Specs: Widescreen (1.85:1), stereo surround soundtrack,
original mono soundtrack.
to Director Tobe Hooper, it took eight years after The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre's release for people to start
finding it funny. By our standards in 2003, that may seem
strange. The horror genre has become so well-worn that most
entries end up being funny whether they mean to be or not.
try to put yourself in those original audiences' seats.
Though Hooper's film suggests far more than it actually
shows, it slides from shock to suspense to wild nightmare
with ease. No wonder it was hard to see the humor. It's
there, but it's also without irony, found instead in little
touches in the characterizations by Edwin Neal as "The Hitchhiker"
and surprisingly, Gunnar Hansen as the menacing Leatherface.
have changed, and not necessarily for the better. Hooper's
film is far leaner than the recent
remake, with a narrative that leaves motivations unspoken,
but still drops hints for viewers to make up their own minds.
There is no sympathy for this freaky family of cannibals,
nor, interestingly, any women. The killers clearly understand
their behavior to be abnormal, and take pains to keep it
hidden away from the rest of the world.
for the Neal's character, who can't resist grave-robbing
and playing with the corpses. The evidence of his crimes
gets the film started, as the five young victims have entered
the cannibals' territory in order to make sure the grandfather
of Sally (Marilyn Burns) and Franklin (Paul Partain) lies
unmolested. When these youths later pick the hitchhiker,
he gives in to his baser instincts and slices Franklin's
hand, presumably to taste the blood.
just gets weirder from there, though they have a brief respite
exploring their grandfather's abandoned home before that
titular chainsaw revs up.
you already have Pioneer's earlier DVD release (pictured
above), it's hard to make a case for purchasing this new
special edition. Many of the extras appear to be the same,
with the biggest selling points being a completely remastered
video transfer from the original 16mm ECO print and the
option of a new stereo surround soundtrack.
be honest, though many scenes have vibrant contrasts likely
more in line with Hooper's original vision, the transfer
ends up being a little too dark in places. Some of the gotcha
scenes lose their impact due to murky lighting, though afterwards
you can watch the alternate takes and trailers (both faded)
to see what was actually happening.
if this is not already in your collection, why not? The
commentary from Hooper, Director of Photography Daniel Pearl
(who also shot the remake), and Hansen is a lot more focused
than you'd expect from a first-time gathering after twenty-five
years. It's also kind of a relief to hear how normal Hansen
deleted scenes offer some intriguing insights, including
an allegedly infamous scene in which Leatherface applies
make-up to one of his masks in order to "dress up" for dinner.
Though wisely cut, it's sure a funnier look at Leatherface's
interior life than the remake's shot of his naked cancer-ridden
face. In the original, he's just screwed up, okay, people?
becoming a staple of DVD extras, this disc includes a blooper
reel, which does go to prove that in horror films this relentless,
mistakes only reassure us that it's make-believe. Oops,
the cook flubbed a line while beating Leatherface - it's
not funny, but it breaks the spell.
seen the remake first, I'll still stand by its being an
okay film. But now in the shadow of this original, it's
clear that viewers should go back to the source.