The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Who will survive and what will be left of them?

Year of Release: 1974
Genre: Horror
Rated: R
Running Time: 84 minutes (1:24)
Director: Tobe Hooper


Marilyn Burns ... Sally Hardesty
Allen Danziger ... Jerry
Paul A. Partain ... Franklin Hardesty
William Vail ... Kirk
Teri McMinn ... Pam
Edwin Neal ... Hitchhiker
Jim Siedow ... Old Man
Gunnar Hansen ... Leatherface
John Dugan ... Grandfather
John Larroquette ... Narrator


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.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a great deal to teach us, beyond the obvious: "this is what a horror movie is supposed to look like, try to be more like this." Additionally; don't pick up hitch hikers, when it's over 100 degress outside don't allow yourself to get low on gas, and don't mess with a master of broom-fu, you will be disarmed, and you will be bagged like groceries. But the point I've chosen to discuss in greater depth is this; mind your own God damn business. The unfortunate characters in this movie would have been much better served to take their little sight seeing tour an go on about their business. But no. No, they see an opportunity to mooch something that would make their lives mildly easier so naturally, they take it. You can imagine from the title where that leads. Probably one of the most plot revealing titles in movie history. Anyway, mooching is a serious problem these days. Nobody has any foresight, or ability to look out for themselves and their situations. Most of these types of precautions are basic stuff. It may not even be that they can't take care of themselves, or keep up on the day to day maintenance of their lives, perhaps it's just procrastination that gets them into trouble. Or, perhaps they believe they'll always be able to find someone to bail them out when their ineptitude catches up with them. If this is the case, those among us who are responsible enough to look out for ourselves, that keep helping these people, are as much to blame as they are. That's right, a little introspection is in order. Without us to enable these people, they will eventually sink or swim on their own. For us, this is a win/win situation. They will either learn to depend on themselves, or they'll go find someone else to mooch off of until that person, too, grows weary of them. I think it's time for everyone to start looking at themselves and contemplating whether or not they are one of these enablers. Is someone taking advantage of your kindness? Dependant upon you with no prospect of contributing anything to you, or your household? That's not going to change until you do something about it. Now I'm not recommending a chainsaw massacre, at least not in most cases, but, food for though. B-B-Q for thought.

Saw opens with an interesting piece of outsider art, propped up and rotting in the 100+ degree Texas heat for even the most incompetant of backwater sheriffs to find. In the background, the car radio of a group of new age hippie teenagers is issuing a report about some creepy grave-robber(s) that've been diggin' folks up an making off with the tasty parts. So the hippies decide to stop at the cemetery to see if their great granddaddy's corpse has had any of the tender vittles removed. But first they have to pull over so the crippled obnoxious whining baby of a brother can empty his bladder into a coffee can an brew up some Texas tea with it later on. Just to show how pathetic this guy is, the tailwind from a big rig passing by blows his wheelchair down the hill an both he an the Maxwell House container spill out all over the ground. For whatever reason, one of the other hippies actually bothers to pick him up an get him back in the Mystery Machine so he can make the rest of the trip smell like a port-o-pottie. So after they make sure nobody's chewed on their great grandpa, they happen upon a hitch-hiker who looks so crazy that even Marshall Applewhite wouldn't give em a ride, but they do, because it's the hippie way. They make some small talk with crazy face until he uses a pocket knife an draws directions from his middle finger to his wrist, starts burning polaroids an gets a little overzealous trying to shave Franklin's (the obnoxious whiner) arm with a straight razor. After the 19th red flag regarding the hitch-hiker's sanity goes up the pole they finally realize he may be more trouble than he's worth an pitch him out. The hitch-hiker is appalled at the idea that he's not good enough to ride with hippies an graffiti tags the rear end of the Mystery Machine with his self mutilated paw until after 3 or 4 city blocks the van is able to build up enough speed to get away. Then they stop for gas at a B-B-Q joint an once they can convince the attendant to stop staring at the sun, get a windshield wash. But the bossman comes out an tells em he's outta gas, other than what the B-B-Q causes, an the fuel transport won't be there until later that night. But that fact that they're all virtually rail thin and ripe for dehydration doesn't deter them none an they roll on out of the gas station, sans gas, to go check out the invalid's grandpa's old shack to see how many opossums an armadillos have taken up residence.

Upon their arrival at the shack, the hippies with functioning legs wander around an giggle for about 10 minutes until that gets old, then a pair of them heads down to the creek for a swim. Along the way they run into NRA headquarters an realize they have a generator an thus, must have gas as well. So they make a full sweep of the private property until they find what looks marginally more like a house than the other structures an the male heads inside to see if they can't barter some shiny city-folk items for some gas. But it doesn't take long until a burly, grizzly bear of a man wearing a huge bloody bib comes around the corner an parts the guy's hair with a sledge hammer. After a few minutes the female heads inside looking for her man an stumbles into a room that's got more bones than Spud McKenzie's backyard. Naturally she freaks out an makes as much noise as possible until the angry hippie destroyer grabs ahold of her an hangs her up on a meat hook so he can get back to sawing up her boyfriend into 1 pound packages. Never ask him about his work. So after awhile one of the three remaining hippies goes looking for the two missing delinquints, finds the same house, takes a look inside and finds the female chillin' in the freezer. Realizing that they, and he, who frequently experience the munchies are about to become the munched, he turns to dodge that fate like he did the draft, but Leatherface is waiting for him an he caves in the guy's skull like a Chinese coal mine. By this time Leatherface is really getting self concious about his house keeping an runs to the window to make sure no more hippies are coming over unexpectedly, then sits down to get a grip on himself. At this point we get a good look at the guy an realize he's wearing somebody else's face, which really isn't a big deal, after all, they weren't using it anymore. Pretty soon it starts getting dark and Sally an Franklin are getting a little antsy about going more than a day without any pot an go looking for their fellow hippies... only they run into Leatherface on the way, an he runs his Poulan through Franklin so he'll stop whining about everything under the sun.

Then, shocked to discover that Sally is not only thankful, but is also rather terrified and running like Usain Bolt, he gives chase. She runs until she makes it back to the gas station 'cause running from a guy with a Poulan works up quite an appetite. The attendant is able to calm her down an pulls his truck around front to get her out of there... only he pulls out a burlap bag an begins to advance on her. She grabs a knife off the counter but he's able to broom-fu it out of her hand an get the bag over her head so if the cops pull him over he can just pretend they're going to a KKK rally. He loads her up in the truck an tells her to keep calm while he's poking her with a stick until they come across the hitch-hiker an he ("The Cook") has to get out an beat on him with the stick for awhile until the hitch-hiker agrees to quit hangin' out by the highway an rubbing evidence all over people's vans. They haul Sally into the house an make a spot for her at the table while The Cook browbeats Leatherface for buzz-sawing up the front door an letting all the mosquitos in, then they drag Grandpa down the stairs in his rocking chair for dinner, but they have go to slow because Grandpa's so old he's got an autographed copy of the Bible. The sight of Grandpa is too much for Sally an after running a marathon trying to escape Leatherface she's about ready for a siesta an blacks out. She wakes up to what looks to be her last supper an the family starts howling like someone's giving them a bikini wax an after some male posturing they get the idea to let Grandpa have a crack at her with the sledge for old time's sake. Only most of Grandpa's bones have fossilized by this point and he can't grip the hammer to get the job done an by now Sally's screaming so loud that everyone can hear her all the way over in Cowboy Stadium an she's shaking back an forth like an off balanced washing machine trying to escape. She breaks free an breaks free again out the kitchen window an the big finale is on. No sense in ruining the ending to the greatest horror movie of all time.

Saw (for anyone that may not know, before "Saw" came out in 2004, this is what many people used as an abbrieviation for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is, as I said a moment ago, the greatest horror movie ever made. Often imitated, never duplicated. This movie looks like Tobe Hooper walked into an insane asylum an had someone distract the orderlies so he could talk a bunch of insane people into being in his movie in exchange for busting them out of the booby hatch. These guys are what you expect real nutbars to look and act like. The plausibility in this movie, as slasher movies go, is second to none. The details in the decor of the house, the shooting locations and in fact, the raw realism involved in the shooting give this movie more realism than can hope to be matched, ever again. Shot in just a month, with a shoe string budget, the crew did everything on the cheap. Ironically in certain instances, there's nothing cheaper than the real deal. The movie's prop department used real bones for all their props. The giant collection of bones in the bone room? Real. Mostly animals of course, but there's really no effort made to hide that fact. A lot of the blood on Marilyn Burns' clothing was her own from running around through the brush getting torn up. The temperature at the shooting locations was over 100 degrees the entire time, so if people look disgusting at times, it's because they were. If the clothing looks nasty, it's because they were. Not a lot of money for multiple versions of clothing. What did they do when they couldn't get their effects to work for them? Actually cut the actress, of course. And you can imagine, after 30 days in a row, working 7 days a week, 16 hours a day, in the 100+ degree heat of a Texas summer, a lot of the emotion involved in the various scenes of the movie is genuine. Not to say the actors didn't do a good job, or didn't have any talent, but you have to wonder how much they even needed. They certainly weren't asking what their motivation was, they were pretty well aware. Lets get this thing done so we can go the fuck home. It's one of the most successful independant movies ever released, right up there with Halloween and The Evil Dead, but with a much smaller budget. It's also my personal favorite, not just of the 3, but of all the movies ever made.

Overall, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, original version, is a masterpiece. There will never be anything like it ever again. It's simply on another level. I suspect even the immitators know they can't touch it, perhaps that's why the remake was so little like the original. The remake is an abomination that should be discussed as little as possible. The imitators are infinitely better, which is not to say good, necessarily. There's just too much good to say about the movie to fit into a review, try as I may there'll be things I forget to mention. Many of the actors will tell you the shooting was miserable, which is no doubt the case, I don't expect anyone would deny that. Ed Neal, who played the hitch-hiker, described it thusly: "Filming that scene was the worst time of my life... and I had been in Vietnam, with people trying to kill me, so I guess that shows how bad it was." I think that puts it pretty well in perspective. But I haven't heard anything about any of the people involved, be it cast or crew, regretting their choice to take part. It's a bummer that when the sequel rolled around they wouldn't give Gunnar Hansen more than scale to return for the role of Leatherface, but even he seems to have no regrets. He's probably the guy with the biggest axe to grind, and yet, doesn't. I tend to get the feeling that a lot of people haven't really SEEN the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So many people speak about it as being this horribly bloody, violent, deplorable movie. It really isn't. At least not bloody, and the violence is not half as graphic as other movies that people refer to as "torture porn." But there's something about it that seems to give it the reputation of being a gore filled blood fest with over the top violence. I believe the reason is that so much of the violence comes out of the blue, with no indication than it's about to happen. It catches people off guard an sucker punches them. That kind of violence generally does not happen in movies, certainly not in those days at least. I believe people exaggerate the violence for the fact that it does not follow the usual Hollywood formula of having spooky music build up the suspense until the "shocking" part inevitably happens. None of that here. It happens, and unless you've seen it, you're not ready for it. In fact, there is virtually no soundtrack for the movie at all, which makes it all the more different from what people are used to in horror movies. It's timeless, amazing, horrifying and untouchable. If you've not seen it, I'm embarrassed for you. Buy it. Blind. You won't regret it.

Rating: 100%