The Texas Chain Saw Massacre appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Given its low-budget 16mm roots, the Dolby Vision image of Massacre came with inevitable issues but the transfer seemed to reproduce it well.
Sharpness suffered from the source material but usually worked fine. I’d be hard-pressed to cite shots that displayed terrific delineation, and the film could seem rather soft at times. That was an issue with the original photography, though, and I felt that definition mostly seemed positive.
I witnessed no signs of shimmering or jaggies, and the image lacked edge haloes or related issues. With plenty of natural grain, the movie didn’t appear to come with digital noise reduction, and print flaws never became a problem.
A speck or two might’ve materialized, but overall, the movie seemed clean. Some anomalies from the source did appear, however.
Colors lacked great vivacity but appeared fine. The movie went with a somewhat sandy feel during the day and then blue at night.
The image brought across the hues in a fairly appropriate manner, so like everything else, these tones didn’t excel, but they looked reasonably solid. HDR added a little kick to the hues.
Blacks showed positive density. Occasionally they looked a bit too dark, but those instances weren’t frequent.
Shadows could also be a little thick, but once again, that came from the original photography – and appeared to be intentional to suit the stylistic choices. With a fair number of low-light nighttime shots, the action occasionally became tough to discern, but these shots were usually rendered well.
HDR gave whites and contrast extra emphasis, though again, the nature of the source limited these improvements. Even with its inherent problems, this was a satisfying presentation.
In addition to a DTS-HD monaural track that replicated the movie’s original audio, the 4K UHD came with three – count ‘em, three! – remixes. For the purposes of this review, I focused on the Dolby Atmos version.
Despite the multichannel scope, the soundfield remained fairly restrained much of the time. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the mix kicked to life on occasion, as it rendered vehicles movement in a pretty active manner and also brought life to a few action sequences.
Music used the various channels in an engaging way as well. This didn’t make the track a consistently broad experience but it expanded horizons in a reasonable manner.
Audio quality seemed dated but decent. Speech could be a bit thin, but the lines were intelligible enough and lacked many issues like edginess.
Effects came across in a similar manner. Those elements showed acceptable clarity and didn’t suffer from too many obvious concerns.
Of all the components, music worked best. The creepy score managed to provide positive range and definition, with a good sense of dynamics. Given the movie’s age, this was a pretty satisfying soundtrack.
How does this 4K UHD compare with the Blu-ray from 2014? The Atmos mix felt pretty similar to its predecessors, as the nature of the mono source meant limitations.
As for the 4K’s Dolby Vision image, it demonstrated modest improvements over the Blu-ray, as there was only so much to be done with the 16mm photography. The 4K worked a little better than the BD, but don’t expect miracles.
On the 4K disc, we locate a whopping four audio commentaries. Originally recorded for a 1990s laserdisc, the first comes from writer/producer/director Tobe Hooper, actor Gunnar Hansen, and director of photography Daniel Pearl.
All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, cast and performances, story/character areas, photography, effects, and related issues.
The participants display good chemistry and interact well in this fairly lively and informative track. We learn a lot about the production such as Hooper’s original goal to get it a “PG” rating, elements related to the shoot, implementing the characters, and the challenges of a low budget.
Hansen provides the track’s best elements, such as when he tells us about how the intensity of the shoot led him to go a bit nuts. It’s not a great commentary, but it’s generally quite solid.
Commentary Two features actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger and Paul Partain and production designer Robert Burns. Previously found on a 2006 DVD, all four sit along with moderator David Gregory to give us a running, screen-specific take on sets and locations, effects, props and production design, cast and performances, characters, and other elements. (Actor Edwin Neal also appears briefly at the very end via speakerphone.)
For the most part, this becomes a good chat. It gets into a nice variety of topics – including thoughts about the 2003 remake – and does so in a reasonably compelling manner. Nothing here stands out as great, but the track manages to cover the movie in an enjoyable enough way.
The remaining commentaries are both new to the 2014 Blu-ray. For track number three, we get a solo chat from writer/producer/director Tobe Hooper. Also accompanied by moderator Gregory, Hooper touches on topics similar to those in the track he shared with Hansen and Pearl.
This means some redundant information, but Hooper manages to get into a fair amount of fresh material. Despite some repetition and slow spots, the commentary gives us enough new information to make it worthwhile.
Finally, the fourth commentary includes director of photography Daniel Pearl, editor J. Larry Carroll and sound recordist Ted Nicolaou. Accompanied by Gregory once again, this track looks at sets and locations, editing, camerawork and audio, cast and crew, and various aspects of the shoot.
After three prior commentaries, repetition becomes inevitable, so expect a moderate amount of information you already heard. When the participants give us new data, I can’t claim to find this material to be especially compelling. The track offers a decent look at the film but seems a bit sluggish and doesn’t turn into a great listen.
On an included bonus Blu-ray, we find a massive trove of extras. The Legacy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacrew runs one hour, 22 minutes, 45 seconds and provides info from filmmakers Mick Garris, Marcus Nispel, Jamie Blanks, Rob Savage, Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo, Jill Gevargizian, Juan Diego Escobar Alzate, remake producer Fede Alvarez, History of Horror producer Ben Raphael Sher, Dashcam producer Jed Shepherd, Fangoria editor-in-chief Phil Nobile Jr., remake writers Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan, and critics Heather Wixson, Meagan Navarro, and Amanda Reyes.
“Legacy” covers the participants’ experiences with the film as well as their thoughts about it and its various elements. Maybe 15 to 20 minutes of this might work, but nearly 83 minutes gets tiresome well before “Legacy” ends.
We get occasional insights but much of the content just feels like the participants’ general opinions of the movie. This turns into a long and not especially engaging appreciation.
Friedkin/Hooper matches its title, as it provides a 54-minute, nine-second Q&A that involves Tobe Hooper and Exorcist director William Friedkin.
Shot in 2004, Friedkin acts more as moderator/interviewer than colleague. That disappoints a little, as I expected more of a “co-headlining” session.
Friedkin and Hooper focus almost entirely on Massacre and related elements. A few insights emerge, but much of this feels like a lot of praise for the film and not much real substance.
With The Shocking Truth, we get a one-hour, 12-minute, 49-second program that offers notes from Robert Burns, Hooper, Danziger, Marilyn Burns, Hansen, Nicolaou, Partain, co-writer Kim Henkel, investor/attorney Robert Kuhn, boom operator Wayne Bell, makeup artist Dorothy Pearl, filmmakers Jeff Burr, William Lustig and Jim Van Bebber, Brunel University’s Dr. Julian Petley, and actors William Vail, Jim Siedow, Bill Moseley, and Caroline Williams.
“Truth” examines horror in the early 1970s, the roots and development of Massacre, aspects of the shoot, the movie’s completion and release, and its legacy/sequels.
Inevitably, we get some repetition from prior materials. Nonetheless, “Truth” delivers a solid overview and gets into some controversies, like the way those who expected to profit from the film’s success got screwed.
Flesh Wounds spans one hour, 11 minutes, 42 seconds and brings what it describes as “seven stories of the saw”. This means seven topics that we get one at a time, with notes from Daniel Pearl, Neal, Williams, Hansen, assistant cameraman Lou Perryman, makeup DX artist Tom Savini, special makeup designer Dr. WE Barnes, Cinema Wasteland promoter Ken Kish, Evil Dead makeup FX creator Tom Sullivan, filmmakers Tom Lofton and Mike Watt, Texas Frightmare Weekend promoter Loyd Cryer, and fan club president Tim Harden.
Those who worked on Massacre discuss their careers and their work on the movie. Harden takes us on a tour of the movie’s main location, we see some horror conventions, and we also get an “In Memoriam” feature for folks who’d passed away at the time of this show’s completion.
Once again, some repetition from earlier pieces, but we still get a generally good collection of notes. Neal proves exceptionally obnoxious, though, as he trots out wacky voices the whole time.
Next comes A Tour of the TCSM House. It lasts eight minutes, three seconds and features actor Gunnar Hansen.
As implied, this featurette shows the actor circa 2000 as he looks at the location. We already get a good view of the building in “Wounds” but Hansen’s notes add value.
Off the Hook with Teri McMinn fills 17 minutes, two seconds. Apparently McMinn wasn’t interested in a discussion of her Massacre past when they shot “Shocking Truth” in 2000 but she clearly changed her mind for this later interview.
McMinn tells us how she got her role as well as her experiences during the production and the movie’s impact on her career. She offers a nice collection of thoughts.
After his we go to The Business of Chain Saw, a 16-minute, 26-second chat with production manager Ron Bozman. He discusses his view of the shoot in this informative piece.
Deleted Scenes and Outtakes occupy 25 minutes, 23 seconds. Don’t expect much in terms of true “deleted scenes”, as we mainly find silent clips without much merit beyond alternate takes and unused shots like a dead dog instead of the armadillo that opens the film.
A few segments come with sound, such as a short extension of the early ride in the van. We also get to hear Marilyn Burns scream a lot more.
A shot of the Hitcher on the ground comes with short narration from Vail. Diehard fans might derive value from these snippets but they seem pretty useless overall to me.
We follow with Grandpa’s Tales, a 15-minute, 48-second interview with actor John Dugan. He looks at his role and experiences during this decent overview.
Cutting Chain Saw runs 10 minutes, 47 seconds and features editor J. Larry Carroll.
A Blooper Reel lasts two minutes, 21 seconds and consists of the usual giggling and goofs. It doesn’t seem very interesting.
Outtakes from ‘The Shocking Truth’ add seven minutes, 41 seconds of material unused for the longer documentary. Some good notes emerge.
An episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds fills 20 minutes, 21 seconds. Host Sean Clark gives us a tour of Massacre locations as they existed in 2006.
Grounds usually offers an engaging view of movie spots, and this one works nicely. However, the tacky intro that overuses the word “retarded” for alleged comedic effect was tasteless 17 years ago and has aged even worse.
Dr. WE Barnes Presents “Making Grandpa” goes for five minutes, 30 seconds and presents a montage of stills, as we see all the work that went into Dugan’s transformation into an extremely elderly character. The photos add value but narration would make it better.
A Still Gallery delivers another montage of photos, as we find 28 shots from the set. It feels underwhelming.
Two circa 1974 trailers appear along with one for the movie’s 40th anniversary. We also find three TV spots and two radio spots.
All of the above accounts for the standard 4K version of Massacre, but this version adds some components. The discs come in a steelbook case and it also includes a double-sided mini-poster.
Based on its reputation and my usual preferences within the horror genre, I expected to like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much about it that interested me, mostly because it could be cheap and amateurish, and not in a good way. The 4K UHD offered dated but well-reproduced picture and audio as well as an extensive collection of bonus materials.
I can‘t say I’m wild about the film, but the 4K brings it home in a positive manner, especially for fans who want a slew of supplements. With a lost price $10 higher than the standard version, I don't think this steelbook edition merits the extra cost.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE