Allen Danziger, blog, Burns, Cannibal, Chainsaw, Ed Neal, Edwin Neal, entertainment, Film, Gunnar Hansen, hitchhiker, Horror, Jim Siedow, John Dugan, Kim Henkel, Leatherface, Marilyn, movies, Paul A. Partain, rants, review, Teri McMinn, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, thoughts, tobe hooper, William Vail
What’s the first things that come to your mind when thinking of the story involved in this classic? If you’ve answered that is was in part, a true story, then you are correct! That helps sell it to those who don’t know better, right? The story being that Tobe had relatives growing up in Wisconsin, not far from where Ed Gein lived. When younger, he would hear stories of cannibal families existing and the terrible things they would partake in. Not finding out until a year or two after this film was released that it had been Ed Gein referring to. The remake actually has the better documentary on Gein…just not the better movie. Summing this up as quick as can (though a “fascinating” man) it wasn’t until the loss of his mother that he gained the knack for grave robbing. Preserving her house and staying in a small area to ensure everything remained as is. Bringing at times, fresh bodies to eat the flesh, make furniture and dress up in the woman’s skins (a representation of sorts due his mother’s act of raising him and his brother). Due to being unable to reach his mothers grave; eventually the bodies became not enough. Caught only with his second known victim who had been hung in his barn, gutted and decapitated. The amount of body parts found throughout were excessive to say the least. What he would actually do with the bodies will undoubtedly be too much for some, his “sloppiness” with handling the second victim was what gave him away. Spending the rest of his life in a sanatorium and passing away due to a respiratory failure. So there you go.
The film was shot in 32 days with sometimes 16 hour days. Because it was a low budgeted picture there was only one costume for Gunnar and because they couldn’t risk washing it, they just never did. Can you imagine? Something I didn’t know before watching some of the extra features was that the film was made at a time when there was no PG-13 rating so they did try for PG before getting an R. The bones displayed throughout the film were received from a veterinarian who had thrown out the carcasses with some being rentals, the real things being a lot cheaper. They also had originally intended to call the film Leatherface or Headcheese. After the original however it seemed the fear captured with the original chainsaw maniac was tried to be captured in the form of 3 sequels, 2 remakes and 1 crappy “beginning.” As fan favorites as some of the others may be, you just can’t get any better than the original in this series.
Premise: A pair of siblings go with their friends to check on a relatives grave after hearing about it maybe being vandalized. After everything seems fine, they decide to visit their old house for memories sake and once stopping, each go their separate ways. Soon finding themselves in the hands of a crazed family whose masked member seemed a bit too handy with a chain saw. Sally is able to escape yet eventually taken back to the house to “interact” with the family over “dinner;” able to break away and make one final run for it. Our main killer getting slowed a bit by his own hands and ends the film, swinging his weapon around for the final shot in anger with his victim getting away with nothing more than haunting memories.
5. The lack thereof sound and oh so infamous shutter click: I tend to prefer when a movie can speak more for itself then what the soundtrack can assist with. Which is not to say that I don’t like any music whatsoever; I tend to be neutral in the realm of film whenever able. A theme song or association with a certain film can hold just as much. (The greats usually have something at least) For me, when the film first begins and you hear the sound of the shutter going off with flashes of the bodies revealed more with each click was a great opening and way to set the tone. The film was also good about being able to hold the suspense until that one shot when the surprise would jump out (like right before killing Franklin). Another memorable scene being of course, but is memorable because of the families taunts mixed with the various close-ups of Sally and her screaming if anything. (That was pure terror) Especially because the family was where the fear was derived from so it was important that they were each characters in themselves to be able to maintain that fear, regardless of which relative watching. The ending being memorable because of the sounds of Leatherface frantically tossing his saw every which way instead of the music having to become at an overabundance of music which is what I’ve become more used to with movies released in the past couple years.
4. “I have this knife…it’s a good knife”: Before actually getting anywhere to have any real reason to be terrified, the group is introduced to the hitchhiker played by Ed Neal. They converse with him but what seems only as a means to entertain him since also uncertain of their new friends exact intentions; I would have declined dinner with his family too. Though I thought it was funny when Franklin wouldn’t pay him the money so he decided to burn it in front of them as he did this bizarre “happy dance.” Cutting Franklin being the last thing they take before kicking him out. (That’s why you don’t pick up random people on the street) I loved him sticking his tongue out while they drove away too. Quite a funny character and still able to scare with his outlandish behavior in combination with the rest of the family. Taunting Sally once she awakes and screams her head off later in the film. It wasn’t as though he simply just took orders either because of when speaking back to his old man (Jim Siedow). He seemed generally thrilled at torturing the girl and knew the old man was nothing more than the cook, helping in the work left him with little to speak back on.
3. How great Gunnar Hansen was as Leatherface: The reason Gunnar didn’t return after the original always seemed to come down to money. Which is unfortunate, but under some of the conditions of the first film, I don’t blame him either. His depiction is certainly the fan favorite and is a pleasure to see and talk with on the matter. Originally the character of Leatherface did have one line but had been taken out; if only that one then perhaps for the best anyway. The added gestures done by him made the character seem almost conflicted at times with his oh so final outcomes yet being so “good” at what he did. When his character goes to sit down by the window and “reflect,” that close up was a great way to make the audience wonder what lay behind the crazed mask. It also made sense to not give him any lines because of his role in the family, “the muscle” behind the crazy. Of course each had their role but typically the muscle doesn’t speak, to keep up their persona and whatnot. One FF about the dinner scene being that they had to repeat the shot so many times and that the heat was getting to them that for the last take, Gunnar took off what was blocking the blade and actually cut Marilyn. Nobody thought she was actually screaming on set however because she would complain so much anyway. That crazy man. Maybe the extreme heat actually made him go a little coo coo ca choo, it could happen.2. Daniel Pearl: Pearl was the cinematographer on the film and acquired quite an array of shots and images for the viewers that assisted in having them being to hold up today. Right away the movie begins with seeing those images when originally none of that was what was envisioned; it was simply going to be blacked out to leave to the imagination. The wide shot used when they stop to pick up the hitchhiker was another great way to go about the scene. The close up of the spiders in the house, another. There was also this, upward shot that was used often in the first half of the film that was a great angle to go with when easily could have changed the scene. (If only you could be my mind..) Referring to when the girls are at the soda machine, and later when Pam (Teri McMinn) and Kirk (William Vail) walk to find the swimming hole and lastly, the very remembered shot of Pam walking towards the house to check on Kirk. Getting the shot of the her on the hook was an almost all day process but was so effective and I thought in the remake they’re able to equally capture that image once again. The shots that stuck out later during the dinner scene were from Sally’s pov of the family and later, the downward shot of just her while trying to wiggle her way out of the chair. The ending with her in the truck actually had to be filmed again at a later time due to her apparent, slowness. In fact, Gunnar had stated while chasing her through the trees, the reason for getting creative and cutting at the trees was because he kept gaining ground on her. Pearl had a great eye while just his first film ever working on, assisting in creating a great yet subtle terror that helped make the “shock” of it last as long.
1. Family from Hell, literally: The thought of a family of Ed Gein’s alone is bad enough; seeming generally enthralled to torture and live as was. The grandfather was definitely the most eerie of the bunch and the fact that they had him suck on Sally’s finger certainly didn’t help any. Although the actor that played him was only 18 so thinking of that now doesn’t make it as eerie anymore. The scene where they try to get him to hit Sally with the hammer was so hard for me watch (it had been a while) as this poor girl just knows this could be it. *Funny little FF about her escape being that her stunt double only fell 2 ft. and Marilyn fell from a much higher platform* The cook does return in the second installment to continue in his reign, the only one to return actually so it kept up roots for the fans sake. We hadn’t really been given an entire family to fear, I don’t believe at least; they were the original “Devil’s Reject’s” if you will. Let alone, a cannibalistic family that would be wearing your skin later and making furniture out of you.