Tuesday, June 29, 2010

DVD Spotlight: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (2-Disc Ultimate Edition).

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (2-Disc Ultimate Edition) (1974)
DVD Release Year: 2006.
Released by: Dark Sky Films.
Region: Region 1.
Starring: Marilyn Burns; Allen Danziger; Paul A. Partain; William Vail; Teri McMinn; Edwin Neal; Jim Siedow; Gunnar Hansen; John Dugan.
Directed by: Tobe Hooper.
Colour/84 Minutes/R

"The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre."
That's what a then unknown John Larroquette tells us in his opening narration of the film that spawned thousands of copycats since it was released. The set-up: a group of young friends taking a wrong turn to some isolated, primitive backwater, meeting a horrible fate at the hands of deranged locals, is part of the horror film DNA at this point, thanks to this film. I could go into detail about the plot and how important this film is to the horror genre, but so many others have said it better over the years. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a well-made indie shocker that has not lost any of its impact for me since I first watched it. Director Tobe Hooper has never been able to quite match what he brought to the table here.

This movie is a classic, and rightly so. Most horror fans have seen and own at least some version of Massacre. It's a film that was not only a major indie success story, but a film that had a dramatic effect on film-goers when it first came out. It actually caused some people to leave the theatres half way through in disgust, and it was very unfairly looked down on by just about every critic at the time. The movie is creepy, funny, and builds to a finale that is just outright insane, and for some reason it feels very realistic and organic in its depictions of violence and gore (which are actually quite tame considering what you do see on-screen), and the acting is actually quite good for such an obviously low-budget outing. There's enough substance and ideas here to justify its cult status. Much of its plot is taken from real life crime stories, including but not exclusive to serial killer and cannibal Ed Gein. Several of its iconic scenes have never been topped in my opinion. The acting, the locations and set design, along with the grainy 16mm footage created a semi-documentary feel to the film that enhanced the "true story" myth that surrounds the film to this day. And of course, it gave us Leatherface.

As for the extra features: holy fuck, kids, this baby comes in a metal case and totally blows the Pioneer Special Edition disc from a few years previous out of the water. I didn't think it was possible, but it does. The picture is AMAZING. It looks even better than the Pioneer version, which was essentially a resurrection of the film's print in many ways. Here the picture is cleaned up and the colours are brighter. However, in my opinion, it doesn't take away from that grindhouse feel the film has always had. The various sound options are slightly stronger, but not much different than Pioneer's release -- although they do really kick in when that chainsaw gets going.

LOADS of extras. Those who own the Pioneer version will not mind losing a few of that disc's extras for the MEATY stuff this edition is packing. It has the commentary track from the Pioneer disc with Tobe Hooper, Daniel Pearl, and Gunnar Hansen, but it has a new track with actors Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allan Danziger, and art director Robert A. Burns; which is a must-have because both Partain and Robert A. Burns are now dead. Both tracks are rich in information. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth was previously only found on overseas releases. It involves many of the major players involved in the film and its sequels, covering its conception, creation, reception and legacy. Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw is a seven-part documentary that highlights a more personal side of the film and those invovled, as well as its fans. Everything you wanted to know is pretty much covered. If you are a fan and don't own this disc you are, quite frankly, missing out on one of the greatest DVDs ever produced.

DVD Information:

Disc One: Feature Film
Video: 1.78:1.
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound; English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound; English Mono.
Subtitles: English; Spanish.
--HD transfer from original 16mm ECO camera negatives.
--Scene Selections.
--Audio commentary by actors Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allen Danziger and art director Robert A. Burns.
--Audio commentary by writer-director Tobe Hooper, director of photography Daniel Pearl and actor Gunnar Hansen.
--Theatrical Trailers.
--TV Spots.
--Radio Spots.

Disc Two: Bonus Disc
--Featurette: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth.
--Featurette: Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw.
--A Tour of the TCSM house with Gunnar Hansen.
--Deleted Scenes and Outtakes.
--Blooper Reel.
--The Shocking Truth Outtakes.
--Still Gallery.


Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

Such a creepy film on a completely different level to anything else. I thought the remake, at times, managed to capture the same creepiness.

Will Errickson said...

TCM is perhaps my favorite horror film. I bought this special-edition DVD set awhile back but never got around to watching all the extras. They sound incredible--thanks!

Lee said...

Sarah: I enjoyed the remake quite a bit. It was slick, full of pretty faces, and had a bigger budget, but it still managed to capture a bit of what made the original so good.

Will: I often find myself putting off the extras as well. I've had this set since it first came out and felt that since I'm now doing a blog, it was time to sit down and really watch through everything. It was well worth it.

Carl (ILHM) said...

I owned the meat packing edition previously but upgraded to this one specifically for The Shocking Truth, great little doc and sad when you hear about all of the mob stuff that screwed Tobe and crew out of thousands!