The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Collector's Edition (1974)

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Released 2-Oct-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Audio Commentary-Commentary with Tobe Hooper, Daniel Pearl and Gunnar Hansen
Audio Commentary-Commentary with Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allen Danzig
Featurette-‘Flesh Wounds’ Documentary
Featurette-A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen
Featurette-Documentary ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth’
Deleted Scenes-Deleted scenes and outtakes
Featurette-Blooper reel
Deleted Scenes-Outtakes from ‘The Shocking Truth’
Theatrical Trailer-Theatrical trailer
TV Spots-TV Spots and Radio Spots
Interviews-Crew-Interview with Tobe Hooper
Interviews-Crew-Interview with Kim Henkel
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 83:21
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:58)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tobe Hooper
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Marilyn Burns
Allen Danziger
Paul A. Partain
William Vail
Teri McMinn
Edwin Neal
Jim Siedow
Gunnar Hansen
John Dugan
Robert Courtin
William Creamer
John Henry Faulk
Jerry Green
Case Custom Packaging
RPI $29.95 Music Wayne Bell
Tobe Hooper


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Dutch Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   Tobe Hooper's 1974 grindhouse classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the grandaddy of modern horror films, has a place in the Museum of Modern Art, and is one of the most beloved and celebrated horror films of all time. There's not a lot to say that hasn't already been said about this film; it's been studied, remade and discussed to death over the past three decades. Instead, I'll talk about the film for those who haven't previously been exposed.

   The Texas Chain Saw Massacre details the "true story" of some of the most brutal and unthinkable crimes ever heard of in America. In 1973, five teenagers driving across Texas find themselves in the clutches of an insane cannibalistic family. Tormented by the hulking Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), a mentally retarded animal of a man who runs a different kind of slaughterhouse in which humans take the place of cattle and are prepared using a chainsaw, the survivors must flee from the monster if they're to escape with their lives. Who will survive, and what will be left of them?

   In addition to being celebrated by critics and thriving as a cult classic, this film has a long list of fascinating backstories. Despite early scenes of Leatherface carrying a young female victim into a butcher room, impaling her on a hook and leaving her to struggle while cutting up her boyfriend with a chainsaw - which led to people walking out of theatres just from the trailer - the film isn't nearly as violent as it is rumoured to be, leaving most of the violence offscreen and alluded to. There's very little blood in the film, with most of the intensity coming from the long build up and suddenly violent scenes, which are quick and unrelenting. Shot in a documentary style, featuring lots of long takes and wide angle shots, the film achieves a sense of realism that creates early dread as it builds up to the impending horror. Although the film features very amateurish editing and some occasionally bad acting, its atmosphere is unrivalled - watching this film in a cinema, loud and with no escape, the experience is still very potent. The film is also full of clever ideas about class fear (consider the way the landscape and Massacre house are both shot as an alien landscape), dehumanisation with the loss of femininity, the untouchable unstoppable bonds of "family", and further thriving subtexts about the time period and political climate. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is intelligent as well as effective.

   With this latest Ultimate Edition release, your viewing can be all the more closer to an original theatrical experience, a blessing for horror fans wishing to relive the classic, or view it for the first time. I've never had the chance to view the film so well presented, and it's a brand new experience. This is a sensational package, presented in one of the niftiest DVD cases I've come across - it features a metal tin decorated with art of Leatherface, containing a plastic case inside printed with raw meat. It fits the film and will thoroughly please collectors.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   The video is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

   This is the best transfer we've seen of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and will likely be the best transfer until a HD remastering. Although the transfer has a lot of issues, mostly stemming from the fact that it was shot on cheap 16mm, this is the best way to watch the film, remastered from the originals featuring strong, bright detail as well as a lot of scene-setting grain and artefacts that put you right in the grindhouse atmosphere to watch the film.

   The video is very detailed but often very grainy (see 18:53 for a particularly bad example), especially in the darker scenes: low level noise is present in a lot of darker scenes (26:40) but for the most part, the dark scenes still have detail. There are also lots of minor film artefacts (6:14, 8:12, 10:48) that don't really detract from the viewing experience as much as they add to the aforementioned atmosphere. I can't really imagine watching this film on a completely clean video transfer - the grindhouse look works with the documentary style cinematography to better the experience rather than detract.

   Unfortunately, occasional interlacing is much less friendly - long shots with small movements are plagued with unfortunate interlacing, which happens sometimes across the film. It's not ruining, only distracting, but still annoying.

   This is a dual-layer disc, with the layer change at 63:58, and is completely unnoticeable.

   There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

   The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 (Stereo), and Dolby Digital 2.0 (Mono).

   The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has never sounded better, featuring three excellent options for your auditory pleasure. First up is the 5.1 surround sound, which creates an excellent atmosphere adding more depth than any previous DVD release of the film. There isn't a lot of rear speaker sound, and the subwoofer is used minimally, however the sound booms to life whenever the chainsaw is onscreen and really puts you in the film. The soundtrack is perfectly mixed with all of the best lines perfectly audible, and the sound effects are nasty, loud and wonderful.

   The two 2.0 options are remixes of the original mono sound, and the flicking between either and the 5.1 shows just how much more depth the 5.1 track has. The mono upmixed to 2.0 is here mostly for completeness sake, but the 2.0 Stereo option is still a good listen. It's clear and loud and unpleasant, just as was intended. My only complaint about the package is the lack of a DTS track, which I hope we'll one day see on HD (or better).

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Animated Menus with Sound

   The menus here feature the fantastic film score over harsh red shots of the titular house. Excellent presentation!

Audio Commentary with director Tobe Hooper, cinematographer Daniel Pearl and actor Gunnar Hansen

   Owners of previous Texas Chainsaw Massacre sets may have heard this track before, but it features a very talkative and revealing discussion between three of the most important icons behind the classic. Tobe Hooper leads the conversation with the cinematographer and actor, and they discuss a variety of great anecdotes about making the film, often about the deeply unpleasant conditions and the lengths that went to make the film. My favourite revelation involves Gunnar Hansen sabotaging a knife prop in one scene to actually cut actress Marilyn Burns, and how her horrified painful reaction was just taken as good acting and ignored by the crew. The banter here is excellent and a must-listen for fans.

Audio Commentary with actors Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allen Danziger and art director Robert A. Burns

   I'm surprised by how good the second commentary track is here, featuring other important actors and the art director from the film, all of whom played an incredibly valuable part in making the film, and have plenty to weigh in on. Little information is repeated from the first commentary, with a completely different perspective put across from the actor's point of view, as well as a lot of bits and pieces from the art director. Revelations that some dialogue was made up on the spot shows how realism was added to the piece, as are some of the discussions on how horrible the shoot got as it progressed. I also really like their discussion of the remake, even though I disagree with their overall consensus. Towards the end, Edwin Neal phones in with some more chatter, and he's always great fun to listen to. I thoroughly recommend both commentary tracks; there's a lot of great stuff here and it's well worth the listen.

Interview with Kim Henkel (8:26)

   The co-writer of the The Texas Chain Saw Massacre weighs in with short but sweet little interview discussing his background and the influences that went into creating the film. I like his brief mention of the idea that the family's lack of any feminine influence has, in some way, led to their sickening situation. It's also interesting to hear him discuss the differences between filmmaking in the 1970's and now, in particular trying to distribute the film in an age where there were no festivals, and no video. Includes some odd fades but looks sharp with minor interlacing, presented in bright 1.33:1.

Interview with Tobe Hooper (13:46)

   The companion interview with director Tobe Hooper unfortunately isn't nearly as articulate or interesting as the first, featuring story fragments loosely related to creating the film that never really get to any point. He speaks in a very laid-back monotone that doesn't inspire passion and isn't all that informative. In the same 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Theatrical Trailer (1:43)

   Undoubtedly the bomb, this is the trailer that had people walking out of cinemas before their actual feature even began. It's mastered in the original trailer aspect ratio (1.33:1) with lots of strange washed out scenes and is great fun to watch, especially for the fans.

TV/Radio Spots (2:42)

   This series of promotional material for the film direct from 1974 is short but interesting for completeness - the radio spots do a very neat job of creating a particularly nasty-sounding film experience using various screams and noises from the film, which is nifty indeed! In 1.33:1, featuring stills for the radio spots.

Umbrella Trailers - Last House on the Left (2.11), The Hills Have Eyes (2:52), Eaten Alive (2:14), Dawn of the Dead (2:49)

   Fans will dig these original trailers from other aged horror classics, in crappy grindhouse quality and their original aspect ratios letterboxed from 1.33:1. The narration and awful titles add a lot to the atmosphere, as is the faded, artefact-filled video. I notice Umbrella is doing a good job adding additional trailers to their DVD releases, finding sets of trailers that fit the features well, and this is no exception.

Documentary - "Flesh Wounds" (71:38)

   This new documentary, subtitled "Seven Stories of the Saw", is split into seven parts to tell seven "new stories" about 30 years on from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Cinematographer, the Fan Club President, the Hitchhiker, the Memoriam, the Good Doctor, Frightmares and Wastelands, and Life after Leatherface. The highlight is the interview with The Hitchhiker, the amazing Edwin Neal, a man full of life and charisma. He's great fun to watch, as he shares stories from before the film, making the film, and after the film. This feature length documentary will please fans, as there's not a lot of regurgitated information and it goes to show that there's still more to discuss about this great but now 30-year-old classic motion picture.

A Tour of the TCM House with Gunnar Hansen (8:02)

   Gunnar Hansen returns to everyone's favourite house in 2000 to reminisce on the film shoot. This is basically a puff piece; although there's some interesting tidbits here and it's fun to see the house without all the insane set design - as just a regular house - this isn't as entertaining as I would like, and it suffers from really nasty interlacing. In 1.33:1.

Documentary - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (72:46)

   This is a flatout excellent documentary, directed by David Gregory and narrated by Matthew Bell, discussing every nuance and backstory they can about grindhouse cinema and the creation of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's full of valuable information for fans, film students and scholars alike, and is genuinely deep and entertaining - a must see. In 1.33:1.

Outtakes from "The Shocking Truth" (7:40)

   Just under eight minutes worth of interviews that didn't fit into the full documentary. There's still some good stuff here, making it a nice addition to the package.

Deleted Scenes and Alternate Footage (25:22)

   The footage from the film here feels like a series of dailies from the shoot, and will provide a bit of excitement for film students. The footage is very nifty, and show how effective it can be to shoot things in a minimalist style. Some of the footage is clearly converted from raw footage, whereas other parts have been graded and prepared for use within the film. Not really "Deleted Scenes" in the modern DVD sense, this will have appeal mostly for those into filmmaking themselves rather than the average horror/TCM fan. In 1.33:1, with some sections silent, others in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Blooper Reel (2:22)

   The occasional slip ups and accidents that happen on set aren't all that amusing, but it's still really gratifying seeing Franklin's wheelchair fall through the floor. It's thankfully short and has a couple of good moments, and will probably appeal to blooper fans. This is slightly worse footage than the previous deleted scenes, and gives it a certain appeal - you're definitely seeing something rough here instead of the final product. In 1.33:1.

Killing Kirk Outtakes (2:00)

   More alternate footage here, all focused on the demise of Kirk, which is undoubtedly an important and potent scene, but there's little here except for film students. In 1.33:1.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   There are identical R1 and R4 versions of this particular package - aside from package differences and the slight differences in transfer (despite being in PAL, this does feature the NTSC interlacing issues), I would recommend whichever is cheapest.

   Now, there have been a lot of R4 releases of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and to my mind, this is the best of them all, with the best video transfer, the best audio options, and plenty of extra material. However, there are some extras missing from this package that were seen in the previous R0 Force Video SE release:

- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A Family Portrait" documentary (long version)
- "Killing Kirk" featurette


This previous edition has few of this edition's special features, and includes a smoothed-over transfer that removes a lot of the grain from the video, but also a lot of the detail and colour. Even with the additional featurettes missing, I would still recommend the new Ultimate Edition. This is, to my mind, the best way to view this film as of the end of 2007.

Summary

   The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a legitimate horror classic, and one that deserves to be seen on a DVD this good.

   The video and audio transfers are both very good, offering the most engaging and compelling experience of the film to date.

   The extras are an excellent retrospective of this film, offering hours of entertainment for fans and scholars alike.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ryan Aston (Bioshock)
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDLG LH-D6230, using Component output
DisplayBenq PE7700. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationLG
Speakers B&W LCR 600 S3 (Front & Centre); B&W DM 600 (Rears); B&W ASW500 (Sub)

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