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Blu-ray Review

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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
(2023 4K Restoration)


Starring: Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow and Gunnar Hansen
Distributor: Second Sight Films


Certificate: 18
Release Date: 10 April 2023

A group of teenagers on a road trip pick-up a hitchhiker who turns out to be more than a little unhinged. After throwing him out, they pull into a tiny filling station only to be told there is no fuel. Further down the road their van cuts out, so while Sally and her invalid brother Franklin wait by the vehicle, the others go in search for some fuel or a telephone. Calling at an isolated house they have an abrupt and fatal meeting with a brutal thickset man wearing a mask of human skin. As night falls Sally and Franklin go in search of their missing friends. What they discover is an insane family of cannibalistic individuals - among them the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface...

I'm certain that most long-time horror fans will have Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre high on their list of classic films. Undoubtedly, it can be included with NosferatuNight of the Living DeadHalloween, and Psycho as an original example which began a trend. This was a teen horror flick before the term was even invented, but with a big difference. Said to be based loosely on American real life serial killer Ed Gein (as was Psycho), it explores madness in the absence of law, through the eyes of protagonist/victim Sally. The main perpetrator, who is of course Leatherface, comes across as being meticulously designed and choreographed, right down to his jerky, puppet like movements and childlike behaviour. The first scene in which he appears must have been very shocking to mid-seventies cinema-goers. When the door slides open and Leatherface kills the male teen with a single hammer blow, it induces a little laughter in this enlightened age - not because it is silly, but fundamentally because it's so abrupt. This is refreshing when most examples of the horror genre since have drawn out set pieces to the point of tediousness. Another example is when the other girl springs out of the freezer like a jack-in-a-box and Leatherface pushes her back in.

The moments involving the ultimate dysfunctional family are purposefully off-kilter, with a seriously psychotic dinner and extreme close-ups, particularly of Sally's eyes as she risks descending into madness. The edginess continues right to the final credits. It gets in, tells the story and gets out again, which is one of the reasons why it's so enduring.

I reviewed the Second Sight 3-Disc Seriously Ultimate Edition Steelbook version of this film back in 2008. My view during the intervening years has not changed: the film remains a horror classic, probably the first to use the Scooby-Doo kids ‘gang’ format. This new 4K (Dolby Vision) and 2 x Blu-ray boxset comes complete in a rigid box featuring the original artwork, 6 x collectors’ art cards illustrated by Adam Stothard, and a 190-page hardback book containing multiple new essays and new illustrations. There is a new audio commentary by Amanda Reyes and Bill Ackerman, and a rather good new feature-length documentary called The Legacy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There is a plethora of other extras (more than you can swing a chainsaw at!), most of which appeared on the previously-mentioned 3 x DVD release – including the very entertaining The Shocking Truth Documentary, wherein Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface himself) speaks out.

As I only received the two Blu-ray discs for review, I can only comment on the 4K scan Blu-ray edition of the film (which is excellent, sharpening the images to make them even more bizarre and edgy), rather than the true 4K format. Perhaps the promotional people didn’t think I would have a 4K player and sound system. If you don’t have this film in your collection, or if your old DVD (or VHS!) needs updating, there can be no better time to add it.


Ty Power

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