Happy Birthday to Me

( 5 )

Overview

Certainly the low point in Glenn Ford's acting career, this Canadian production is, nevertheless, one of the slickest-looking slasher films from that subgenre's early-'80s heyday. The plot what one can make of it involves an unseen killer stalking a group of college students at the prestigious Crawford Academy. The well-staged murders are mysteriously linked to the slightly off-kilter Virginia Melissa Sue Anderson, formerly of Little House on the Prairie, whose disturbing past holds the key to the killer's ...
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Overview

Certainly the low point in Glenn Ford's acting career, this Canadian production is, nevertheless, one of the slickest-looking slasher films from that subgenre's early-'80s heyday. The plot what one can make of it involves an unseen killer stalking a group of college students at the prestigious Crawford Academy. The well-staged murders are mysteriously linked to the slightly off-kilter Virginia Melissa Sue Anderson, formerly of Little House on the Prairie, whose disturbing past holds the key to the killer's identity. Though this film brought nothing new to the psycho-horror field, it did feature one of the more interesting ad campaigns of the period. One-sheets loudly boasted, "Six of the most bizarre murders you've ever seen!" and barred all late-arriving patrons from entering the theater during the final ten minutes a promotional stunt stolen from Psycho. This hype proved less than apropos since the murders in question are not particularly bizarre or original aside from the shish-kabob impalement depicted in the ads, and the film's climax is so painfully contrived that latecomers may be more able to comprehend it than those bemused viewers who watched the film from the beginning.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Happy Birthday to Me stands out from the slasher movie pack of the early '80s because it pushes all the genre's elements to absurd heights. The murders, plot twists, and, especially, the last-minute revelations that are dished up in the final reel don't just deny credibility, they outright defy it. However, this quality doesn't make Happy Birthday to Me unwatchable. In fact, this film can be quite entertaining if viewed in the proper tongue-in-cheek frame of mind. The background performances suffer from the thin characterizations they are saddled with, but the lead performances are quite good. Melissa Sue Anderson wisely plays the material straight and comes off quite sympathetic, and Glenn Ford's solid work as Dr. Faraday lends the film a much-needed element of credibility. Behind the camera, J. Lee Thompson allows the pace to be a bit too slack, but brings an old-fashioned "studio director" sense of polish to the material and stages the film's show-stopping murder scenes with gruesome aplomb. Most importantly, the screenwriters work overtime to create a story line that will keep viewers guessing, despite its often ridiculous excesses, and pepper it with plenty of solid shocks (squeamish viewers should beware the infamous shish-kebab scene). The end result is often quite silly, but anyone with a soft spot for 1980s horror will find it difficult to take their eyes off the screen. Ultimately, Happy Birthday to Me is probably a little too over-the-top and relaxed in its pacing for most modern audiences, but it provides an interesting history lesson for new horror fans who think the slasher genre begins with Scream.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/13/2009
  • UPC: 013131662399
  • Original Release: 1981
  • Rating:

  • Source: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 1:51:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Melissa Sue Anderson Virginia
Glenn Ford Dr. Faraday
Tracey E. Bregman Ann
Jack Blum Alfred
Matt Craven Steve
Lawrence Z. Dane Hal
Frances Hyland Mrs. Patterson
Sharon Acker Estelle
Lenore Zann Maggie
David Eisner Rudi
Lisa Langlois Amelia
Michel Rene LaBelle Etienne
Richard Rebiere Greg
Lesley Donaldson Bernadette
Earl Pennington Lt. Tracy
Damir Andrei Junior Surgeon
Griffith Brewer Verger
Gina Dick Waitress
Louis del Grande Surgeon
Terry Haig Feinblum's Assistant
Alan Katz Ann's Date
Victor Knight
Ron Lea Amelia's Date
Walter Massey Conventioneer
Karen Stephen Miss Calhoun
Jerome Tiberghien Prof. Heregard
Vlasta Vrana Bartender
Len Watt
Joe Wertheimer
Murray Westgate Gatekeeper
Technical Credits
J. Lee Thompson Director
John Beaird Screenwriter
Timothy Bond Screenwriter
John Dunning Producer
Huguette Gagne Costumes/Costume Designer
Stewart Harding Producer
Bo Harwood Score Composer
Peter Jobin Screenwriter
Debra Karen Editor
Miklos Lente Cinematographer
Richard Lightstone Sound/Sound Designer
Andre Link Producer
Larry Nesis Associate Producer
Earl G. Preston Production Designer
Lance Rubin Score Composer
John Saxton Original Story, Screenwriter
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Happy Birthday to Me
1. Main Titles / Death in Black Gloves [6:35]
2. Playing the Game [6:07]
3. Night Prowler [9:48]
4. Guinea Pig [6:40]
5. Choking Hazard [4:50]
6. Alfred's Evil Deeds [7:42]
7. Bench Press Peril [5:08]
8. "Virginia, I've Got a Knife..." [8:08]
9. Gruesome Garden [8:51]
10. Blood Rose [5:23]
11. Boogie Down [5:39]
12. Skewered [2:20]
13. Descent Into Madness [8:48]
14. Family Secrets [7:30]
15. Happy Birthday to Me [14:28]
16. End Credits [2:34]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Happy Birthday to Me
   Play
   Set up
      English Subtitles for the Deaf & Hearing Impaired: On
      English Subtitles for the Deaf & Hearing Impaired: Off
   Chapters
   Trailer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Ending

    This was a weird movie. The only thing I remembered was that ending. Wow did I not like the ending. At all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A True Classic!

    Happy Birthday to Me gave me chills and it was suspenceful also.I love it alot and I recommend it to horror fans.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    One Of The Better Films Of Its Time (Warning:May Be Spoilers)

    This film came out during one of the worst periods in my life (my mother had just died) when I was running wild. I was living with my father in Jersey, had pulled an all-nighter in New York and the next day I bussed into the city again where I saw this film in the afternoon and the play 'Amadeus' that night. So this film is deeply entrenched in my memory. Out of curiousity I gave it a look recently to see how it held up after 23 years. I found it held up quite well. Yes the acting is mediocre and the formulae standard, but keep in mind at the time some of these weren't. In fact the poster and some of the murders were quite inventive. Two points to make. For its genre, even now, the script is not bad. Anyone seeing this for the first time would I think have no idea as to whom the killer turns out to be. Second the motives which center around social exclusion and elitist popularity and stauts in close knit communities suggests to me in retropspect that the reason the 80s produced so many of these types of films were that many of its makers were probably baby boomers having just reached adulthood, who had known some of the same social traumas and were using these films to work out those issues. Consider that with the exception of Virginia, and maybe Dr. David, not one of the characters is sympathetic. Even Virginia's mother, whose plight is understandable and whose intentions are good, comes off as an abusive shrew. (The key moment that suppports my above theory is when Estelle pleads at the gate to be let in, only to be told 'You can send your daughter to Crawford Academy, but that does not change who you are.') There is also that wonderfully humorous moment where Bernadette mocks the headmistress with the classic line 'Come along, Winston, and give Mommy head.' It still made me laugh 23 years later, and suggests the writers were out for something more creative than an F13 ripoff. Lastly I insist one see the film on VHS, as it features the haunting original score and title song which I understand are not on the DVD, and without which would detract from the film greatly

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    You jumped..... I saw you!

    This movie was a huge success in the 'dead teenager' movie franchises of the early through mid eighties. One of the top grossers at the time. I remember seeing it about the same time as Terror Train and Prom Night. Those were the days! This movie was promoted with a William Castle like gimmick of asking that no one give away the surprise ending and the promotion promised 6 of the most bizarre murders ever. A couple of the killings are pretty interesting but nothing that had not been seen before in some type of movies at the time. A cross between Friday the 13th and a Mario Bava movie with muted lighting and constant shadows is what this tries to be. With plot entries such as dark family secrets, amnesia and revenge this turns out to be a pretty good little horror tale. But how is poor Melissa going to explain her way out of that ending?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    CLASSIC, CLASSIC, CLASSIC!!

    This is one of the best horror films given to us by the 'horror of the 80's' set of films. They just don't make 'em like this anymore. Melissa Sue Anderson (Star of the wonderful horror film 'Midnight Offerings' DVD soon, please!?), is perfect as is the rest of the cast. Don't worry if the plot makes little sense to you...is that the point of a great horror film? In my opinion NO!! The 'kills' are exciting, the suspense is exciting, the 'who done it?' is exciting!!! This is one of those films to just...get a group of friends together, get snacks, sit close, turn off lights and ENJOY THE RIDE WHICH IS 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME'!! Don't think too hard, it's supposed to be fun. That's what the horror films of the 80's were for.

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