“The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre…..”
The opening narration pretty much sums up what follows during the next 83 minutes of the film. Ever since its release in 1974, Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE has not lost any of impact, remaining just as intense and macabre today, and is still considered a horror classic for its fear-inducing atmosphere and gritty tone. The film’s rather simplistic approach is, for me, not a film that you watch, but one you experience. Tobe’s direction grabs you from the opening minutes of the film and refuses to let go even when the end credits start rolling. Whilst Leatherface and the rest of the Sawyer clan are recognised in the horror world as famous slashers, the film and performances are much more than that and creates a true tour de force in terror. Often imitated but never equalled (and unfortunately followed by a series of sequels and reboots that range from watchable to downright awful), THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE is a true horror classic that shouldn’t be missed.
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE tears up the Blu-ray format with a brand new HD transfer that was part of a the 40th Anniversary 4K restoration by Dark Sky Films using the original 16mm film that actually rolled through the cameras. The restoration took a solid five months to complete and the results are nothing short of astonishing. It’s presented with a 1080/24p MPEG-AVC codec that preserves the film’s 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio. Featuring a more tighter grain structure than refines smaller detail, it still has it’s gritty and dirty look which captures the film’s mood and intensity perfectly. Whilst the film won’t look like a multi-million dollar picture, this new transfer is the best it will ever look. Colours are rendered nicely with some particular highlights being characters clothing and backdrops like blue skies during the first act and striking dusk hues during the finale. Skin tones were also very natural. Detail is as sharp as it can be (due to limitations in the source), but shows a lot more detail over the previous Blu-ray transfer. Black levels are spot on with no evidence of crushing during the second act.
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE arrives on Blu-ray with a number of audio options. First up is the brand new DTS-MA 7.1 audio mix followed by a DTS-MA 5.1 audio track (which I presume is the 5.1 remix from the 2006 release as it does not sound like a fold down mix of the 7.1 track), a LPCM 2.0 stereo surround track (from the 1996 release) and finally, a LPCM 1.0 audio track which preserves the film’s original mono soundtrack. For this review, I focused on the 7.1 remix and the results were amazing. Creating a fully immersive soundstage for the carnage to unfold in, the sound engineers have really opened up the mix to a whole new level. All seven speakers had superb use of panning and directional effects throughout. One superb example was when Sally is being chased by Leatherface at the end of the second act. Whilst the camera follows Sally from behind as she struggles through the trees and bushes, the sound of Leatherface and his chainsaw can be heard approaching in the rear four speakers depending on what direction he’s coming from. Dialogue was clear and precise in the centre channel throughout. LFE is used to give the chilling and atmospheric score some impact as well. I did notice a couple of new sound effects that were added in various places to add a bit more ambience, but apart from that, this is pretty much the best remixed audio I’ve heard in a long while. The inclusion of the original mixes as well sweetens the deal.
The only features included on Disc One are four audio commentaries.
Track 1: Writer / Producer/ Director Tobe Hooper.
Track 2: Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor JK. Larry Carrol and Sound Recordist Red Nicolaou.
Track 3: Tobe Hooper, Daniel pearl and actor Gunnar Hansen.
Track 4: Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain and Art Director Robert A. Burns.
Cutting Chainsaw with Editor J. Larry Carroll (10:47) – An interview with the original film editor.
‘Granpaw’s Tales’ with Actor John Dugan (15:48) – An interview with the actor that played the decaying Grandpa
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (20:21) – Sean Clark hosts another superb tour of the original filming locations
New Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (15:07) – A selection of freshly uncovered of new unseen (silent) footage found during the 40th Anniversary restoration.
‘The Shocking Truth’ (72:19) – A feature length documentary that gives superb insight into the production of the film and it’s legacy
‘The Shocking Truth’ Outtakes (07:41) – some snippets of outtake footage from the documentary
Flesh Wounds – Seven Stories of the Saw (71:42) – Another feature length documentary about the making of the film.
Off the Hook with Teri McMinn (17:02) – an interview with the actress that played Pam
‘The Business of Chain Saw’ with Production Manager Ron Bozman (16:25) – An interview with the Production Manager who adds a bit more detail of the film’s release and his career afterwards
House Tour with Gunnar Hansen (08:04) – Leatherface himself gives the viewer a tour of the original house
Tobe Hooper Interview (13:46) – An interview with the Director.
Kim Henkel Interview (08:25) – An interview with the writer
Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (25:23) – A collection of deleted scenes and shots
Bloopers (02:23) – A very short blooper reel
Trailers and TV Spots (01:38) – A collection of original trailers and TV spots.
Radio Spots (01:03) – A small selection of original radio spots.
Stills Gallery – A collection of posters, promotional material and behind the scenes photos
Well, there we have it. Quite possibly the most definitive release of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. Not quite sure how they will top this one in ten years time, in all honesty. Being a fan of this film and still owing the Elite Laserdisc edition from the late ’90s and every new release since, I’m quite happy to say that this is the best the film will probably ever look and sound until the next big format (4K Blu-ray, Oculus Rift, etc.) comes along. Absolutely jaw-dropping audio and visuals (with Second Sight making some small improvements which are exclusive to the UK version) accompanied with a second disc rammed full of bonus features. It doesn’t get better than this. Highly recommended.