Saturday, September 18, 2010

#43. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

DVD Synopsis: It has been called "grisly," "sick," and "perverse," as well as "raw," "unshakeable," and "the movie that redefined horror." It was attacked by churches, banned by governments, and acclaimed by only the bravest of critics. It stunned audiences worldwide and set a new standard in movie terror forever. In 1974, writer-producer-director Tobe Hooper unleashed this dark, visionary tale about a group of five young friends who face a nightmare of torment at the hands of a depraved Texas clan. Today it remains unequaled as a landmark of outlaw filmmaking and unparalleled in its impact as perhaps the most frightening motion picture ever made.

Directed in 1974 by Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is, hands down, my all-time favorite horror film.

When a cemetery in rural Texas is desecrated by grave robbers, Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) - along with their three friends Jerry (Allan Danziger), Kirk (William Vail) and Pam (Terry McMinn) - drive down there to check on the grave of their grandfather.

From there, things get downright crazy.

After picking up a deranged hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) and making a brief stop at a gas station run by a strange BBQ chef (Jim Siedow), the group visits the abandoned home that once belonged to Sally and Franklin’s grandfather.

When Kirk, Pam, and Jerry disappear without a trace into the woods surrounding this house, Sally and Franklin set out to find them, only to come face-to-face with a chainsaw-wielding maniac (Gunnar Hansen).

A film that is impossible to predict, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre does, by way of it's opening images, provide a glimpse of the insanity to follow: portions of a mangled corpse, recently exhumed by a madman, are illuminated (albeit briefly) by the flash from a Polaroid camera.

This opening is both grisly and bizarre, yet it opens the door just a crack, providing the tiniest inkling of what’s to come.

And what does follow is chaos of the highest order.

That’s why I love The Texas Chain Saw Massacre; it pushes the envelope continuously, taking us on a wild, freaked-out ride that gets wilder and freakier with each passing moment, culminating in a ‘dinner party’ finale that is absolute, bat-shit insanity.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has quite a bit in common with another low-budget horror flick made a few years earlier; George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Both were produced independently, cost less than $150,000 to make, and featured a cast of unknowns. In addition, both were hugely successful, grossing more than $50 million worldwide at the box office. More than this, though, Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were trend-setting motion pictures, and would change the face of horror for many years to come.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a masterpiece of the macabre, and I love it a little more each time I see it.


T.Reed - Nightmare Sound said...

More interesting Facts about Texas Chainsaw Massacre & Director Tobe Hooper @

T.Reed - Composer

Anonymous said...

Doctor Shock;
Surprised too see the least writeup on your favorite movie compared to all the other summaries, no worries episode 10 was amazing, the detail, the dialogue, the ratings, superb.

Lenny from Vancouver, Canada

DVD Infatuation said...

@Lenny: Thanks for stopping by.

Yeah, the above write-up is brief, to say the least. This is because, back when I first started this blog, I figured if I was going to get through 2,500 movies, I'd have to do so writing no more than 150-200 words on each one. I've since changed that philosophy (right around the beginning of 2011), and am writing more complete pieces (an average of 550 or so words) on each film.

As this is my favorite horror movie of all time, I know I'll eventually have to go back at some point and expand on the thoughts outlined above. But that's a project for another day!

Thanks for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre. I appreciate your kind words, and I know I speak for all the hosts when I say we greatly appreciate your support.

Anonymous said...

I had to search for this MrShock you usually post on the same day as the podcast rolls. I just read the comment above and see why.

My thoughts on the bonus is Spectacular, period. I now want to watch this movie again even though I just seen it about 3 months ago. Thats a feat.


DVD Infatuation said...

@Bramley: Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the comment.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the Podcast, and I certainly know how you feel...I just watched TCM last week, and now I want to see it again as well!

Thanks again for the kind words, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

the planet macabre podcast really outdone themselves again. all the episodes are great, but the new one is utterly amazing how well "eight" thats right "eight" people gelled on this podcast. great job dr shock and all involved.

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks, also, for the kind words. I absolutely agree with you in that all of the guests on the show were tremendous, and really came prepared to discuss a classic horror film. Kudos to Billchete for pulling it all together!

Thanks for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

stellar bonus pod:::i likey:::

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment. Glad you liked the show!

Anonymous said...

What a RevieW!!!!!

GREAT episode every host had a neat take on Texas ChainSaw. Such brilliant work by the whole Planet MACabre crew.

Simone' Georgia

Anonymous said...

the bonus episode was the crem de la crem sir shock. all the hosts were impressive and i am checking all there sites out to find out more about them

ty for all that you do in the horror community

HiNFinCH - TX - US

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks for stopping by!

@Simone': Thanks for the kind words, and I agree with you: the guests we had on the show did a phenomenal job! Thanks for listening.

@HiNFinCH: Thanks so much. I'm glad you enjoyed the show. And thank you for listening: without the show's awesome fans, this extra episode wouldn't have happened.

Anonymous said...

Superb Bonus Cast Doctor; THANKS a bunch!

DVD Infatuation said...

Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by, and thanks also for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic stuff on bonus10 and you had a man from my neck of the woods in the UK. Nice surprise, I really like the international flavor of the podcast every episode. Kepp pumping them out I will be listening UK Brevin

Anonymous said...

Highly Entertaing discussion of TX CS MASS. Can i rate your podcast from 1 to 10? Welp I will and I think you will like it, a 10! Best horror podcast I ever heard by far.

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks for stopping by.

@Brevin: Thanks for the kind words (and yes, Tom is from the UK, and was absolutely excellent on the show. If you haven't already, be sure to check out his Podcasts as well). We promise to keep 'em coming!

@Anonymous: Thanks so much for the 10 rating...we appreciate it! And thanks for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

SUPER Texas Chainsaw Episode. The facts brought out about the movie was really cool. It was a pleasure listening to this episode when all the guests brought there own feel to the movie. This episode got me excited on buying the Blu-ray and it doesn't disappoint. SUPER, SUPER job!!!!!!

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your kind words concerning the bonus episode. I agree...all of the guests we had on the show were excellent!

I'm glad you enjoyed it (and enjoy the Blu-Ray as well...I own it, and it's a gem!).

Have a good one, and thanks for listening to Planet Macabre.

$nake said...

Love the roadkill armadillo early on. Sets the tone. One of my all time faves.

DVD Infatuation said...

Snake: This one's my all-time favorite horror film. No others even come close!

Thanks for the comment!

kublahken said...

Some thoughts about this film since I know you're a fan.

The tone of the movie has an admittedly raw quality to it - some refer to this as a documentary feel - which is probably high praise because the cinematography and direction (camera placement, editing, etc.) is first class and very definitely art directed with methodical precision.

It's the nature of the film that lends it some sort of sleazy, 2nd class status in certain circles. I realized - upon watching the remake - that there are certain trade-offs that are absolutely vital in order to produce art honestly and with real resonance.

The remake is visually beautiful to look at ( I understand it's the same cinematographer, albeit now with well over 20 years of experience and a bucket of money to fund his well-honed technique), however there's a faux grittiness that is really more about sheen than substance; the remake becomes - unintentionally - about the filmmakers (the visualist) and NOT the story. The presentation itself becomes a tunnel vision of tactile obsession.

Compare the viewer's introduction to Leatherface. In the remake, Leatherface is introduced into a room full of people and is defended against by his first victim (if only briefly). This utterly deflates the power of his introduction. The original, by contrast, presents the horror of one person's isolation upon meeting their imminent demise (by an unstoppably quick force)- in real time.

ALSO, and I find this extremely significant: In great art there is often a knife's edge upon which competing extremes are held in perfect balance. This mysterious line between genius/idiot, tragedy/absurdity and so on. The dinner table scene contains one of the darkest moments in all of horror because I think it captures this dual emotional state.

Sally passes out and awakens (after God knows how long) only to leave the peace of dreams into a waking nightmare. She realizes the upside-down state of reality (callback to the upside-down drunkard at the cemetery) and begins to scream hysterically (unstoppably). The family responds by screaming back at her with an aggressive facetiousness. This moment is BOTH - that is SIMULTANEOUSLY - humorous and horrific and plumbs the odd depths of our race's ability to experience multiple emotions at once. An even darker moment is realized when the camera observes the people in this room. The cook's face betrays the face of a person whose thread of empathy (sanity) is so thin we can see it snapping; his awkward facial expressions demonstrate a hesitant acceptance that he shares his kin's dementia.

It's a master class in "less is more" horror filmaking-equal to (or maybe greater than) Psycho, Halloween and Silence of The Lambs and seems to be a lost art these days alas

DVD Infatuation said...

Kublahken: My apologies for taking so long to reply.

Simply put, your comment is incredible. I think you summed up perfectly why I consider this my favorite horror film, as well as one of my all-time favorite movies, and your take on the remake is spot-on.

I thank you so much for sharing this. Do you have a site or blog you write for? If so, I'd love to check it out.

Thanks again!

kublahken said...

thanks Dave. will keep ya posted on any future efforts in the blogosphere ;-)

kublahken said...

Hey Dave

KublahKen here following up on our exchange re: TCM.

I watched Chainsaw again recently and felt compelled to examine it more closely in essay form. I wrote an appreciation of sorts and thought you might want to take a look. keep in mind this isn't a short webby movie review, rather it's more an examination of why i think the movie is so damn accomplished. drop me a line if you have any thoughts on this.

here's the url:

DVD Infatuation said...

@kublahken: Excellent write-up! I think you pretty much nailed why I love this movie.

Thanks for posting the link, and I encourage everyone to head over and check it out. Absolutely terrific!

Unknown said...

You're going to hate me for this, Doc, but I don't like this movie as much as you and the rest of the horror crowd. I think it's a classic. I think it has earned its place in history. But I don't think it's the gem everyone makes it out to be. I do love plenty of things about it like the cinematography and photography. It has that 70s quality to it that I love, but there's a level of skill that other horror films from that time lack. There are some beautiful shots that are quite mesmerizing like the shot from a low angle where the camera is following the girl in the red shorts (can't remember her name) and you start seeing the house—that's art. I do hate a lot of things too like the characters and the acting, but perhaps that's all my personal opinion.