The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) – Film Review

texas chainsaw massacre film review

Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger
Certificate: 18

By Sarah Morgan

For 30 years, I avoided The Texas Chain Saw Massacre like the plague. I saw it once, in my student digs, on a VHS pirate copy back in the days when it was still banned in the UK and, despite the film’s ‘dangerous’ reputation, didn’t find it scary at all. Instead, I regarded it as no more than an unpleasant, gory exploitation flick.

So when I was asked to review a shiny new Blu-ray release, I was filled with trepidation – would I still think the same? Was I going to put myself through 90 minutes of depressing drudgery for relatively little gain?

Thankfully, in the intervening decades, it seems my tastes have changed somewhat. It’s not that I would ever describe The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as enjoyable, it’s far too grim a subject matter for that – not to mention incredibly tense – but it’s far better made and acted than I remembered. Perhaps I’ll blame the poor quality of the video on my previous opinion.

texas chainsaw massacre film review artwork

“Bumped off”

For the uninitiated, director Tobe Hooper, who co-wrote the screenplay with Kim Henkel, created the horror classic on a low budget, using a cast of unknown actors, which gave the production a semi-documentary feel.

The story was inspired by the crimes of Ed Gein, who robbed graves, created trophies and keepsakes from the bodies he found, and also killed two women (the opening titles suggest the film is a true story, but Gein’s influence on the plot is as close to real life as it gets).

A group of young people on a road trip make the mistake of travelling through an area of Texas inhabited by a family of cannibals. One by one they’re bumped off by the genuinely terrifying Leatherface, who wields the chainsaw of the title.

Gunnar Hansen plays the villain, and became an unlikely star in the process, turning up at conventions across the world until his death in 2015. But it’s Marilyn Burns who should have gone on to become an A-lister thanks to her convincing portrayal of Sally, the last traveller standing who has the misfortune of being introduced to Leatherface’s gruesome family. Will she escape their clutches?

texas chainsaw massacre film review 1974


Well, that would be telling…

The film was a massive box office hit on its release in 1974, and has since spawned numerous sequels, remakes and spin-offs. However, the original remains the most respected entry in the genre thanks to its impact on the entire horror genre. Hooper certainly deserves to be known by a wider audience, although his subsequent career (aside from Poltergeist) didn’t live up to this early promise.

The release is packed full of more special features than I’ve ever seen before – you’ll need a week off work to watch them all! I don’t know if it’ll be another 30 years before I view the film again, but I certainly won’t be looking down my nose at it any more.

Special Features:
● Three-disc edition – One UHD and two Blu-rays with bonus features on both formats
● A new presentation featuring additional restoration work
● UHD presented in Dolby Vision HDR produced by Second Sight Films
● Audio tracks include new Dolby Atmos, stereo and restored original mono mix produced by Second Sight Films
● New Audio commentary by Amanda Reyes and Bill Ackerman
● Audio commentary with Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper
● Audio commentary with Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor J. Larry Carroll, Sound Recordist Ted Nicolaou
● Audio commentary with Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Actor Gunnar Hansen
● Audio commentary with Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger and Paul A. Partain, and Art Director Robert A. Burns
● The Legacy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre - a new feature length documentary produced by Second Sight Films
● Behind The Mask: Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
● The Shocking Truth documentary, plus outtakes
● Cutting Chain Saw with Editor J. Larry Carroll
● Granpaw's Tales with Actor John Dugan
● Horror's Hallowed Grounds
● Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of The Saw
● Off The Hook with Actor Teri McMinn
● The Business of Chain Saw with Production Manager Ron Bozman
● House Tour with Actor Gunnar Hansen
● Tobe Hooper interview
● Kim Henkel interview
● Deleted Scenes
● Outtakes
● Trailers
● TV and Radio Spots
● Stills Gallery
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is released on 4k & Blu-ray by Second Sight

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