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08.17.2017
Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The (1974)
Movie Review by The Mortician
01.25.15

Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The (1974) What can be said about this one, other than they keep making the diehard fans like me buy this movie over and over and over again. The 40th Anniversary DVD Edition came out and I HAD to pick it up by default, you know, for the 4K transfer and all when I still watch movies on an old Tube T.V with 400 lines of resolution. What's the deal with the secondary extra discs in this set? They are grafted into the casing so well that you can't get them out. I nearly pulled my pointer fingernail off trying to wedge the discs out of their compartments. This edition, the DEFINITIVE one ("Until the next time," as Arnie chimed in COMMANDO) sure looks great and ports over most all the extras from previous editions, plus a few new commentaries, outtakes, and new "behind the scenes" 16mm footage that is quite cool. As for the movie itself, it stands tall in the test of time. When I originally saw it in the early VHS days from Wizard Video, I initially didn't care for it that much. By then, I had already been weaned on stuff like BLOOD FEAST, MANIAC, DAWN OF THE DEAD, and other intense VHS "splatter" movies. CHAINSAW seemed to be more like someone's "dry hump" home movies with no "money shots." It followed a group of people around that you didn't even like that much and they get taken out, one by one, off camera or in bloodless fashion. Sally, the Final Girl, is beaten, punched, kicked, thrown around, and abused around the dinner table for the last 30 minutes of the movie and barely gets away...That's all there was! Most of the killers survived and were still out there, something that HALLOWEEN notably later cribbed. These maniac brothers were unique and interesting, of course, and there were rumors that all this was based on real events (loosely on Ed Gein, same as PSYCHO), but beyond that...at first glance...it seemed to be pretty overhyped to me. Also, it didn't seem to have the CHAINSAW CARNAGE that the title implied. But I kept going back to it and in that process, began to FEEL the power of the movie with each new view. Slowly, it grew on me, transcending from normal film viewing in an unspoken way where suddenly you DO relate to the kids in the van- they're just people like me and you, John and Jane Doe's, starting out in life and trying to overcome the problems that are hurled their way. They're checking to see if their granddaddy's grave has been messed with since there's been a series of grave robberies in the area. (Who would wanna deal with that prospect?) The "home movie" capturing of the events on grainy 16mm reversal film adds to it all, making it feel more "documentary-like" than THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT could ever hope to be. Then there's the blasted out white windows in the van while they talk inside...Also captured in celluloid time is the oppressive Texas heat, contained so perfectly in the scenery shots with the hot sun constantly blasting into the camera lens along with the steaming tarmac of baking roadkill... Hideous! Can't forget the buzzing cicadas humming in the background of the night scenes...and let's talk about the crazy characters. ALL of them, even the kids in the van...eventually seem to be more than a bit off-kilter. Suddenly the whole movie becomes an experience, like a nightmare you just can't escape from. When the violence occurs, it's psychologically so brutal and unexpected that what you DON'T see is filled in by your mind and infinitely more powerful than anything karo syrup and foam latex could ever deliver. The suffering the characters go through, from Pam infinitely dangling on the meathook (screaming in agony) to Kurt's convulsing body after he's clobbered in the head by Leatherface's meat mallet to all the things poor Sally goes through make you FEEL the brutality far more than any of the FRIDAY THE 13th kills ever could. I can't ignore wheelchair-bound Franklin's death by chainsaw...no chance for him, handicapped as he was, and what a way to go, even though you're kind of wickedly glad that his incessant miserable nagging will finally cease. But that scene alone, if you look closely, is bloody, violent, and crazed, especially in the new 4K transfer. And although CHAINSAW is devoid of any actual true female nudity in totality, scream queen Marilyn Burns (as Sally) sure runs around much of the time with her hard nipples cutting right through that tight tank top, something I've ALWAYS noticed and appreciated. And hottie Pam, although we're deprived of seeing her skinnydip when she arrives at a lake that is drained and baked to dust by the incinerating Texas sun, she sure sports a revealing little boner-inducing outfit with a backless halter top and short shorts. The shot where the camera follows behind her, low to the ground and under the swing towards Leatherface's digs...is soooo delicious, you can just imagine her being topless because it looks like she is! So subliminally, the female flesh factor is nicely peppered throughout the film. The nightmarish story builds and builds to a manic, frantic crescendo of madness in an old farmhouse where the clan tries to make mince meat out of poor Sally, and it's a brutal, inescapable familiarity, one we revisit over and over and over. One of the Granddaddy's of the slasher genre, and worth every bit of its disreputable reputation. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is like a nasty cough syrup that helps you, it just takes some getting used to. Take the medicine, horror fans!

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