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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Seriously Ultimate Edition


Starring: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal and Allen Danziger
Second Sight Films
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 16 November 2009

Finding yourself down the back roads of any rural area would seem to be a bad idea and when five young things from the city venture out it proves to be very much true. Having picked up a stranger resplendent with potions and talismans, his strange behaviour makes the group dump him at their earliest convenience. On arrival at their destination one of the group finds some talismans on the floor but thinks nothing of it as a couple of the group head down to swim only to find the watering hole dry. Bored already one heads off to a nearby house only to disappear in its innards. Soon others of the party disappears leaving a single survivor to battle for her life against a family of insane cannibals...

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1979 - 1 hr, 23 min, 25 sec) is a horror film, supposedly based on real events, directed by Tobe Hooper and co-written by Kim Henkel. The film won the critics award at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival.

Like The Last House on the Left and Night of the Living Dead the film looks at first glance to be a cheap exploitation movie and the sort that would have been branded as a video nasty, in the early days of tape. The story is admittedly thin, five friends end up in the backwoods and get butchered, and it's a plot that has been used over and over to the point where it has lost its bite.

But also, like the other two films, there is something about Chain Saw which raises it above the competition. I won’t pretend that the film does not contain an extraordinary amount of violence, after all this is a horror film about a family of maniacs who love to kill and skin their victims. But even with such a thin plot Hooper uses his meagre opportunities to great effect. I think most people who saw it for the first time were completely blown away with the set design for the interior of the house, which made the place about as near to the look of hell as anyone would want for.

The acting from the group of unknowns is adequate, let’s face it in these films you care less about their angst as you do about the novel ways in which they can be dispatched. In fact the family come across as more powerful figures, especially the threat from the chainsaw waving Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen).

The Blu-ray version of the film is a real step up from the last DVD release. The film contains grain but then this is how it would have looked originally, some of this comes from a small budget, but a lot of directors like having grain, so it is often difficult to know if this was intentional. The detail though is far greater than previous outings which especially help in the darker scenes which now are illuminated for the audience.

I guess that there had previously been an ‘Ultimate Edition’ as this release has the title of ‘Seriously Ultimate Edition’. The disc comes with options for either the original mono track or two remixed tracks, a 2.0 PCM and a 5.1 DTS Surround version.

The film also comes with two full length commentaries, the first includes director Tobe Hooper , cinematographer Daniel Pearl and ‘Leatherface’ (Gunnar Hansen). The second track features actors Marilyn Burns (Sally Hardesty - the screaming heroine), Paul A. Partain (Franklin Hardesty - dead guy waiting to happen), Allen Danziger (Jerry - might as well have worn a Star Trek red shirt) and art director Robert A. Burns. Both are fairly interesting and give a lot of information about making the film.

The extras proper kick off with Off the Hook - an interview with Teri McMinn (17 min) who played Pam, its short but sweet. The Business of Chain Saw (16 min, 25 sec) is an interview with Production Manager Ron Bozman which looks at the problems of making a film on a budget. The Shocking Truth (1 hr, 12 min, 48 sec) is one of the two long documentaries on the disc, like most of the extras this is in standard definition and some of the prints are obviously old and unrestored. Next up old leather face himself (Gunnar Hansen) gives us a tour (8 min, 02 sec) of his fictional home, before we peruse the Shocking Truth Outtakes (7 min, 33 sec) and the Deleted Scenes (2 min, 21 sec).

Flesh Wounds (1 hr, 11 min, 38 sec) is the second long documentary although by now some of the information is being repeated. The disc contains interviews with Tobe Hooper (13 min, 46 sec) and Kim Henkel (8 min, 25 sec) before wrapping up with Trailers (5 min) and Radio Spots (1 min, 02 sec).

In truth, after the horror exploitation films like SAW and Hostel, anyone coming to this film for the first time is likely to be underwhelmed, not because it is a bad film, but because much of what made it a great film to watch has been used over and over again in films which followed it. However, this should not diminish either its power of original importance in the pantheon of the horror genre. If this is your thing then this is one of the films which kicked off the modern era and in truth it still stands up today.


Charles Packer

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