Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1973)

The Texas Chain Saw MassacreFirst, the movie. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is probably one of the scariest movies ever made. It was unique for its time, and there's still nothing quite like it today. The plot doesn't sound like much2 women and 3 men make a drive to rural Texas to check out a graveyard that has been 'defiled', and to also relax and enjoy themselves. This last part of their vacation plan doesn't go real smoothly, as they make the mistake of wandering into an area where an insane, backwoods, inbred, cannibalistic sociopathic family live. Things get more and more horrifying from there.

I've heard people complain this movie isn't scary and not gory enough. As far as the gore, it is fairly low-key by today's standards (though I'm sure my mother wouldn't want to watch it, and it couldn't be shown un-cut on regular network TV). There's not a lot of blood till the end of the movie, but the acting is so good, and the screams of the victims so wrenching, your imagination fills in the rest and it actually is painful to watch. I will agree that the movie is kind of slow to get startedI admit the first time I saw it as a teenager I was getting impatient for some action. However, the last half of the movie more than makes up for it.

But if you think this movie isn't scary, I seriously doubt you've watched alone, at home, at night, with all the lights off. The first time I saw it was in the daytime, and it still made my hair stand on end. When I got the Special Edition DVD I unwisely watched it after midnight with the lights off. I couldn't sleep until the sun came up. The opening scene of the rotting corpse in the cemetery wired to a headstone alone made my skin crawl. The scene where Pam first discovers Leatherface's room, with the furniture made of bones and the chickens in bird-cages, gets scarier each time I see it. The last 20 minutes, at the dinner table, has to be one of the most grueling and realistic scenes to sit through ever made. The final few images--well, over 10 years went by between the last time I saw the movie and the time I watched it on DVD a few weeks ago, and I *still* could remember those shots so vividly it was like I saw it yesterday.

The DVD is incredible-the transfer is so crisp that it seems like the movie was filmed last year instead of in the early 70's. Since I'd only seen it on "pan & scan" VHS, I never really appreciated how beautiful some shots of the rural setting are, and also how well-thought out and carefully put together most of the cinematography is. Breathtaking, actually. Until the commentary pointed it out, I never realized how perfect and effective the long, continuous shot of Pam hesitantly getting up off the porch swing and slowly walking to the screen door is. This movie does not look at all amateurish, even though it was made on an extremely low budget.

The DVD is packed with cool and interesting special features. First, the commentary by Tobe Hooper, Gunnar Hansen aka Leatherface, and director of photography Daniel Pearl is fascinating. There's lots of subtle but powerful elements in the movie I missed till now-for instance, the lack of almost any score or soundtrack that gives it a documentary feel, making it that much more disturbing. Hardcore fans of this movie know already this was NOT an easy shoot by any standards, but their accounts of how much energy and work it took to get certain things right, not to mention the really tortuous things many of the actors went through...well, if any actor deserves to be paid millions for a movie, this cast certainly earned it. The dinner scene was the most horrendousthey could only do one take, it went on for 20+ hours, and this was in 110 degree heat with no air conditioning. Gunnar Hansen said that by the end, he was so out of it he started to think he wasn't acting. Kind of gives the tag line "Who will survive and what will be left of them?" a whole new meaning.

There's also some deleted and alternate scenes, including some "lost footage" never available before. With many of them, you can read the script excerpt of the scene first. There's a hilarious blooper reel-the quality isn't that great, but you'll laugh your butt off. There's lots of production notes and stills, along with shots of rare publicity material. A couple scenes are broken down shot by shot, with Hooper explaining why he made the directing and editing choices he did. There's even more, I just don't have room for it all. The menu is also pretty great. I highly recommend the Special Edition to anyone who is a fan of TCM. You'll be able to spend hours enjoying it, and they couldn't have done a better job. My recommendation (for what it's worth) is to get this one fast, because it would be a shame if it went out of print and so many people missed this wonderful collector's edition.

As a massive horror fan from the UK (where this film is banned) I had to wait many years to see this film, and after all the hype and expectations which I had built up I was half expecting to be dissapointed when i finally watched wrong could I be? This film had me gripped instantly. The film builds up suspense like no other and when the murders do actually happen they are not ruined, like many other horrors, by almost comical deaths, they are nasty! This film is gritty and raw, with documentary like visuals which only add further to the sense of fear which you can almost smell. The acting is brilliant, its laid back yet energetic at the same time. Never have I seen fear portrayed as realistically as Marilyn Burns haunting display in this movie (but then again I never looked at myself in the mirror while watching the film). All of the factors in this film mix to make an evil couldron of depravity, that'll make you too afraid to look but even more scared when you close your eyes. This film is the freakiest i've ever seen and to say i enjoyed it seems kind'a sick as the killings are so realistic and depraved, but there's no denying it, I loved it.

Buy The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1973) Now

The DVD edition of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is simply essential for all TCM fans. For a movie that's achieved almost mythical status among its devotees, the unearthing of unknown and unseen gems from the making of TCM is a treasure trove. On the DVD, you get outtakes and bloopers, trailers and TV ads for the original movie and its inferior sequels, scores of publicity stills, and an alternate audio track featuring Tobe Hooper, Gunnar Hansen and cinematographer Daniel Pearl giving a running commentary of the film as it plays. Their comments lend much insight into how TCM was made, the impact of the film, and updates about what happened to various cast members. The film itself has been restored to a vibrantly colorful print, and the viewer has the option of watching the film in stereo or in its original mono mix. If only every DVD could be this lavishly issued... If you haven't seen the film yet, you must know that this is a landmark horror/suspense film. Far from the river of blood its title suggests, there's relatively little killing in the movie; its strengths lie in a palpable atmosphere of Texas heat and dread; black as oil humor, and heart-in-your-throat suspense. Its reputation as a sick, gory slashfest comes mainly from its myriad inferior imitators. Check out the DVD and make your own judgment.

Read Best Reviews of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1973) Here

First things first: this is not a true story. There was no cannibalistic serial-killer family in the 1970's Texas, this movie was loosely based on the exploits of Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein and the rest is fantasy.

However, what this is is one of the most horrific movies ever made, incredibly visceral and violent even though very little blood is used. The villains range from demented to sadistic, the heroes from sympathetic to annoying. The movie's cheif fault is that its teenagers are, for the most part, very poorly developed. We only get to know two of them, so when they wander into the clutches of Leatherface it's less painful for the audience, if incredibly painful for the characters.

However, the movie excels in so many aspects that this minor point is quickly overlooked. The hot, humid texas atmosphere is perfectly filmed, adding a layer of foreboding to the already tense atmosphere. The killings are done in a variety of ways without being far-fetched and ridiculous (interestingly, only one is killed with a chainsaw) and the acting credible, especially Gunnar Hanson as Leatherface.

The Best horror movie of the 1970's, and one of the greatest of all time. 9/10

Want The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1973) Discount?

When Pioneer released their first DVD of 1974's "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" on October 6, 1998, it did not include the Tobe Hooper/Don May approved transfer that was used on Elite Entertainment's 1996 LaserDisc. Somehow, Pioneer got their hands on a backup copy, a workprint, that didn't have all of the digital restoration that the LD transfer had. Because of this, Pioneer's transfer suffers from being too dark, bad encoding resulting in still images appearing to move, color bleeding, and black and white lines occassionally popping up during the picture. Pioneer screwed up, bad. What's worse, five years later in 2003, Pioneer announced it was rereleasing The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on DVD as a 30th Anniversary Special Edition (even though the 30th Anniversary wasn't until 2004), but this was really just an attempt to cash in on the remake. Shamefully, Pioneer released the same disc from 1998 with the same flawed transfer and tried to pass it off as something new. The cover art was new, and very much inferior to the 1998 art, but everything else was exactly the same. Pioneer knew this was a flawed transfer. They didn't care. They wanted to profit over doing as little work as possible. Thankfully, Chainsaw fans are finished with Pioneer and their lousy DVDs. On September 26th 2006, Dark Sky Films (a division of MPI Home Video) will release a 2-Disc Ultimate Edition DVD of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Finally, we will be getting a brand new, totally remastered, 16x9 enhanced transfer. Don May supervised this transfer in 2003 for the VOOM HD Satellite Service and has made a few more tweaks since then. This will be the transfer we should have had years ago; the way Chainsaw should look. No more of that botched non-anamorphic junk that Pioneer gave us. All of the extras on Pioneer's DVD(s) commentary track with Tobe Hooper/Daniel Pearl/Gunnar Hansen, deleted scenes and alternate footage, blooper reel, props and set footage, photo galleries, TV spots and trailers will be carried over to this Dark Sky release. New additions will include a commentary track with Marilyn Burns/Paul Partain/Allen Danziger/Bob Burns/David Gregory, the 80 minute "Shocking Truth" documentary from 2000, a 74 minute "Flesh Wounds" documentary, a tour of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre house with Gunnar Hansen, "The Shocking Truth" outtakes, and radio spots. Toss your Pioneer DVDs in the garbage and get ready for the Ultimate Chainsaw experience.

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