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Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

At the snobby Crawford Academy, Virginia's group of friends start to go missing years after horrible events that happened to her as a child around her birthday.



(screenplay) (as John Saxton), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sharon Acker ...
Frances Hyland ...
Ann Thomerson (as Tracey Bregman)
Jack Blum ...
David Eisner ...
Michel-René Labelle ...
Etienne Vercures (as Michel Rene Labelle)
Richard Rebiere ...
Earl Pennington ...


Virginia Wainwright is a spirited young woman who has returned to a private school having survived a deadly accident and regenerative brain surgery. She is proud that she belongs to the Top Ten - the school's inner circle with the best students - and attempts to resume a normal life. But her friends are falling prey to a grueling series of murders, and soon there will be no one left to attend her 18th birthday party. Could it be her? Striving to rekindle the memory of her nightmarish accident, Virginia suffers from memory loss and traumatic blackouts. We soon learn the horrible truth behind her accident and what is going on before her birthday party... Written by Joseph Henson <gzr@cdc.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Who's killing the school's snobbish top ten? At the rate they're going, there will be no one left for Virginia's birthday party... alive. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

15 May 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ab in die Ewigkeit  »

Box Office


CAD 3,500,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Glenn Ford and assistant director Charles Braive were involved in a dispute on set where the actor allegedly hit the AD. In an interview with "The Terror Trap", producer John Dunning said: "He hit our AD who had called a lunch break in the middle of one of Glenn's scenes. I had to stop the police from arresting him. It was a mess. Glenn wouldn't come out of his dressing room until the first AD apologized, who said he would never apologize to Glenn. But I told him that this might be the end of his career as an AD if he didn't. So, he went and said he was sorry... and Glenn said he was sorry. They kissed and made up. As far as I know, Glenn never hit anybody else.". See more »


After the game of flying of the drawbridge in cars, Ginny runs away into the forest with just her scarf. In the forest she has her scarf and handbag. See more »


[first lines]
Mrs. Patterson: [to her attacking dog] Winston! Winston! Winston, just stop it, bad boy. Sit down. Sit!
Bernadette O'Hara: Oh, Mrs. Patterson.
Mrs. Patterson: Bernadette O'Hara, do you have any idea what time it is? Where are you going?
Bernadette O'Hara: Well, I, I was just going up to the village to meet some of the kids at the inn.
Mrs. Patterson: You mean the second home for the Crawford top 10, don't you?
See more »


Referenced in Deadly Eyes: An Interview with Lesleh Donaldson (2014) See more »


Happy Birthday to Me
Music by Lance Rubin
Lyrics by Molly-Ann Leikin
Performed by Syreeta
Courtesy of Motown Records
See more »

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User Reviews

The best horror-mystery to ever feature a Shish Kebab!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
7 January 2005 | by (Egypt) – See all my reviews

Happy Birthday to Me is an often neglected and seldom viewed 80's cinema gem. It is a damn shame that it has not received the cult status it so solidly deserves. The plot involves cliques, prep schools, and a very weird birthday party, but that is not what is important here. What matters is all the stops director J. Lee Thompson pulled out to make this into a near masterpiece of the slasher genre.

Let's begin with the topnotch cast. Melissa Sue Anderson (of Little House on the Prairie) bravely fills a leading role that is decidedly unclear about whether it is that of a protagonist or antagonist. Whichever way you look at it, Anderson acts with aplomb! Secondly, there is veteran thespian Glenn Ford who, despite what some overzealous critics said, gives a fine performance as the doctor in addition to adding a sense of dignity to the proceedings. Also of note is the luminary Lenore Zann (a multi talented wonder who has sadly never enjoyed the success she deserves). Her enlightened performance is both savvy and sensible and she brings a sense of validity to a character that other actress would have simply let fade away into the background as it seems the misguided script intended. Another unforgettable personality is Sharon Acker. Seen only in flashbacks, she takes the role of the overbearing mother to new heights: a sheer classic in overacting! For those familiar with Sleepaway Camp (another piece of great 80's horror) Acker's whacked out mother just might rival Desiree Gould's Aunt Martha. While these are the players who really stand out, also of note are Lawrence Dane (as the enigmatic father), Frances Hyland (the headmistress), and Lesleh Donaldson (who makes the most out of her '1st victim' cameo).

But enough about acting, on to the gore! And oh, what a gory movie Happy Birthday to Me is. The film skillfully manages to be bloody and raw, without becoming revolting. In fact, the grisliest scene is not a murder at all, but rather a realistic medical procedure! That's not to say there are no shocking murders, however. There are 6 bizarre murders as the poster promises, with the notorious shish kabob scene remaining one that will always live in infamy. The only thing more delightful than these sadistic killings is, of course, the twist ending! A real twist ending! What a twist! The twist is virtually unpredictable as it comes almost entirely out of left field and scarcely even makes sense! Oh, but it's just terrific! And let's not forget about the theme song that one hears shortly after. As an audience member, one barely has time to compose themselves after the twist when they're treated to one of the eeriest songs ever composed during the end credits.

In short, Happy Birthday to Me delivers on all levels and now that it is easily accessible on DVD, you'd have to be a fool to let this unparalleled work remain unwatched.

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