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OnTV Today's Date:

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Rating: R
Release Date: October 14, 2003
Running Time: approximately 84 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: Five young friends ask for help at the house of Leatherface. Bad move.
Version: Special Edition


  • Commentary by director Tobe Hooper, Director of Photography Daniel Pearl, and star Gunnar Hansen.
  • Alternate footage
  • Deleted scenes
  • Blooper reel
  • Original trailers and television spots for all the Chainsaw films.
  • Posters and collectibles
  • Still photos

    Tech Specs: Widescreen (1.85:1), stereo surround soundtrack, original mono soundtrack.

    According 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.

    But 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.

    Times 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.

    Except 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.

    It just gets weirder from there, though they have a brief respite exploring their grandfather's abandoned home before that titular chainsaw revs up.

    If 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.

    To 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.

    However, 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 sounds.

    The 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? Move along.

    Rapidly 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.

    Having 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.

    Derek McCaw


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