he 70s decade was exceptional for it's output of timeless quality cinema.
The horror genre in particular took on a brisker, more confrontational format. In the U.S this was cemented by a notorious small budget picture that today is seen as a masterpiece in terror.
TCM deals with a group of five youths who search for an abandoned family home in rural Texas. En route they are terrorised and murdered by an insane family turning their trip into as it says on intro a "nightmare". It's lost in the wilderness theme has been duplicated over the years but none have reached the intense power of the prototype.
Sally, her invalid brother Franklyn, Kirk, Jerry and Pam are first seen in interior of their camper van. Suffering from the heat and the smell of the local slaughterhouse they pick up lunatic Hiker "Edwin Neal". He rambles insanely about his previous line of work in the abattoir, headcheese delicacy, and the fact that they should all stop by his family home for dinner. Then, after cutting his own hand to shreds he proceeds to slice Franklyns arm with a razor. The group's horoscopes were right in predicting the unpredictable it seems.
Managing to offload the passenger the van motors on leaving the man waving his arms in lunacy in a quietly macabre landscape.
Stopping at Jim Seidows remote station/barbecue shack for gas they inquire about an old two storey rockhouse ,"the ole Franklyn place" sits up on a hill but they're warned about trespassing , "some folks don't like it and they don't mind a showin' ya"
There's no gas at the autostop but they make it to the house, seen from a distance it seems to have an air of doom, it's stonewalls virtually hidden from the main track.
The isolated decrepit interiors are explored by all, leaving Franklyn downstairs to discover bizarre remnants of bones.
Two go off in search of a swimming area, Kirk and Pam vanish behind the house to find the ditch dried in the sun but in the distance a generator is heard, and the roof of a house is seen, a chance for gas?
As they approach with the sun reflecting in the camera lens and moving through the bush so too come the initial moments and visual signs of glorious unease. Clocks hang from branches with nails driven through the face, the camera pans back and swivels to reveal abandoned cars huddled beneath mesh tarpaulin, the house then looms, a bleach white prairie residence, ominous amongst the trees bristling in the wind.
When on the porch Kirk peers in the screen door, Pam retreats to the swing out front, pleading that they should leave.
Interior hall, and the walls are full of hanging skulls, bone trophies and animal skins, a strange noise is heard and Kirk heads inside.
Outside Pam calls for him unaware that his fate is already sealed, when she stands up the camera floats beneath the swing and behind as she moves, leg level approaching the house allowing the front view to grow in size with menace. Stumbling into a room of bones inside and with a crescendo of cymbals assaulting via soundtrack, this is a wonderfull scene, for we have already glimpsed the grotesque man who has killed Kirk, so we pray for her safety, which is in doubt here.
There follows a scene of absolute carnage, grey images of a grain soaked hell, power tools, screams.
Back at the van the others call out for the missing friends, Jerry sets off in search as dusk sets in. His journey nicely shot, has all the 70s hallmarks, the eroding sunlight has his outline seen from behind and below with bizarre sounds to accompany his movement. When he gets to the house he sees Kirks coat hanging on the porch rail and, looking in the screen door he too hears the strange noises, animal sounds, thinking it a joke he moves inside.
Finding Pam inside a refrigerator but with no sign of Kirk he turns around and is confronted, the look of absolute terror on his face memorable as the sledge hammer comes crashing down, courtesy of apron clad monster, Leatherface (Gunner Hansen).
And so back to the van... Sally and Franklyn are now alone, they call out for the others in the darkness, and with the revelation that the keys are gone, they decide to leave in search with a flashlight their only comfort.
These moments are captured efficiently by Hooper, the tension is given power by the score, a portent of unsettling crashes and echoing blasts, the din adds to the feeling of severe apprehension as they move with some difficulty through the blackened bush. With the torchlight darting back an forth Franklyn is heard "Sally... Stop... I hear something out there".
Sally's screams are piercing as she watches the systematic slaughter of her brother and so begins the chase through the woods...
She runs toward a light -unaware that she approaches the house of death...
Upstairs sit half corpses in an empty room, downstairs her pursuer's saw is seen working its way though the door...
On pure adrenalin she jumps through the upstairs window and crashes to the floor, the chase continues until she finds her way back to Siedows gas station and apparent safety.
She senses something is not quite right when the man leaves and appears with a rope and sack... Panic as she is kidnapped and driven back to the house.
Inside is the hiker and the masked man, gas station Siedow and the others are all part of the same family. Her ordeal, like ours, goes into overdrive.
The corpse like figure seen in the upstairs room is brought down..."Grandpa" is then fed blood from the girls cut finger, she looks on in horror as he feeds on the cut, she then passes out and awakens tied to a chair at the dinner table, a truly disturbing scene as we feel her disorientation, close ups on eyes pupils blinking at the situation of pure terror.
After much pleading her fate is decided, "the best killer there ever was" is given the task, screaming hysterically the girls eyes widen as the hiker proclaims "Grandpa...we're gonna let you have this one!!"
A whole night has elapsed... The sun rises outside.
Does she make it out alive?
From the macabre arranged corpses seen at the opening to the shattering finale under the orange red sky, this is a relentless picture in Horror that graces the genre with a crown of horrendous glory.
Don't forget that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is now available to order on Widescreen DVD using our special 70s search device... [See DVD section or click here for more details]
By: Nik Allen
If we read into the thoughts and inspiration behind Chainsaw it becomes clear that its undying power is due to its central themes realised by the hand and mind of a film maker who's naïve but brazen approach had created a masterpiece.
Obviously paramount were the crimes committed in the 50's by Wisconsin monster Ed Gein, who's case helped to crush the innocence of a society not accustomed to such horror's. The Wisconsin house that made the headlines in 57 brought forth the opportunity for us to enter the darkest most archaic levels of our minds, and its inhabitant Gein was the monster in us all.
His was a figure cemented firmly in the folklore of the Horror movie, from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) to Ridley Scott's Hannibal (2001), not only did his crimes touch the central core of Americas idealistic way of life, they seemed to pave the way for a more focused view of the real horrors that lurk in the midst of man.
Leading a separate life to the mild mannered misfit portrayed to townsfolk, his infatuation with his mother had him dig up her corpse, this then led to murder and parading around his desolate farmhouse wearing dead skin masks, the house interior a ghoulish collection of human remains and skeletons.
He was also suspected of cannibalism, a theme touched on in the film, where violated graves are the source for body parts used for consumption.
Hooper knew of these events as an old campfire tale, a horrific myth from the past that were used as basis for Robert Bloch's novel for Hitchcock. The old dark house of Norman Bates became the 60s take on Gein's farmhouse and so too the country death house of Chainsaw in the 70s.
Also relevant I feel was the vision of an America that had been transformed into a vast killing machine during the early seventies, resulting in a nightmarish fairytale to the countries Vietnam war anxieties, the negative feeling that life was cheap in these times bore into the psyche of the youth.
Life that could be bought and sold was the feeling of its day, a negative and desperate tone, we can live off life and as seen, we can eat life.
Film student Hooper's house of horror could be seen as opposite to the cherished life force of the American dream, death, prevailing sadly amongst a sombre people reeling from its immediate past.
In realising this we can see that Hooper wanted the innards of the house to be the embodiment of death itself, to taste death within its very walls, succeeding brilliantly, a reek of carnage within an atmosphere of pure terror set amongst a totem of bones.
Here existed the family that had rebelled to feed off the very ones who stood for the freedom for what their country was renowned.
Seemingly over-symbolistic perhaps but the beauty of good cinema is that
sometimes it can reflect a society and environment captured within its time and era.
In itself, the film is a small victory for docu-style reproduction as art; the locations are given authenticity by every low budget grain ridden frame.
The set designs are meticulously arranged and the whole picture is wonderfully played out by all, especially Marilyn Burns as Sally who's relentless screams of terror lend a harsh realism of peril for the fear necessary for the viewer.
The camera is also used fluently, which coupled with Bell's sound effects create the perfect foundation to defy its low budget exploitation tag.
Hooper has said that looking back to his youth he did not realise the power of film, the causes etc, and his advice to filmmakers is to be cautious.
Undoubtedly one of, if not the greatest horror film of all time it still has the ability to unsettle, indeed when recently re-released in theatres it took no time in hushing the late night revellers who thought they were in for a joke movie. Unforgettable was the silence when the dread kicked in, leaving only morbid apprehension hanging in the auditorium air.
Right up to the climax the film is nothing less than exhausting to watch, the sheer feeling of unease it attains through image and sound are what make it a timeless landmark within the genre.
They don't make 'em like this no more.
A remake is being considered. Michael Bay's low budget company Platinum Dunes is to be involved in a Chainsaw Redux, with New Line shelling out a rumoured $5-$7 million for a toned down re-figuring of the original.
The Chainsaw legacy lives on with various websites devoted to the film, the locations seen can even be visited and autographs obtained from the stars.
Tobe Hooper went on to make Eaten Alive with Marilyn Burns and other good shockers The Funhouse and Salems Lot with David Soul and James Mason
Voted by Entertainment Weekly as the second most terrifying film of all time behind The Exorcist.
A sequel was disappointing, Jim Seidow, Edwin Neal and Dennis Hopper starred but it failed to match the original
The third and fourth films were better, but still lacking.
Edwin Neal kept his face placed on the hot asphalt of the Texas road that they were filming on to shoot a close up of his characters' ending scene, but it was not used in the final cut. It can be seen on the DVD-- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A Family Portrait Revisted. [Thanks to Mandy Hutchins]
In some of the scenes, Leatherface played by Gunnar Hansen was wearing high heals to make him look taller. [Thanks to Chris Velazquez]
The part with Leatherface cutting his own leg with the chainsaw was created with a real live chainsaw, (which is used through the entire film)a slab of meat, some fake blood packets & a metal plate tied to his leg. [Thanks to Chris Velazquez]
The remake, which in my opinion was great, was much much gorier. There are brains, lots of blood, and even skin used as a decoration. Even fans of the original were very pleased with the remake, some even like it better than the original! It stars Jessica Biel of 7th Heaven as Erin, who plays Marilyn Burns's role. It also stars Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, Jonathan Tucker, and Andrew Bryniarski as Leatherface. It still stays faithful to the original, and even adds some twists that make it all the more better. Even the trailer almost made me afraid to see it! It peaked at, #1 at the box office, and went on to gross $87 million in the U.S. alone, as well as about $95 million worldwide. [Thanks to Nick Napolitano]
Edwin Neil( The Hitch Hiker) was an FBI agent in the Oliver Stone Movie,"JFK"!
Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) was in The Movie"Mosquito" and had a scene,where he picks up a Chainsaw,and says,"I haven't used one of these in 20 Years!"! [Thanks to Sam]
How would you like to meet Leatherface? Every six months, in October and April, the Sheraton Hotel in the Meadowlands, holds the 'Chiller Theatre Horror Convention' and Gunnar is often there. He is a great guy, and usually signs autographs with the expressions "You're Next!" or "You're Dead Meat!" I'm not guaranteeing he'll be there every time, but he has been going for the past two years (As long as I've been going, so I don't know how long he has). For more info, go to www.chillertheatre.com. It will be worth your while! Plus, other stars like Linda Blair and Kane Hodder often make appearances. [Thanks to Nick Napolitano]
There is a death metal band called 'Mortician' and all of their songs are about different horror movies. They do a track called 'Chainsaw Dismemberment' and this is obviously about TCM. Theres a one minute sample at the beginning of the song that is like a news report of the movie "On the afternoon of August 18th 1973, five young people in a Volkswagen van ran out of gas..." it goes into macabre detail and then the track begins. [Thanks to Dan Price]
Texas Cainsaw Massacre is actually based upon Wisconsin resident, Ed Gein who killed two old women and peeled off their skins, something about the Anatomy. Because if his Macabre work, Tobe Hoper decided to tell a story about five friends who are stalked down by a chainsaw wielding maniac which today remains known as "THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE", What a classic! [Thanks to Anonymous]
know some The Texas Chainsaw Massacre trivia that we could add? [Please
send it in]
|Trailer, Commentary, Featurette, Notes, OutTakes|
2 disc Special Edition DVD|
|Trailer, Commentary, Notes, OutTakes|
Out of print|
The soundtrack by Wayne Bell is excellent, a concoction of strange noises, cymbals clashing.
A most natural track, using possibly the tinkering of various objects to create the macabre noises heard.
Without doubt one of the most assured and relative pieces of music to accompany a film and enhance its power.
Soundtrack Available: Never On Any Format
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