Texas chainsaw massacre-special edition

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is the perfect drive-in movie. That’s where I, and I’m sure millions of others, first saw it. I’ve never seen a decent print of the film. As a matter of fact, the print they used at the drive-in was so worn and faded that I first thought the film was in black and white. The new Pioneer Special Edition DVD of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” looks like a different film altogether.


Fresh out of film school, director Tobe Hooper and his crew created what would become a horror classic, a film of relenting terror that would be often imitated. Surprisingly, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” isn’t nearly as graphic as I or most people remember it. It’s amazing how much our imaginations have filled in the gaps over time. Like the scene where the poor girl gets spiked on a meat hook. It’s a quick scene with no blood. Yet Hooper shot the scene in such a way that you think you see much more. That’s part of the pleasure of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Texas chainsaw massacre-special edition.The film, like the character Leatherface, comes at you like a chainsaw. It’s a simple tale told in simple terms. Five friends find themselves in the middle of nowhere, Texas, when they encounter a crazy cannibal family who kills them off one by one. The cast is uniformly good, delivering performances that serve the film more than their careers. Marilyn Burns is especially good as the only victim to survive the nightmare, while Gunnar Hansen seems to have fun with the chainsaw wielding cross-dresser. For a low budget horror film, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” delivers the goods. It’s creepy, especially when Burns ends up in the family’s home for dinner. The set decoration suggests more than just a dysfunctional family. Tobe Hooper went on to direct big Hollywood movies, but none have had the impact or effectiveness of his first. It’s raw, primal and unrelenting.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: GOOD

I’m actually surprised the film maker’s could find such a decent print in which to make a transfer from. They have created a new widescreen (1.85:1) digital Superscan transfer from the original 16mm negative, and it looks sensational. The negative they used is less than pristine, but I must say the film looked much better than I thought it would. It holds up nicely. The colors are strong, the flesh tones natural. The blacks are especially impressive considering how much of the film takes place in shadows or at night. Some minor and almost insignificant compression artifacts. Most of the scratches and cuts look like they’re on the original negative.

HEARING: GOOD

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” gives you the choice of enjoying the film in it’s original mono soundtrack (on the analog track), or in a new stereo surround soundtrack re-mix supervised by Tobe Hooper (on the digital track). Either one gets the job done, but don’t expect a digital miracle with the re-mix. It surrounds you with the sound of screams and chainsaws, but there’s not enough activity to warrant such an elaborate effort. The soundtrack is crisp and clear considering it’s low budget origins.

ORAL: D.O.A.
No closed captions or subtitles.

COORDINATION: GOOD
The extras on the DVD were compiled for the Elite Entertainment laser disc. They include:

  • An alternate audio track featuring a running commentary by director/co-writer Tobe Hooper, director of cinematography Daniel Pearl, and Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface). The trio provides interesting gossip about the making of the film while constantly praising each other’s work. Some of the most interesting comments from Hansen, who seems to have gotten a little too deep into his role. He claims during the dinner scene at the end of the film he really cut star Marilyn Burns when the prop knife wouldn’t work properly. They had been shooting for 27 straight hours, and delirium had set in. I was more impressed with how the young film maker’s managed to get so much coverage in such a short period of time. I also found it humorous that everyone found co-star Paul A. Partain (who plays the wheelchair bound Franklin) a pain in the butt, and that Burn’s annoyed reaction to him during one scene was real. It’s always interesting to go behind the scenes of a film, and this trio do a decent job of taking us there.
  • Deleted scenes and alternate footage. The kind of stuff fans at horror conventions eat up, these cutting room leftovers range from mildly interesting to downright dull. Most are silent, but you have the option of accessing the script to try to make sense of the scenes.
  • A blooper reel of goofs that aren’t necessarily funny nor interesting, but hardcore fans of the film will treasure these oddball moments.
  • The original theatrical trailers, ranging from a regional trailer and television spot from the first distributor, and then trailers put together by New Line Cinema for the theatrical re-release. There’s also theatrical trailers for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,” “Leatherface,” and a rough cut of the trailer for “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.”
  • A photo gallery featuring stills from the film and behind-the-scenes.
  • A filmed gallery of the ghoulish props and set decorations.
  • A collection of posters and lobby cards of the film, ranging from the original artwork to some International interpretations.
  • Clever, almost disturbing interactive menus featuring the film’s title that bleeds, and lots of screaming and an occasional appearance by Leatherface. When you bounce back and forth between the menus, a chainsaw cuts the screen in half. Click on play, and the screen is covered in blood. Nice scene access menus.

PROGNOSIS: GOOD

You won’t find a better print of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” While it’s not perfect, and the DVD additions are more for fans of the film than someone interested in the making of the film, it’s still an essential part of any horror film collection.

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen



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