Six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see!
A critical mauling
The Crawford Top Ten lived to see another day! A rare, candid shot of the young cast on set of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

Slasher alumni: what became of the Crawford Top Ten?

As I have already mentioned, Lesleh Donaldson scared up some impressive genre credits around this time, but she wasn't the only cast member to do so.

Unfortunately for Melissa Sue Anderson, she wasn't one of the lucky ones. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME perhaps wasn't the break she was looking for, as she more-or-less returned to the small screen after this. Tracey E. Bregman also carved out for herself a phenomenally successful career on the small screen in day time soaps (which continues to this day).

Australian born Lenore Zann followed HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME with two other slashers, VISITING HOURS (1982) and the little seen AMERICAN NIGHTMARE (1983 – which was actually filmed in 1981). Lisa Langlois preceded this film with the John Huston directed semi-slasher PHOBIA (1980). Richard Rebiere also had a part in VISITING HOURS, and now works as a writer and director. Matt Craven appeared in the TV dark-comedy-slasher TILL DEATH DO US PART (1982), before a successful career mostly on the small screen. David Eisner was also in PHOBIA before launching a similarly successful career. Michel-René Labelle does not appear to have appeared in anything post his face shredding episode in HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME. Jack Blum has worked as a writer, director and producer, as well as appearing regularly on the small screen.

A critical mauling
Although sucessful financially, Melissa Sue Anderson's turn as the ill-fated Virginia didn't lead to major film work

A legacy of candles

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME perhaps signalled the moment that the subgenre began to parody itself – or at least revel in its own ridiculousness. That's not a criticism, just an observation. Future slashers, such as THE INITIATION (1983), seemed to have been given the green light to go that one step beyond. During the mid-1990's slasher revival, Jamie Blanks' love letter to slasher movies, URBAN LEGEND (1998) took many of its cues from this movie (the scene where someone wears a Parka coat at a swimming pool may have seemed ludicrous, but would have seemed right at home here). The SCREAM movies also borrowed heavily from – or most likely affectionately pastiche – HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.

A critical mauling
Few slasher films have the nerve to scale the dizzy heights of absurdities that HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME revels in. A remake would be unlikely to do it justice

The film’s iconic birthday party is similar to three other slasher films released the same year: MADHOUSE and HELL NIGHT (the former has a birthday party where corpses are guests and the latter has a similar scene sans the birthday setting). Some mild controversy has erupted as to who was first – although the likelihood is that that this is mere coincidence. The uber-cheesy MORTUARY (1983) (with Mary McDonough from TV's THE WALTONS) also has a similar climactic scene. It was actually also made in 1981 – and was filming at the time that HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME was released. Whether that was just another co-incidence or the ending was altered to copy it is open to conjecture.

In more modern times, the slasher DRIVE-THRU (2007) appears to paytribute to HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME with its own version of the corpses round the table routine.


Dunning was still trying to tout a remake of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME as recently as a couple of year's ago – with it reputedly aiming to be in 3D (of course, MY BLOODY VALENTINE actually happened in 2009, but failed to generate a franchise despite a healthy worldwide box office just shy of $100 million on a $14 million budget). The reason that it hasn't happened – and may never happen – is that Columbia have first refusal on a remake; which Dunning says deters anyone else putting up the money for it.

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