The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – LIMITED EDITION 4K UHD / BLU-RAY + standard editions

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Its title alone was enough to give anyone a sense of dread about what they were about to watch and rightly so because the Texas Chainsaw Massacre almost 50 years later remains as visceral and unsettling an experience as you could ever see with its grimy low budget feel enough to make audiences uneasy that they should maybe not even be watching it. Perhaps rightly so with the look of the film having something of a snuff movie feel to it and a pervading sense of evil with the film having been made under the most arduous conditions.

Pitching itself as a true story  it wasn’t) yet it was certainly inspired by the all too gruesome real life story of Ed Gein, America’s first notable serial killer who had murdered his victims at his farmhouse where he, flayed and dismembered them even turning their bones into furniture. Director Tobe Hooper and his co-writer Kim Henkel took it as inspiration for their film where five friends drive to rural Texas to visit their grandfathers grave picking up an unhinged hitchhiker along the way before stumbling across an apparently deserted farmhouse only to find a family of cannibals and the chainsaw wielding Leatherface

Though it was Hitchcock in 1960 who opened the door for this type of horror with Psycho it was Texas Chainsaw Massacre that take it a new almost unimaginable level taking audiences by the throat and dragging them through a nightmare. For cast and crew it was an all too real nightmare shooting long hours, seven days a week on a budget that meant the actors had only one set of clothes for filming which quickly began to smell as the gruelling, chaotic and exhausting shoot continued. What audiences finally saw was like nothing anyone had seem before and yet re-watches of the film reveal it too be far less gory than night be expected with much of the violence implied and yet you do think you have seen one character hung on a meat hook and worse. Nonetheless the film remains to this day a gruelling experience so it was little surprise that at the time of release it was pretty much banned in the UK where it could not be shown without cuts and many councils just refusing it to be screened in their towns and cities.

Despite its subject matter in many ways The Texas Chainsaw massacre was ahead of its time with the roles being actual characters rather merely stereotypical tropes – the jock, the slut, the nerd etc Here there was a wheelchair bound character and yet he was hugely dislikeable , intentionally so  something that was rarely done before or even after. So unbearable a charcter was he that the first time I saw it at a late night screening someone shouted out, @meals on Wheels’ when Leatherface introduces him to his chainsaw. The film also had the strong final woman character which was kind of a new idea in the day and then of course there’s Leatherface the villain whose grotesque appearance would make him an icon and set the template for Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger , Jason Voorhees et al. In retrospect Leatherface is perhaps a problematic in an age when trans rights are increasingly coming to the fore. Here was a character that wore the dried skin of victims on his own face and made up to look female suggesting that he was battling with his identity. It was an idea that had first come to audences attention with Norman bates in Psycho and later the complaint that would be levelled at The Silence of the Lambs and Ted Levine’s Jame Gumb serial killer who would also wear the skin of his female victims. But Leatherface was a terrifying on screen presence with a shocking and sudden first appearance when he dispatches a victim. And yet he is something of a man-child,  a product of his environment and brutal family who was both scared and scary but unpredictable to a fatal degree for anyone in his path.

Now on Limited Edition on 4K UHD/Blu-ray this is another lovingly restored, brilliantly enhanced disc from Second Sight who continue to take classic films and add further value with a vast array of superb bonus features that make them essential for films fans. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is no different with an immense number of bonus features some of which are from previous versions of the disc notably several of the five commentaries which include the late Tobe Hooper as well as members of the cast Marilyn Burns, Paul Partain, as well as Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen. There is a decent feature length documentary with several directors including Fede Alvarez , Mick Garris and our very own Rob Savage who is quickly establishing himself as a unique talent as a horror director. Less good is Behind the Mask a rather po-faced analysis of Leatherface and other iconic masks and is more of an extended infomercial for the narrators own book of the same name.

Those bonus features in full are…

 

Special Features

  • Three-disc edition – One UHD and two Blu-rays with bonus features on both formats
  • A new presentation featuring additional restoration work
  • UHD presented in Dolby Vision HDR produced by Second Sight Films
  • Audio tracks include new Dolby Atmos, stereo and restored original mono mix produced by Second Sight Films
  • New Audio commentary by Amanda Reyes and Bill Ackerman
  • Audio commentary with Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper
  • Audio commentary with Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor J. Larry Carroll, Sound Recordist Ted Nicolaou
  • Audio commentary with Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Actor Gunnar Hansen
  • Audio commentary with Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger and Paul A. Partain, and Art Director Robert A. Burns
  • The Legacy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – a new feature length documentary produced by Second Sight Films
  • Behind The Mask: Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
  • The Shocking Truth documentary, plus outtakes
  • Cutting Chain Saw with Editor J. Larry Carroll
  • Granpaw’s Tales with Actor John Dugan
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds
  • Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of The Saw
  • Off The Hook with Actor Teri McMinn
  • The Business of Chain Saw with Production Manager Ron Bozman
  • House Tour with Actor Gunnar Hansen
  • Tobe Hooper interview
  • Kim Henkel interview
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Trailers
  • TV and Radio Spots
  • Stills Gallery

Limited Edition Contents also include:

  • Rigid slipcase with original classic artwork
  • 190-page hardback book with new essays by ​​Heather Buckley, Tim Coleman, Martyn Conterio, Miranda Corcoran, Heather Drain, Lee Gambin, Caden Mark Gardner, Lindsay Hallam, Cerise Howard, Kimberly Lindbergs, Annie Rose Malamet, Maitland McDonagh, Neil Mitchell, Jerome Reuter and Robert Skvarla, illustrated by Adam Stothard
  • 6 collectors’ art cards illustrated by Adam Stothard
  • Exclusive 3 additional art cards when ordering direct from Second Sight, while stocks last

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was as influential and as important as The Exorcist which had been released the year before and its very title was enough to have inspired a huge number of sequels, prequels and remake none of which caught the sheer raw terror of the original. For director Tobe Hooper it was a double edged sword. It made his name and yet he would never top let alone equal the horror he had captured on film. Like Orson Welles with Citizen Kane his career had peaked with his first feature film.

Related feature : Tobe Hooper – Obituary

related interview: Rob Savage talks about his road trip from hell movie, ‘Dashcam’

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – LIMITED EDITION 4K UHD / BLU-RAY + standard editions is available on 10th April 2023

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