered with Paramount to release horrendously cheap VHS products. Not only did the VHS cassette itself not have the usual label on it (the movie title and information were printed directly on the cassette), but the film was recorded on Extended Play. For those that do not know what this means, it is like compressing a file down to almost nothing as to save storage space. In the case of the VHS, this was done so not as much tape was needed inside the cassette casing. This was another way to create a cheap product and cheapen the viewing experience as well.

Spotting these productions were quite easy. You could tell just by the weight of the VHS itself. It was very, very light compared to the old printings of the movies. Also, you could check the date on the cover, which would read 1994, or look on the back cover and you would see the red Gateway symbol at the very top.

As mentioned earlier, the fourth and last printing of the film franchise on VHS produced awful artwork and even worse film quality. Below is the release of Friday the 13th 1980 on VHS in 2002. This no confusion when this VHS was released, nor can it be confused with old releases of the films.

If you still have those old cassettes, take them out and do a little investigating to see what print run of VHS cassesttes you own in your collection!