The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Blu-ray Review
There are horror movies that come out and vanish from our conscience immediately after the opening weekend numbers come in. There are sequels out for a quick buck while the brand is still hot. There are those that are retreads of everything we’ve seen before. There are those that completely change the game. Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is one of those.
Sally (Marilyn Burns, who passed away just a month before the film’s official 40th anniversary), her brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain, who would have a cameo in TCM: THE NEXT GENERATION) and three friends, Jerry (Allen Danziger, 1969’s EGGSHELLS), Kirk (William Vail, POLTERGEIST) and Pam (Teri McMinn, who has since appeared in only two other movies), are on a road trip. And because the more the merrier, the gang picks up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal, who would later play Lord Zedd on MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS), who proves handy with a pocket knife and serves as an indicator for what’s to come.
The group stops at a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, which turns out to be one of the most disturbing and unsettling locations in horror cinema history (it has since been turned into a restaurant). Going by the title, we know a bloodbath is about to occur: the first victim is whacked with a mallet; the second is hung on a meat hook (but not before discovering a room filled with bones and caged chickens); soon enough, the chainsaw comes into action.
The man with the saw is Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen, whose status in the genre would be secured in just his first moments onscreen), who wears a butcher’s apron and a mask made of human flesh. Also within the house are the hitchhiker, a gas station owner (Jim Siedow, who would reprise the role in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2) and Grandpa (John Dugan, who would also cameo in THE NEXT GENERATION), who isn’t the kind that pulls quarters out of your ear.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is spilling with effective touches, like the gritty, raw look (the budget limited the stock to 16mm) and the opening narration that suggests the story is true (“The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths…The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history.”) before they became clichés and lost all of their power. Some of these make THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE not only fall under the exploitation genre, but rank as one of the most memorable.
The quality of the film is questionable (the acting and camerawork as a whole is amateur), but its effectiveness is not. (That the film is also said to be a commentary on and reflection of issues like Watergate and the Vietnam War somehow make Grandpa and company even more sinister.) THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is a deeply troubling work populated by characters so demented and beyond being functional humans that the viewer wishes the hammer strike to Sally’s face would have killed her so she wouldn’t be subjected to the carnage any longer. It speaks volumes when the viewer is hoping for a main character death not because they’re hungry for gore but because it’s for the best.
Video: 1.78:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Considering THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was shot on 16mm, it’s expected that the video quality will be far from crisp; but that’s just how fans would want it, and this transfer respects and reflects that. Colors and tones have been upgraded and the clarity has been improved, but the grit and graininess of the source remain intact and so present the film faithfully. This is exactly how THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE should look on Blu-ray.
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1; English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English 2.0; English Mono. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio transfer is also extremely effective and enhances the atmosphere of the Texas exteriors and the terror inside the Sawyer house.
4 Feature Commentaries: The four commentaries—with writer-producer-director Tobe Hooper, actor Gunnar Hansen, cinematographer Daniel Pearl; with actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, and Paul A. Partain, and production designer Robert Burns; with writer-producer Tobe Hooper; and with cinematographer Daniel Pearl, editor J. Larry Carroll and sound recordist Ted Nicolaou—cover everything that fans of the film and the genre could ever desire to know and will make any listeners experts by the end. While information overlaps over the course of the four tracks, die-hard TCM lovers will love all that is touched on and dissected.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: The Shocking Truth (1:12:49): This thorough documentary explores every aspect of TCM that fans would want covered. Topics include inspirations, strenuous conditions of the shoot (“People were puking continuously.”), makeup, production design, the film’s place in the genre and much, much more.
Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories from the Saw (1:11:42): This seven-part documentary covers many topics found in the previous one, but gets further insight from various cast and crew members, including Hansen, Pearl, Neal and more.
A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen (8:03): Hansen takes viewers through the infamous farmhouse, which has since been turned into a restaurant.
Off the Hook with Teri McMinn (17:02): McMinn, who played Pam, reminisces about her experiences making TCM.
The Business of CHAIN SAW: An Interview with Production Manager Ron Bozman (16:27): Bozman reflects on one of his early jobs in the industry.
Grandpa’s Tales: An Interview with John Dugan (15:48): Dugan, who played Grandpa, reminisces about making TCM.
Cutting CHAIN SAW: An Interview with Editor J. Larry Carroll (10:47): Carroll shares production stories and discusses some of the difficulties presented.
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: TCSM (20:19): TCM fan Sean Clark takes viewers on a tour of various locations to see what they look like decades after the film was shot.
New Deleted Scenes & Outtakes (15:07): Although the scenes and outtakes are presented without audio (since much of it is missing), this collection will still be of interest to fans.
Deleted Scenes & Outtakes (25:23): Although these are, like many of the special features, recycled from previous releases, they are still worth seeing and serve as a companion to the new batch.
Blooper Reel (2:22)
Outtakes from “The Shocking Truth” (7:40)
Dr W.E. Barnes Presents “Making Grandpa” is a collection of stills related to the Grandpa character.
TV & Radio Spots
A DVD of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, along with all four commentaries.
A DVD with all of the special features found on Disc Two.