Friday the 13th: The Series

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Welcome to day six of the A to Z Bloggers Challenge! Today we are watching Friday the 13th: The Series, the contemporary supernatural serial that is nothing at all like the film version of the same name. The show is also known as The Curse, which I think is a more appropriate title considering the plot.

No, it’s not summer camp and you will not find a strange man chasing teenagers through the misty forest before he disappears into the lake. The television series Friday the 13th has a completely different premise. The television series, which ran from October 1987 to May 1990, is about the owner of antiques store, Lewis Vendredi (R.G. Armstrong) who makes a deal with the Devil to sell antiques items from his shop in exchange for the usual things people make deals with the Devil for–money, magical powers, and the ability to live forever. But wait, there’s more! The items in the shop are now cursed, and whoever purchases the items from the shop will suffer from strange, well, curses!  (Why do they always do this in horror shows? Note to self: Never make a deal with the Devil!) Eventually, Vendredi broke his deal with the Devil, and who wouldn’t? Immortality is not as fun as it seems on TV. Just ask a vampire! When Vendredi broke his deal, the Devil claimed his soul.

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Louise Robey who stars as Micki Foster in Friday the 13th: The Series.

When Lewis dies, his niece, Micki Foster (played by the lovely Louise Robey) and her cousin, Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay). The show also added an additional character, Johnny Ventura (Steve Monarque) a part-time writer who replaced LeMay permanently in the third season. They sell many of the items in the shop–Vendredi’s Antiques is surprisingly popular and the cursed antiques end up in the a variety of places, from college campuses to the homes of the rich and famous.

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John D. LeMay stars as Ryan Dallion in Friday the 13th: The Series

Foster and Dallion meet Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins) who was close friends with the former soul-selling owner and is now a wealthy, retired, world-traveling occult specialist who actually collected most of the antiques for Lewis before they were cursed. Marshak convinces Foster and Dallion to stop selling the shops contents immediately. Unfortunately, so many of the cursed items are already gone that serious damage has been done and their only hope is to do their best to track down the items and return them to the store.

A Minor Setback

There is a slight problem with this task. Many of the “curses” actually give the new owners powers that they do not want to give up, and the antiques cannot be destroyed, so Foster and Dallion must find a way to retrieve the items without the knowledge of the new owners, or somehow convince them to give them up, so the items can be locked away in a vault beneath the store, which is renamed “Curious Goods.” The vault has a bit of magic of its own, magic that removes the curses on the objects as long as they remain inside the vault.

This may sound like an impossible task, but Marshak, Forster and Dallion have some guidance. Lewis has a manifest, a list of all of the items he collected during his world travels. The manifest is huge and it’s often difficult for the trio to determine what is missing from the store until strange events begin to occur in the community, but Marshak did keep detailed records and with some careful sleuthing, Foster and Dallion are able to both track down the item and determine how it is affecting the new owner.

As it is an anthology, each story is different, like a short fiction story, but they have the common thread of the curse. Most of the curses have a magic that allows the new owner to use the object for personal gain or revenge. The object is activated through the death of a human who is either killed by the object or in some way that reflects the object’s history. This is the first clue–the mysterious death–that informs the trio that there is an object from their shop nearby and sparks the investigative process.

The objects are a bit greedy. They tend to demand, or require, more human sacrifices (remember, we are talking about Devil curses here.) Some of the objects are intelligent and rather spooky, like the talking doll in the episode “The Inheritance.” Some objects have the ability to make other objects seem intelligent, which throws off the investigation, pointing Foster and Dallion in the wrong direction. Other objects release their benefits to the owners only in response to a human sacrifice, so there are a number of different directions the stories can move in, making the investigations more interesting. There are also a few episodes where the trio is not hunting down and object, but instead is confronted by the ghost of Lewis, the former shop owner, or some other evil person. I have a few favorite episodes, as well, that will be discussed in individual posts.

Pushing Boundaries

I actually like this show. Though it may seem a bit far-fetched, it has all the necessary ingredients to appeal to fans of supernatural television. It is also exciting, creative, and generally has good acting, as well. I like the idea of the curses, the fact that each curse is different and must be identified through investigation and observation. The title of the show implies a horror, but it’s more of a mystery with the use of the curses in the plot. I believe the show would have lasted longer if it didn’t try so hard to push the boundaries, crossing that line between acceptable prime time programming and R-rated content with occasional sex scenes or violence. One episode in particular, “Night Prey,” was criticized for pushing these boundaries beyond what was necessary to entertain the audience.

I think the acting and plot were strong enough to carry the show through an endless number of scenarios with a bit of creativity on the part of the writers if they had avoided the temptation of the gratuitous sex scenes, but that is what the show is about–the lure of power and control.

Taking chances is a good thing. That’s what creativity is all about. Nevertheless, I think it’s sad when writers, producers, and directors take so many chances that they destroy a great show. Friday the 13th: The Series should have run much longer than it did. According to the Internet Movie Database, the series was nominated for two Emmys for Visual and Graphic Effects in 1988 and 1989. The episodes “Scarlet Cinema” and “The Sweetest Sting” also won awards. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films nominated the show for best series in 1990, and Canada’s Gemini Awards nominated the show 12 times for writing, editing, directing, production design, acting, sound and music.

Source: 

  • Friday the 13th: The Series. Creators: Frank Mancuso Jr. and Larry B. Williams. Perf. Louise Robey, John D. LeMay, and Chris Wiggins. Lexicon Productions. Running Time: 60 min. 

The Dead Man’s Gun: Contemporary Supernatural Western

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Welcome to day four of the A to Z Bloggers Challenge! Today we will discuss the Supernatural Western anthology Dead Man’s Gun. Although this show only ran for 40 episodes, it is one of my favorite contemporary Western anthologies.

I enjoy watching Dead Man’s Gun because it has an interesting premise, it follows the path of a mysterious gun that seems to have supernatural powers, a gun that destroys the lives of bad men and women and saves the lives of the good. It is like a cross breed of the old Western morality shows and The Twilight Zone. In a way, the gun becomes a character in the show, a hero of sorts, and each episode is like a short story, generally standing alone, although the final episode does have flashbacks and attempts to pull the story together.

Like many contemporary Westerns, Dead Man’s Gun was filmed in Canada and has some gorgeous scenery. The show does tend to be a bit dark and depressing, though, and most of the shows have a gratuitous sex scene, which can be a bit irritating after awhile when they are obviously completely unnecessary to the plot.

Episodes Like Short Western Fiction Stories

The show was created by Ed and Howard Spielman. Each of the forty episodes is narrated by Kris Kristofferson. Some of the episodes are outstanding, while others are simply mediocre.

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Actress Kate Jackson stars in “Death Warrant,” an episode of Dead Man’s Gun.

The individual episodes often features popular stars, such as Rick Shroder in the spooky Civil War episode “The Deserter;”  Meat Loaf in the romantic “Mail Order Bride;” and Kate Jackson and Michael Moriarity in “Death Warrant;” Joanna Pacula in “Four of a Kind;” and “The Resurrection of Joe Wheeler,” starring Brian Kerwin.

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 Henry Winkler at AIDS Project Los Angeles benefit in 1990. 

The executive producer was Henry Winkler, who also wrote numerous episodes and stars in some of my favorites, including “The Imposter,” which aired in 1997, and “Hangman,” which aired in 1998.

“Hangman”

One of my favorite episodes is “Hangman,” which aired on September 18, 1998. The show stars Henry Winkler as Phineas Newman, a professional hangman who does not necessarily enjoy his work, but understand the necessity of his job. He also understands the necessity of tying a proper knot and measuring the neck of the criminal, determining his weight, and the rate of drop so the hanged man does not suffer.

Newman is not a particularly happy man. In fact, he is a lonely man, though he understands the important role he plays in the communities he is forced to visit. He does have an apprentice, though this doesn’t necessarily make him happy, either. He would prefer to have the need for hangings disappear. Clearly, he wants a better world. His apprentice, however, has a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Newman.

When Newman is asked to prepare the noose for the Reverend Franklin Justice (Colin Cunningham), who Newman believes is innocent, Newman begins to question his ethics. Reverent Justice (clearly his name was carefully chosen) is accused of raping and murdering a young girl. Newman speaks with the Reverend when he takes his measurements for the knot and begins to question the guilty verdict passed against the man.

Newman knows how to tie a knot so the neck breaks quickly, thereby easing the pain when a man falls through the trap door on the scaffold. However, he also knows how to tie a knot that will break. When the time comes for the hanging, Newman makes his decision. He ties the knot, it breaks, and Reverend Justice is a free man because in the Old West, a man cannot hang twice for the same crime.

Then Newman begins to notice the Reverend is paying a lot of attention to a young girl in town. The girl, played by Lauren Lauder, resembles the last girl who was murdered. Newman slowly realizes he has made a mistake. He tried to play God, he tried to play judge and jury. He saved a guilty man from paying for his crime.

Newman, deeply regretting his decision to interfere, follows Reverend Justice and interrupts the man as he is attempting to murder of the young girl. Instead, Newman murders Reverend Justice. He is tried for the murder and sentenced to be hanged.

On the day of his hanging, his apprentice insists on tying the knot for his mentor and friend. He carefully measures Newman’s neck, determines his weight, the speed of the drop, and Newman assures the mournful young man that all will be well as long as he remembers to use his special noose.

Newman slowly marches up the scaffold. The crowd holds its breath, the apprentice places the hood over Newman’s head, then the noose. Newman drops, the rope breaks, and Newman is a free man.

Source:

  • “Hangman.” Dead Man’s Gun. Dir. Brenton Spencer. Perf. Henry Winkler.