The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
By: Andrew Gillies on April 20, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Force Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English 2.0. 83 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Gunner Hansen, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, John Dugan
Screenplay: Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper
Music: Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper
Tagline: Who will survive and what will be left of them?
Country: USA
Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is still considered one of the best movies to come out of the horror genre. Although an extremely low budget film, the raw and disturbingly violent elements presented in the picture shocked audiences at the time, and still do to this day. Many cinema-goers walked out of the movie unable to watch the brutality crafted on the screen, and those who stayed sat through some of cinemas earliest exploitative stuff. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was one of the first to delve into deep water with its realistic and bizarre portrayal of a mad family who slaughter innocent people for no apparent reason.

The story is a fairly simple one. A group of friends are travelling down a lonely Texas road when they stop to pick up a hitchhiker, which turns out to be a bad idea, after he cuts himself and wheel-chair-bound Franklin. Escaping the madness, the troop stop at a house for some relaxation. Unfortunately for them, the hitchhiker's bizarre family live close by, including a cross-dressing chainsaw wielding mask wearing maniac simply known as Leatherface. As the kids stumble onto the family's house, Leatherface picks them off in a series of brutal slayings. As the film's tagline suggests, who will survive, and what will be left of them? This is Hooper's grisly classic about a summer drive turned into a nightmare by acts of murder and mayhem.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the first of its kind to shock an audience with its realistic and ghastly portrayal of what was labeled as a "true story" (although we all know the character Leatherface is loosely based on real life serial killer Ed Gein). Although it contains little to no onscreen blood or gore, the suggested violence and emotional impact presented in the film creates the horror that is felt. The story did not acknowledge itself as fiction, but instead portrayed itself as real, which was the most disturbing value of the film. Unlike many horror films that can be taken light-heartedly due to their fantastic nature, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was presented in a realistic fashion.

My personal opinion of this movie may be weaker than many others, but I still appreciate this film for what it is. It's an old movie, and it certainly shows. The movie is dated, and honestly didn't scare me. It did, however, disturb me and make me feel uncomfortable, which is good, considering it was designed to do so. However because it is dated, the scares just didn't work on me.

Considering this movie's track record for classifications and censorship around the world, it was passed with an R18+ in Australia. It came with a warning that "this movie should not under any circumstances be viewed by children." The movie contains no graphic depictions of violence, but it is still an extremely violent movie. Most violent stuff is suggested, and left to the imagination. That being said, I absolutely love the first kill with the sledgehammer to the head. The swift and brutal actions of Leatherface committing a cold-blooded act, combined with some excellent cinematography and editing make the scene work well.

Being low budget, you wouldn't expect many fancy effects or brilliant cinematography, but actually, the movie was able to utilise its tools and create some stunning shots. The camera work is something to remember, from those long pans to the often odd camera angle. The positioning of the camera really helps depict the madness of this film, and combined with the editing, this movie works well.

Whether you're a fan or not, most can agree that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a pivotal movie in horror history. It birthed a notoriously popular horror 'boogeyman,' spawned three sequels and a remake (soon to have its own prequel!), and was one of the first true "slasher" films. Tobe Hooper's classic film is a must for all true horror fans.
Video
Force Entertainment's video quality for the Deluxe Edition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is horrible. The alleged new super-scan transfer is terrible, mainly because I believe Force Entertainment put the wrong print on the Deluxe Edition – the same mistake they made for the 2 Disc Special Edition, which I was hoping they would correct for this release. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamorphically enhanced, which is always a plus. Unfortunately the print is dark during indoor and night scenes, losing a lot of detail. Kirk's death is lost in shadow and darkness, with viewers barely able to see Leatherface's first close-up. The print suffers from a lot of colour bleeding, and the edges are very distorted and fuzzy. Parts of the print physically move when they shouldn't, like looking at something through the exhaust heat of an aeroplane. The transfer also has notable blemishes, but considering the age of the film this isn't surprising. The overall tone of the print is that it looks terribly digitised, like we're watching a high quality VCD. The transfer really is terrible. Even the included trailer, in its terribly grainy state, boasts a cleaner and lighter print. The quality is remarkably less for the trailer, but detail is higher and cleaner and contrast is brighter. This just shows how bad this specific transfer really is, and I'm not impressed.
Audio
Force Entertainment has lied to us again with their alleged Dolby Digital 3.0 surround sound. The audio is the same as the previous 2 Disc Special Edition, which was only 2.0 surround sound. I came to this conclusion when audio only spewed from two of my speakers, and not the three as originally promised. However, that said, the audio is not that bad. As mentioned before, the movie is dated and you can definitely tell through the audio. Dialogue is easily heard, and the buzz of the chainsaw is delightfully audible. There does seem to be a muffled feeling to it, but overall the mix is acceptable. However, the speakers don't seem to be used to their fullest, only the occasional chainsaw buzz travels from speaker to speaker. The rest of the sound is fairly central. The audio sounds like a mono track shared over two speakers.
Extra Features
The 2 Disc Deluxe Edition really is something special! Disc one contains a feature commentary with Director Tobe Hooper, Leatherface himself Gunner Hansen and Director of Photography Daniel Pearl. The trio obviously enjoy each other's company, and have fun reminiscing old times, and re-telling favoured stories of onset madness and mayhem. We learn some interesting things; most die-hard fans however would already know a lot mentioned. Hooper talks about originally wanting to make a PG movie, which sparks a brief discussion on the gore content of the movie against the violent content, and how fans have approached the filmmakers, convinced they saw a lot of gore in the movie. But I won't say anymore, I'll let those interested listen and enjoy the commentary for themselves.

Disc Two boasts a collection of great to mediocre features. By far the best is the feature length documentary The Shocking Truth, which contains cast and crew interviews, detailed information about the making of, and even has a brief yet very good look at the film's sequels, including some great behind the scenes footage of part 2 (a deleted gore scene!) and interviews with some of those involved with said sequels. This documentary is an excellent 'making of' and I was personally surprised with how interesting and fascinating it was. Force has done a tremendous job acquiring this documentary for the DVD.

Up next was the not nearly as impressive, yet still interesting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A Family Portrait (Revisited), which interviewed Gunner Hansen, Edwin Neal (The Hitchhiker), John Dugan (Grandpa) and Jim Siedow (the Cook). It runs for about an hour, and the movie is discussed with accompanying clips and photos from the film. It can be boring at times, since a lot is already known because of the previous documentary. The production value also seems very cheap, considering Edwin Neal's entire interview is out of focus, which is extremely annoying on the eyes. However, Gunner Hansen and the extremely funny Edwin Neal, who truly is a brilliant performer, save this doco from being a waste of time.

Some deleted scenes, most without sound, can be found on the disc, along with a blooper reel, and some alternative footage and outtakes for Kirk's death scene. All are certainly intriguing to view, but considering most of it is soundless, it loses its novelty fairly quickly.

A short feature on the props and sets of the film can be watched, which takes a camera into the house during the time of filming, and shows the props and sets used. Interesting to see the detail put into the picture, but again, not overly exciting to watch.

Promotional stills and poster gallery help fill up the disc. Some nice pictures and an extensive look at the different poster arts from around the world.

The film's trailer is present, which is in bad shape considering its age, but still just as effective. This is one of my favourite trailers of all time, because it really creeped me out the first time I saw it, and it's very effective. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who quotes, "Once you stop screaming, you'll start talking about it."

Lastly, Force has delivered some rather nifty packaging! The DVD itself comes with a cardboard sleeve, appropriately shaped like half a chainsaw. The packaging looks the best out of all releases of this film worldwide.
The Verdict
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre will remain one of horror's most notoriously shocking movies. It still creates tension and unease with the material, and although dated, the story is still a well told one. It spawned a series of sequels and a remake, and has maintained the image of one of horror's most favoured boogeymen. Force Entertainment has done a good job with this release, adding an extra documentary to their previous Special Edition, and made the packaging more exciting. However, the picture quality is awful. This is the only aspect of the DVD I was annoyed at. Such a movie deserves a better transfer, and I feel there are better prints out there, and am angered at why one wasn't used for this release! Apart from that, the special features are magnificent and a treat. This DVD should be in every Chainsaw fans collection.
Movie Score
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