Published by Chronicle Books
There have been many books written on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: books about the making of the film from people who have studied it and interviewed some cast and crew members; books taking you on a tour of the places near Austin where the film was shot; books about the films of Tobe Hooper, which, of course, include Chain Saw. But now horror fans have THE quintessential book on the film, Chain Saw Confidential: How We Made the World’s Most Notorious Horror Movie, written by “Leatherface” himself. And BOY can “Leatherface” write! “Leatherface” is none other than Gunnar Hansen, the poet and grad student at UT-Austin when the “most notorious horror movie” was shot back in the hot, hot summer of 1973. Hansen is an amazing writer, and Chain Saw Confidential is an amazing book.
To date, no one actually associated with the film has written about what went on during that grueling, crazy, next-to-no-budget shoot; and as a result, many wild stories have sprung up over the ensuing forty years (FORTY YEARS, PEOPLE!!), most of them taken as the gospel truth. But Hansen was there, and part of what he has set out to do in his book is lay to rest many of these stories while giving fans true tales from the making of the film that have never been heard before. He covers the film from pre-production, interviewing co-writer and associate producer Kim Henkel and quoting from a never-published interview director Tobe Hooper did with Italian journalist Paolo Zelati back in 2008 as well as casting director Robert Burns, who ended up doing the memorably famous art direction on the film (“Bones? Dead dog, anyone?”). He also meets his cast mates and the rest of the ragtag crew, and every one of them contributes a story or simply a memorable quote to Hansen’s book.
Hansen takes us through every step of the shoot itself, and the chapter titles, all quotes from the film or about it, set up what the reader is about to dive into. One chapter is titled “If I Have Any More Fun, I Don’t Think I Can Take It,” and it covers the marijuana consumption of the cast and crew as well as the now-famous dolly shot of Pam (Teri McMinn) entering the house while another, “No Need To Torture The Poor Girl,” covers the legendary dinner scene shoot, which lasted approximately 27 hours, depending on whom you ask.
Hansen also covers the Bryanston nightmare (the “It’s A Good Picture, You Can Pay Me Now” chapter), the critical and public reception of Chain Saw (“A Vile Little Piece Of Sick Crap”), how the film entered popular culture (“Oh, Leatherface, I Hope That’s Not You”), and even treats the reader to a chapter on what horror is (“When Malefic Planets Are In Retrograde”), which is both VERY informative as well as fun. There are also eight pages of photos, many never-before-seen, including the only picture taken of Hansen during the shoot without his Leatherface mask on and several from the dinner scene – an exhausted Marilyn Burns with her chin on the dinner table between takes – as well as pictures of posters promoting the film from all over the world.
It is refreshing that Hansen was able to talk to existing cast and crew or quote a departed one (Jim “the Cook” Siedow, Bob “Art Director” Burns, Paul “Franklin” Partain, and Lou “Assistant Cameraman” Perryman are no longer with us). What is odd is that he wasn’t able to – or chose not to – interview Tobe Hooper, instead relying on the aforementioned never-published 2008 interview. Curious. Still, the memories of all of these people are pretty sharp with regard to Chain Saw – it is almost like they were waiting on someone from the film to write a book about it so they could finally, en masse, tell their stories – from how they filmed Pam on the meat hook to deleted scenes to how some of the sounds in the score were accomplished (although the most famous and distinctive sound on the soundtrack remains a secret as to how it was made) to how Hansen’s revenge on Hooper was accomplished.
This is a book which should be on EVERY Texas Chain Saw Massacre fan’s bookshelf, and even horror fans in general who might not be fans of the film should at least check the book out. At 240 pages, it is amazing the amount of information Hansen manages to cram in. Witty, well written, and just… amazing, Chain Saw Confidential is a refreshing look at a horror classic which has now entered the public lexicon. Everyone has at least HEARD the name “Leatherface” even if they have little or no knowledge of the film. What a legacy Hansen, Hooper, and company have left us.
5 out of 5