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Tobe Hooper
Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen, John Dugan
Writing Credits:
Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper

For five young friends, a typical summer afternoon drive becomes a terrifying nightmare.

This is the bizarre and tragically gruesome account of what happened to five young friends one summer afternoon in rural Texas. After hearing reports of grave robbing, the group sets out to check on a family grave. Soon after, one-by-one they wander into the murderous clutches of Leatherface.

Box Office:
$140 thousand.
Domestic Gross
$30.859 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby 2.0
English Monaural
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/14/2003

• Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper, Director of Photography Daniel Pearl, and Actor Gunnar Hansen
• Deleted Scenes and Alternate Footage
• ďA Study In FilmingĒ
• Trailers
• Blooper Reel
• Props and Sets
• Film and Production Stills
• Posters and Lobby Cards


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 16, 2004)

Just in time for the theatrical release of a remake, Pioneer put out another iteration of the original 1974 version of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Specifically listed as being set on August 18, 1973, the film starts with a mention that someoneís robbing graves and creating macabre monuments.

From there we meet a group of young folk traveling through Texas in a van. They plan to visit the decrepit home once inhabited by the grandparents of Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) and her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain). Along for the ride are Sallyís boyfriend Jerry (Allen Danziger) plus another couple, Kirk (William Vail) and Pam (Teri McGinn).

On this very hot day, they see a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) and take pity on him due to the intense heat. They quickly regret this decision, as the hitchhiker turns out to be a twitchy weirdo who gleefully cuts his own hand and also slices Franklin with a razor. He gets the boot from the van, which sets him off even more.

The kids then stop to get gas but find out thereís none to be had. They head out to the old house anyway and explore it. Soon they hear a generator from an adjacent home, so Kirk and Pam go to see if they can score some fuel from the inhabitants. This ends poorly for them, and this starts an experience of terror due to the psycho, chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen).

The early Seventies packed a lot of seminal horror flicks, many of which retain a reputation for their shock value. The Exorcist deserves all its plaudits, especially since it uses its graphic elements in a non-gratuitous way. On the other hand, The Last House On the Left offers an amateurish mess.

Massacre falls somewhere in between that pair. To be sure, in no way does it match up with the classy and well executed Exorcist, but it doesnít fall to the cheesy depths reached by House. Massacre manages some creepy and evocative moments, but it seems too campy and silly to become anything genuinely disturbing.

A lot of that stems from the mostly terrible acting. So many of the performers overplay their roles horribly that they rob their characters of any real presence or power. Nealís hitchhiker creates the most egregious example of this. Perhaps the actor thought his twitchiness and broadness would make the character scary, but instead it just turns him into a bizarrely over the top and comedic presence.

Burnsí Sally probably comes across best of the bunch, but thatís mostly just because she can scream really well. She also looks really good in her tank top. The role requires little else from her, and she delivers a sense of genuine terror experienced by her character.

Too bad this doesnít translate to the audience. I realize Iím likely in the minority here, as Massacre enjoys a very strong reputation as a horror classic, but it did little to inspire emotions in me. A few scenes became fairly intense, but the cheesy acting again undermined these. Director Tobe Hooper delivers a lot of elements that seem gross to watch, but the real terror seems rare. The actors play their parts in such a wild way that I simply canít take them seriously.

I canít deny that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was a seminal work that strongly influenced the horror genre. Ridley Scott even mentioned its impact on Alien. Unfortunately, the movie comes across as too goofy and poorly performed to work as believable. It manifests occasionally powerful moments but generally relies on graphic grossness more than real scares.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That fact came as a surprise, as almost everything these days gets the anamorphic treatment. However, since this disc just reiterates an older release, I guess that factor didnít come as a shock. The absence of 16X9 enhancement wasnít the only negative, as the image generally looked rough.

Sharpness seemed fairly weak. Some shots came across as reasonably accurate, but much of the image appeared rather soft and fuzzy. The movie remained somewhat indistinct and bland most of the time. I saw no issues related to jagged edges or moirť effects, but mild to moderate edge enhancement showed up periodically throughout the film.

Print flaws caused a mix of concerns, though they didnít seem as bad as I expected. Throughout the film, I noticed occasional examples of streaks, grit, spots, hairs, speckles, dirt, and scratches. The movie also looked a bit jumpy at times. Grain became moderately heavy only in low light shots, and it never seemed bad. The secondary defects were occasionally distracting but not terrible given the filmís age and origins.

Colors consistently appeared drab. The film offered bland tones that never displayed much vibrancy or life. Black levels looked reasonably dense, but shadow detail was fairly thick and dense. Low-light scenes were visible, but just barely, and since much of the flick took place at night, it became something of a chore to make out the action. Massacre didnít offer a terrible image, but it seemed consistently problematic.

In addition to the filmís original mono track, this DVD of Texas Chain Saw Massacre offered a Dolby Surround 2.0 remix. The soundfield didnít try too hard to reinvent the wheel, as it stayed pretty centralized in nature. Music broadened to the side speakers, and occasional effects also used the right and left channels acceptably well. Some decent localization occurred, and a few examples of fairly good panning also manifested themselves. Nonetheless, the flickís mono origins seemed apparent. Surrounds didnít add much, as the audio mostly remained heavily anchored in the front. A little reinforcement occurred, but not much, as the track stayed focused on the forward domain.

While the soundstage seemed moderately ambitious for an older, low-budget flick, the quality of the audio betrayed its origins. Speech presented to most serious problems. Dialogue was poorly recorded and occasionally buried in the mix. The lines often became tough to understand, and they never appeared better than flat and muddled. (The absence of subtitles and closed captioning makes the weak speech even more annoying.)

On the other hand, music and effects worked relatively well. The score showed its age at times, but it became reasonably rich and full, and it demonstrated some fairly nice low-end response at times. Effects seemed reasonably accurate and concise. They never presented much that Iíd call impressive, but those elements lacked distortion or other problems and appeared acceptably distinct. Overall, the audio of Massacre mixed good and bad in such a way that it merited a ďCĒ.

For this special edition of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, we find an audio commentary from director Tobe Hooper, actor Gunnar Hansen, and director of photography Daniel Pearl. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They display good chemistry and interact well in this fairly lively and informative track. We learn a lot about the production such as Hooperís original goal to get it a ďPGĒ rating, elements related to the shoot and low-budget issues, implementing the characters, and the challenges of low budgets. Hansen provides the trackís best elements, such as when he tells us about how the intensity of the shoot led him to go a bit nuts. Itís not a great commentary, but itís generally quite solid.

After this we find an area with deleted scenes and alternate footage. We get six deleted scenes and three shots with alternate footage. Presented fullframe and mostly silent, these come with explanatory text before we watch them, and some include appropriate script excerpts as well. The deleted scenes run between 30 seconds and 110 seconds for a total of seven minutes, 14 seconds of snippets. None of them seem crucial, though a few would have added to the filmís impact. As for the alternate bits, they fill between 26 seconds and 170 seconds for a total of five minutes, 57 seconds of material. Two are just gross, while the third seems more intriguing as we watch actress Marilyn Burns lose it on the set.

Up next we locate A Study In Filming, a program that details one of the movieís death scenes. It presents different takes of that sequence and illustrates how it got edited into the final 20-second piece. The silent footage lasts 122 seconds and offers an interesting look at raw footage, though itíd seem more valuable if it included the actual final scene.

Trailers and Sequel Trailers presents seven different ads. We get the original trailer and TV spot as well as a re-release trailer and TV spot. In addition, we find ads for Texas Chain Saw Massacre Part 2, Leatherface: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre III and an ďearly, rough-cut promotional reelĒ for The Return of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

A blooper reel lasts 138 seconds and consists of the usual giggling and goofs. It doesnít seem very interesting. Props and Sets gives us detailed looks at those elements. We watch six minutes and 24 seconds of footage that shows close-ups of those elements. Some of itís pretty gross, but itís cool to get details of the production design.

Film and Production Stills includes 56 photos from the set. Of most interest here is a progression that shows the makeup work on the young actor who played the grandfather. Posters and Lobby Cards shows 25 frames of ads.

Based on its reputation and my usual preferences for horror flicks, I expected to like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Unfortunately, I didnít find much about it that interested me, mostly because it looked cheap and amateurish, and not in a good way. The DVD presented fairly weak picture with average audio for the era and a decent set of extras highlighted by a pretty good commentary. Not an especially interesting movie or well-executed DVD, I canít offer a recommendation for this product.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0615 Stars Number of Votes: 65
5 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.