Making The Franchise: Friday The 13th Part 3

The early 1980s was dominated by a 3-D resurgence in Hollywood with many studios using the technology to invigorate flailing franchises, such as Jaws and Amityville. Friday The 13th as a franchise was based on the notion of capitalizing on the latest trends (i.e. the burgeoning slasher genre) and so it was indeed inevitable that Paramount Pictures and the Boston financiers would turn to 3-D in an effort to increase box office returns. Even though Friday the 13th Part 2 produced respectable financial results once again, the lack of gore onscreen (courtesy of many cuts ordered by the MPAA) left many fans disappointed and may have led to a sharp decline in profit compared to the original film. With that in mind, Paramount Pictures hoped to win back their core audience and decided to embrace the 3-D technology as a way to boost their audience.

Most of the production crew returned from Friday The 13th Part 2 to lend their talents to the third film in the franchise. Frank Mancusco Jr. was promoted to the title of producer for Friday the 13th Part 3, while Steve Miner would return once again to the director’s chair. One major difference this go around was the involvement of the studio. Paramount had little involvement during the production of Part 2, purchasing the movie as a negative pick-up. However, the studio grew increasingly impressed with the box office returns of the burgeoning franchise and decided to take a more hands-on approach for the second sequel. Georgetown Productions would once again oversee the development, however, this time they had the full support of Paramount during the process.

With writer Ron Kurz deciding to pass on writing Part 3 after working on the first two films in the franchise, the task of writing a script would fall to a familiar person within the series. The task of building upon the previous installments as well as implementing the use of 3-D fell to Martin Kitrosser. A script supervisor by trade, Kitrosser worked on the first two movies and would go on to collaborate with Quentin Tarantino on all of his films. The script for Friday The 13th Part 3 would ultimately be a collaboration between Kitrosser and his wife, Carol Watson, which would lead to several projects that the pair would work on throughout the 1980s.

Unhappy with the couple's draft, Frank Mancuso Jr. would seek out a writer to provide an uncredited script rewrite and eventually production settled with Romanian-born Petru Popescu. Petru worked on the plot of the film and added snippets of humor to the story while trying his best to also give unique personality to the characters.

While the script was being developed, Paramount needed to secure the method of how to film Part 3 in 3-D, so Paramount's Frank Mancuso Sr. approached Martin Jay Sadoff, who had experimented with the format extensively. Sadoff was then later contacted by Tony Bishop, who informed him that he was producing the next Friday The 13th film and that Sadoff’s name had been suggested  for the 3-D work. After conducting research on the practicality of how the third dimension could be achieved and shown in theaters across the country, Sadoff eventually settled on a camera designed by 3-D pioneer Mortimer Marks. During this time, director of photography Gerald Feil, who had previously shot the slasher film He Knows You’re Alone, had also been researching 3-D for a proposed adaptation of Peter Pan with filmmaker Mike Nichols that eventually would not go into production. This work for the failed Peter Pan project would prepare Feil for shooting Friday The 13th Part 3.

Casting for the third film in the Friday The 13th franchise was a fast process that became deceptive in nature and a staple for films to come. Operating under the pseudo title "Crystal Japan", actors were unaware initially that they were auditioning for a Friday The 13th film. Gathering the cast was a pretty simple affair with some actors coming into the production by association and some by plain old fashion luck.

Tracie Savage was already a seasoned actor in television during the 1970s with roles on Little House on the Prairie. With the help of her mother Judy Savage, and her company The Savage Agency, another client of the agency, Paul Kratka, was brought to the Part 3 production for reading a part. Kratka had acted on General Hospital, but had little knowledge of the horror genre. He was advised that the character he was reading for was a carpenter and so attended his callback wearing a large parka, jeans and boots and carrying a power saw!

Writers Kitrosser and Watson had discovered eighteen-year old Larry Zerner on the streets of Los Angeles, handing out tickets for a screening of the second Max Max movie, The Road Warrior, outside a theatre in Westwood, California. During his audition, Zerner was instructed by Miner not to act but just be himself, allowing Zerner to incorporate much of his own personality into that of his character.

Catherine Parks had been crowned Miss Florida at the Miss America Pageant in 1978 before relocating to California to pursue an acting career. She had been in Los Angeles only a few months when she auditioned for Friday the 13th Part 3.

The most troublesome part to cast was the lead of the film. With Amy Steel unable to return, the producers were forced to audition numerous actresses, resulting in Paul Kratka being called back several times to read alongside them. The role of Chris Higgins would eventually go to Dana Kimmell, who would request that, for personal reasons, any reference to her character having sex be removed from the script.

For the first time in franchise, a Friday The 13th film would not be lensed on the east coast, with filming instead taking place at the Valuzet Movie Ranch in Saugus, California. The role of the antagonist Jason Voorhees would go to British ex-trapeze artist Richard Brooker, would ultimately become the first actor to ever wear the now infamous goalie mask. Despite the iconic nature and its status in popular culture, this was not the original mask that was in the script. In fact, even during filming the producers were unsure on what kind of mask Jason should wear. The only thing that was clear about the mask was that it would not be the sack/bag mask from Friday The 13th Part 2. Many people who worked on the production of the film have taken credit for coming up with the use of the goalie mask, but ultimately it would be director Steve Miner who would give final approval and complete the transformation of Jason Voorhees on-screen.

With multiple takes needed to achieve the proper 3-D affect for the film, some of the cast felt that director Steve Miner had little interest in the actors, which led to some what some viewers would call less-than-impressive performances in some scenes.

There were a number of memorable death scenes created for the film. Catherine Park's character Vera received a rather brutal death that involved the first appearance of Jason Voorhees on-screen wearing the goalie mask. Her death scene involved Jason firing a spear into her eye. To achieve this effect, the spear was sent through the air using a wire, with the footage then cutting to a reaction shot of Parks, thus creating the illusion of facial contact. This sequence had to be shot in one take, however, as once the Vera character fell into the water the prosthetic make-up would fall to pieces. Another memorable death scene and complete fan favorite is the death of Paul Kratka’s character Rick, in which Jason Voorhees squeezed his skull so hard that his eyes would burst out of their sockets. With Kratka having both his head and torso cast in plaster, an effects dummy was created with a silicon head for which Jason actor Richard Brooker would be able to crush, for which the eye moved along on an near invisible wire.

Perhaps the most infamous part of production is that of the multiple endings conceived for the film. There were no less than three endings talked about for Friday The 13th Part 3 and two of which that were actually filmed. There is, of course, the ending seen in the finished film, where Chris Higgins dreams of Mrs. Voorhees dragging her out of the boat. However, the original ending of the film would have Chris emerge from the lake, while dreaming, and run to the cabin where she thought she heard a noise. When she opens the door, Jason is standing in the entrance and decapitates Chris. That original ending was not received well by producers and was scrapped for the scene now witnessed in the movie with Mrs. Voorhees and the boat.

Paramount Pictures released Friday The 13th Part 3 on August 13th 1982, which was the first film in the franchise to be released on an actual Friday The 13th date. With a budget of $2.25 million, the film would earn $36.6 million at the U.S. box office, not quite as successful as the first film (around $40 million) but a far better gross than Part 2 ($21.7 million). The film was not greeted well by critics in 1982, and initially many fans would also express their disappointment with the movie. However, over the years Part 3 has become one of the best audience participation films in the franchise and is often considered one of the best installments of the franchise by fans.
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