Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The: Ultimate Edition (DVD)
Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Marilyn Burns, Jim Siedow, Edwin Neil, Gunnar Hansen, Paul Partain
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
On October 31st of 1998 I showed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for the first time to my best friend. We had fun, as many people would watching a horror movie on Halloween night. Plenty of laughs were to be had thanks to Franklin and the Hitchhiker, but it wasn't long before our traps were shut. The second Leatherface appeared to make his first kill and slam the door, my friend replied with a rather thunderous, “Holy fucking shit! Did you see that? What the fuck was that?!” That is when I knew this film stood the trial of time.
Who the hell would have thought that a simple movie about a few kids in a van being murdered one by one could have such an impact on the horror genre? The combination of low budget filmmaking, a terrifying madman with a chainsaw and the grittiness make the film so much fun. The plot keeps everything basic. There's no back story or explanation as to why there are cannibals eating anyone who wanders into sight. Leatherface is a giant child who likes to wear the skins of his victims, and that's all you need to know, goddammit. This is the sort of domain in which the newer Chainsaw films fail. We don't need things laid out for us; we just want to see some craziness with crazy people.
It is easy to carry on and on about the things to like about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but that isn't what should be focused on with regard to this latest DVD offering. If you already own another edition of the picture, why should you purchase this one? If you are new to the film, which version should you buy to get the most out of the experience? This reviewer will do his best to answer that question.
The first thing that caught my eye on the new DVD was a special feature listed as "HD transfer from original 16mm negatives." What could this mean? An incredibly beautiful picture, that's what. While the film still retains its gritty texture, there is an added sharpness. Don't be pushed away if you don't own an HD TV because the beauty of this new transfer pleases the eyes even on standard definition televisions. The picture quality is like someone having sex with your eyes, but not in a skull-fucking way.
Some of the common features that follow many movies also appear on this release as well. There are two separate commentary tracks, trailers and TV and radio spots on the first disc. The trailers and such hold that nice bit of nostalgia but are a dime a dozen when numerous dips are manufactured. If this had been a one-disc release, then even the HD transfer may not have saved it from the doldrums. The commentaries are fine and dandy, but more interesting insider information is found on the second disc, which we'll get to next. This is like getting an OK gift just to realize that it's attached to the ass of the most beautiful hooker your mama ever bought for ya.
Damn, Dark Sky Films, you guys know how to fill up a second disc! Everyone's seen those featurettes that last five minutes and contain not much more than a few interviews of people pimping the film then calling for their check. Not here! The two documentaries run about 70+ minutes apiece. Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth is the most in-depth look at the first film and its lackluster sequels that I've seen in some time.
The Shocking Truth has most of the cast returning for interviews and must have been filmed sometime before 2003 since three people featured have since passed away. There's much to be learned about low budget films and the hell that can follow. The cast and crew tell of the conditions, rotting meat and how they were screwed over in the end, monetarily anyway. By the time this first featurette wraps, one can come away with a whole new sense as to how significant Chain Saw was and how it was able to obtain such a following without having to throw bloody limbs, tits or tired stereotypes at you over and over and over.
Flesh Wounds changes things up by not going as in-depth about the making of the movie, but rather the people behind it. There is a long lull during the beginning, but it is forgotten when Edwin Neal (the Hitchhiker) sits down and lays out his lunacy for the viewer. He is a man of many voices and isn't all that far off from the role he played. Then the lull starts back up again with a look at a few conventions and a short interview with Tom Savini. Unfortunately the featurette never picks back up to an interesting beat even when Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) is dicking around with the documentary crew. Screw most of this thing; just skip to Ed Neal and the short tribute to those who have since passed away.
The deleted scenes, bloopers and outtakes are a bit boring. There's not much structure or even sound for the most part so it's up to us to speculate why these things were cut. The bloopers never really hit that laugh inducing stride, and some are presented in such grainy video that they are hard to watch. However, do keep your eyes out for a bit where Franklin falls backwards in his wheelchair while trying to navigate inside the old house. I never knew observing the handicapped falling over could be so amusing … even if he could really walk.
Is it worth it if you already own another DVD of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? That is a tough call. Those in search of better video quality will enjoy the new transfer, and the enthusiasts who desire to get their bloody little mitts on more information about the film will squirt their shorts when they load the second disc. Or you could wait for another new TCM to be released by Hollywood just to see if anything better comes out, but do you seriously want to be that kind of asshole?
5 out of 5
5 out of 5