The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Read Anton Bitel's film review of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

With the Texas Chainsaw Massacre already available on R2 DVD, the obvious question is which version to go for.

In terms of sound and picture, there is nothing to choose between this new release from Universal and its predecessor from Blue Dolphin.

Copy picture

Being a low-budget production that was shot on 16mm in mono and blown up for theatrical release, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not the sort of film that was ever going to win any audio-visual awards. This said, the restoration and remastering work, along with the new Dolby digital mix are entirely satisfactory, the latter nicely adding to the atmospherics of Hooper's music concrete score.

The commentary track with director Tobe Hooper, cinematographer Daniel Pearl and Gunnar "Leatherface" Hansen, was originally featured on the Elite Laserdisc release, but also appeared on the old UK DVD.

Taking the form of an impromptu chat, with the three men bouncing reminiscences and questions off one another, it works well. Each man's contribution complements the others, giving us a composite picture of what the film was like from the perspectives of director, crew and performers.

Any gaps in the commentary are filled in by the new extras - which come at the cost of removing the original mono sound mix - a 72-minute documentary, The Shocking Truth, and shorter interviews with Hooper and writer Kim Henkel, all produced by Blue Underground.

Including contributions from just about everyone who matters among the cast and crew - only Terri McMinn, Ed Neal and Daniel Pearl are noticeably absent - the documentary tells the story of the film from its genesis through production, distribution and reception, on to the eventual sequels.

One feels sorry for the participants, who put up with appalling conditions - long days in extremely unpleasant conditions - and received virtually nothing for their pains. With none of the majors, or established exploitation outfits, showing an interest in the film, the only distribution offer came from Bryanston, a Mafia company, whose previous claim to fame was the infamous porno Deep Throat. Net results, TCM makes millions, but only a tiny portion of the money goes to those deserving it.

Also of note is the discussion of the film's reception in the UK, where stock footage of Nazi book-burnings accompanies the story of its 25-year ban in the territory. It sounds heavy-handed and probably is at some level, yet isn't an entirely inappropriate authorial comment when one considers that TCM was outlawed, not for any specific piece of obscene content, as with the archetypal "video nasty" - whether animal cruelty as in Cannibal Ferox, or sexualised rape as in House On The Edge Of The Park - but because the BBFC, who could not put their finger on anything specific, found the film disturbing.

The interviews, which are divided up into headed segments, are not bad, merely somewhat superfluous by the time you've watched the commentary and documentary. There is, after all, only so much that can be said.

The other extras, with the exception of the DVD-ROM web link, are identical to those on the laserdisc and Blue Dolpin DVD. You get trailers and TV spots for the Bryanston and New Line releases of the film; sequel trailers (with TCM: The Next Generation still curiously represented by a "rough cut" trailer); out-takes and alternatives takes, and comprehensive galleries, which, unfortunately, cannot be set to auto-advance. Nothing outstanding, then, but all of interest to fans of the film.

The package is rounded off with a 16-page booklet and, for the initial DVD release at least, a reproduction poster. Unfortunately the promo DVD I received did not include these materials, so I can't fairly comment on them.

All in all, the Universal DVD of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is clearly the one to go for if you don't already possess the old Blue Dolphin release. You lose the original mono sound track but gain a very impressive documentary. But whether those with the original will want to upgrade, rather than just renting/borrowing the new DVD to watch the documentary is more debatable.

Reviewed on: 09 Mar 2003
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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre packshot
A tragedy that befalls five youths in the Texas outback takes horror to a new dimension.
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Anton Bitel: DVD

Product Code: 9027111

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.85:1 widescreen

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0

Extras: Audio commentary, documentary, interviews, trailers, stills and poster galleries, out-takes and alternate takes.

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