‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) Blu-ray Review
The original ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is probably one of the most influential films to date in the horror genre. There have been so many other films that have tried very hard to take the cannibal family drama of ‘TCM’ and replicate it with no success. While others have succeeded on some levels coming but not being able to knock the king off of his throne. Even three sequels were made to the film and none of them would even come close to capturing the magic of the original and they just felt like afterthoughts to cash in on the success of the original. Then in 2003, New Line Cinema releases a remake of the original film and hits a homerun out of the park as the remake is just as enjoyable.
While the film is fictional, it does borrow a lot of elements from the Ed Gein murders and what the character Leatherface is based off of. Ed Gein has been very influential in films over the years, but he murdered a lot of people in Plainfield, WI. Gein would take the flesh off of the murdered victims and wear it as his own. While Gein is an influence, he is not the focus of the film.
The story of ‘TCM’ is a very creepy one that unfolds with unimaginable terror for a group of five friends are Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), her brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) whom is in a wheelchair, her boyfriend Jerry (Allen Danziger), his best friend Kirk (William Vail), and Kirk’s girlfriend Pam (Teri McMinn) as they are driving through Texas on a trip to visit their dead grandfathers gravesite. Once they visit the gravesite, their next stop is to a gas station and things don’t appear normal for the viewer, but they don’t think too much about it. As they are leaving the gas station, there is a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) at the end of the gas station asking to hitch a ride. Again, they don’t think anything about picking up this creepy looking hitchhiker to take him wherever he needs to be dropped off. The hitchhiker does not stop talking in the back of the van and continues to babble crazy talk about the slaughterhouse and anything that comes to mind. They make the mistake of giving him a knife when he requests, scaring them, but he gives the knife back. Then he pulls out a razor blade and starts to slice himself up. They end up kicking him out of the van, but he ends up taking a swipe at Franklin on the way out cutting him in the process.
Little do the kids know that the hitchhiker has taken them towards the madness that is about to unfold at the house of terror as I call it. Kirk and Pam go off on their own to explore the area while Sally, Jerry, and Franklin are sitting back at the van. Pam and Kirk make the mistake of going to the Hardesty house and have an encounter with Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen). The roller coaster ride for the five friends gets worse from here on out as they meet the cannibalistic family.
While the story is rather simple and to the point, it is how director Tobe Hooper brings the terror to the screen for these five young teenagers that makes this film so successful. From the gritty camera work that the film was shot on a very low budget to just the overall atmosphere has made this film one of the most popular horror films of our time.
The print is presented in 1080p/VC-1 with a matted 1.78:1 aspect ratio. To get this out of the way, the film was shot on 16mm with probably one of the smallest budgets known to this side of Hollywood. If you are expecting the film to be clean as a whistle, then you may as look elsewhere. There is apparent grain throughout the entire film and for those that own the Steelbook DVD edition released in 2003 it is toned down a little bit, but not much. I am glad that they didn’t try to clean up the grit and grain; because this is what make this film so great and terrifying are the visuals. Colors actually pop off of the screen now and they are much more vibrant than ever before. There were a few frames/scenes where you were able to see a lot more detail than ever before thanks to the new film restoration, but nothing earth shattering. With the good there are also bad as there is some softness throughout the film which due to the original print can’t be fixed. This is not a bad thing for me at all, since I have owned this film on every media available and the Blu-ray version is the Ultimate Edition in the video department.
The audio is presented in three offerings, DTS 5.1, PCM 2.0, and Dolby Digital Mono mixes. Again like the video transfer, there is only so much that could be done with the audio. The dialogue portion of the film comes out rather clean through the center channel. I never had any issues understanding what was ever being said by the actors to begin with, but the dialogue comes through a bit more clearer than before. The hissing sounds are still there in the audio track throughout which is something that I doubt will ever be changed due to the original audio. On to the soundfield mix, we do get a bit more out of the surrounds now than ever before, but still won’t match today’s audio standards.
If you own the Steelbook Ultimate Edition of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ you will see the same special features imported here to the Blu-ray edition of the film with the addition of an HD featurette, ‘Off The Hook’ which was never on any of the previous DVD versions.
- Audio Commentary #1 with Tobe Hooper, Daniel Pearl, and Gunnar Hansen
- Audio Commentary #2 with art director Robert A. Burns and cast members
- “The Shocking Truth” Documentary
- “Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw” Documentary
- “Chainsaw House Tour” Featurette
- Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
- Blooper Reel
- Still Gallery
- Promotional Materials
- “Off The Hook” Featurette (HD)
The original ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite horror films. For a film that is 34 years old, it still holds up very well to this day with excellent atmosphere and terror. Tobe Hooper made a horror film that would be the Godfather of the horror genre. I highly recommend purchasing ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ on Blu-ray as it is a good upgrade over the all the DVD releases, except that the last DVD release had a nice Steelbook.
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