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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
3 Disc Seriously Ultimate Edition (1974)


Starring: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal and Allen Danziger
Second Sight
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 03 November 2008

A group of teenagers on a road trip pick-up a hitchhiker who turns out to be more than a little unhinged. After throwing him out, they pull into a tiny filling station only to be told there is no fuel. Further down the road their van cuts out, so while Sally and her invalid brother Franklin wait by the vehicle, the others go in search for some fuel or a telephone. Calling at an isolated house they have an abrupt and fatal meeting with a brutal thickset man wearing a mask of human skin. As night falls Sally and Franklin go in search of their missing friends What they discover is an insane family of cannibalistic individuals - among them the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface...

I'm certain that most long-time horror fans will have Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre high on their list of classic films. Undoubtedly, it can be included with Nosferatu, Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, and Psycho as an original example which began a trend. This was a teen horror flick before the term was even invented, but with a big difference.

Said to be based loosely on American real life serial killer Ed Gein (as was Psycho), it explores madness in the absence of law, through the eyes of protagonist/victim Sally. The main perpetrator, who is of course Leatherface, comes across as being meticulously designed and choreographed, right down to his jerky, puppet like movements and childlike behaviour. The first scene in which he appears must have been very shocking to mid-seventies cinema-goers. When the door slides open and Leatherface kills the male teen with a single hammer blow, it induces a little laughter in this enlightened age - not because it is silly, but fundamentally because it's so abrupt.

This is refreshing when most examples of the horror genre since have drawn out set pieces to the point of tediousness. Another example is when the other girl springs out of the freezer like a jack-in-a-box and Leatherface pushes her back in.

The moments involving the ultimate dysfunctional family are purposefully off-kilter, with a seriously psychotic dinner and extreme close-ups, particularly of Sally's eyes as she risks descending into madness. The edginess continues right to the final credits. It gets in, tells the story and gets out again, which is one of the reasons why it's so enduring.

As many people will already have this film in their collection, what we have here is a 3-disc ultimate edition in a tin case, with a new clean transfer and more extras than you can swing a chainsaw at. The feature length documentary is entertaining, with Gunnar Hansen appearing just a little bitter at how he was treated subsequently. Outtakes and Deleted Scenes are misleading, as they relate to the documentary not the film itself. However, if you're a Chainsaw nut then you couldn't wish for more.


Ty Power

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