The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Special Edition (1974)

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Released 10-Aug-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Booklet
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Tobe Hooper (Dir), Daniel Pearl (DoP), & Gunnar Hansen (Act)
Menu Audio
Featurette-The Shocking Truth (70:25)
Deleted Scenes-9
Featurette-Killing Kirk
Outtakes
Featurette-Props And Sets
Gallery-Photo
Gallery-Poster
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 83:20 (Case: 80)
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5 Directed By Tobe Hooper
Studio
Distributor
Vortex/Henkel/Hooper
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Marilyn Burns
Gunnar Hansen
Case Click-Double
RPI $39.95 Music Tobe Hooper
Wayne Bell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
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 Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Special Edition is a replacement for the originally released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 25th Anniversary Special Edition.

    Rather than rehash my previous review, I decided to start from scratch with this one. It has, after all, been over 18 months since Leatherface last graced my DVD player.

    Graves have been desecrated in a sleepy country town in Texas. This news brings Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her disabled, whiny brother Franklin (Paul R. Partain) to town along with three of their friends to check on their grandfather's grave. Fortunately, it seems as if their grandfather's grave has been left untouched and so our team head back into town. Along the way, they come across a seriously imbalanced hitchhiker whom they quickly get rid of. Unfortunately, they don't have enough gasoline to get back home, and the local gas station is out of gas until later in the day. Accordingly, Sally, Franklin and their friends end up going back to their grandfather's derelict house to reminisce and to pass the remainder of the day. Whilst there, they stumble across another house in their quest for gasoline...

    A classic movie that pretty much started the whole slasher genre, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre seems somewhat tame compared to modern-day equivalents. Nonetheless, it still offers a significant number of scares and some seriously deranged acting.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This new version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a new video transfer. In some ways, it is better than the previously released version. In others, the previous version is preferred. All-in-all, this is a very difficult transfer to watch on a large display device.

    Let's get one thing out of the way right away. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was shot over 25 years ago on very slow 16mm film. That means lots and lots of grain and limited shadow detail. No amount of processing is going to get information out of this transfer that wasn't there to begin with.

    This new transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The previously-released version was not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is not sharp. Foregrounds are acceptably defined, but backgrounds do suffer considerably from a lack of detail, even being completely devoid of details at times. Shadow detail is generally very poor, with anything not well-lit being completely black. Grain is omnipresent, particularly during dark sequences. The middle section of the film, at around the 50 minute mark, featuring Sally running in the forest, is merely a bobbing head in a sea of grainy blackness.

    Colours are generally strongly rendered, although this does vary according to the particular scene being depicted. There is a trend towards oversaturation of colour at times, with skin tones in particular taking on an overly reddish hue occasionally.

    With material as grainy as this, MPEG compression artefacts are inevitable. Pick any really dark scene, freeze frame it and you'll see subtle posterization and macro-blocking without too much difficulty. That level of judgement is, however, a tad too harsh for this transfer. Instead, it is fair to say that MPEG artefacts were not particularly noticed whilst the DVD was running at normal speed.

    There are, however, some possible MPEG motion compensation artefacts present in the transfer, where portions of the image seem to move independently of other portions of the image. An example of this is at 34:30 - 34:32, where the door moves independently of the door frame - quite disconcerting. This occurs later in the transfer with Grandma's teeth.

    By far the biggest problem with this transfer is interlacing artefact. It was this artefact that made this transfer really difficult and fatiguing to watch. So long as there was little movement in the image, it was quite watchable, but as soon as there was significant motion, the image blurred severely, making it all but unwatchable. Whilst a certain level of interlacing artefact is not too much of a problem, in this case, it appears that some inappropriate video processing has resulted in some really nasty and ugly artefacts. As an example, at 17:38, the van drives past a series of telegraph poles. Typically, with appropriately PAL-processed film-based source materials, you would see an image of one pole pan across this scene as; one pole - two poles (interlaced) - one pole. This would blur moderately. In this transfer, one pole is rendered as two to three poles across the entire pan. This suggests to me that more than one level of interlacing has been introduced into this transfer, probably during an NTSC to PAL conversion. The middle sequence of the film, with Sally running through the forest, turns into an absolute mess of interlaced branches and grain and is unwatchable.

    I have two issues with this artefact;

  1. The previous release of this DVD did not suffer from anywhere near this level of interlacing artefact. Subsequently, pans were far easier to watch.
  2. According to the notes in the booklet that accompanies this DVD, this transfer was taken from a high definition source created from the original negative. Appropriate processing of this high definition source material should have completely avoided this exaggerated level of interlacing artefact.
    This artefact was so bad that I asked for comment from Force Video on this issue - their response is pending. I have also taken the unusual step of capturing this artefact (despite the large file sizes this entails), so you can see it for yourself.
 
Old transfer

Note particularly Frames 10, 12, 14, and 16 which show only a single pole, as it was on the original negative.
New transfer

Note particularly Frames 9, 11, 13 and 15, where you can see 3 interlaced poles instead of 1.

    Other film-to-video artefacts are not a problem. There is insufficient detail present in this transfer to have aliasing crop up, so that isn't an issue. Some minor wobble of the credits does not really distract, and the occasional vertical jump on scene cuts is not bothersome.

    Surprisingly, film artefacts are not a significant problem for this transfer, with amazingly few to be seen.

    There are no subtitles present on this DVD.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is limited by the fidelity of the original recording, and is presented satisfactorily in that context.

    There are two audio tracks present on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 2.0 and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0. The 2.0 soundtrack has some minimal surround information encoded into it, and is best listened to with surround decoding enabled.

    The dialogue is variably understandable, ranging from clearly understandable to muffled and hard to make out. The overall frequency response is quite limited, with no highs and no lows included in the recording, which further limits dialogue intelligibility. Occasionally, distortion can be heard in the dialogue. Hiss is not bothersome. Audio sync appeared acceptable.

    The music is variably present. For much of the earlier part of the movie, the music was provided by the van's radio, and was appropriately jaunty, nicely juxtaposed against the creepy nature of the on-screen happenings. As the movie progressed, some strident atonal music was introduced which also added to the overall sense of tension and foreboding.

    Fundamentally, this is a mono mix, with most of the action arising from the centre speaker. Limited stereo presence for the music occasionally broadened the soundstage, as did occasional directional sound effects and some very occasional surround usage added a little further ambience to the mix.

    The subwoofer occasionally received some redirected signal. When it did, it tended to come as quite a surprise - it got a series of uneven beats during the forest sequence which seemed out of place.

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

Extras

    The extras are immaculately presented on this DVD and achieve their purpose admirably - to educate and inform the viewer about the movie, allowing them to appreciate it more. All too often, extras are lumped onto DVD in an attempt to boost the quantity of extras on the disc with no heed paid to the quality of the extras. In the case of this DVD, both quality and quantity are abundantly present.

    Most of the extras are presented on a second disc included in the package.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Suitably themed menu animation and audio sets the tone for the movie.

Audio Commentary - Tobe Hooper (Director), Gunnar Hansen (Actor), Daniel Pearl (Cinematographer)

    This is kind of like a 25 year reunion for the three, and they are clearly having a great time. It takes them a short while to settle into their rhythm, but when they do, they provide a wealth of screen-specific information, background anecdotes and technical information on the production. Well worth listening to.

    There are occasional drop-outs and pops during the audio commentary which are a little distracting.

Featurette - The Shocking Truth (70:25, 1.33:1 DD 2.0 mono)

    This is a full-length documentary on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, incorporating interviews with most of the cast and crew along with interesting background information. The content is generally excellent, and Chainsaw fanatics will love it. I found it tended to drag just a little bit.

    Technically, the quality is all over the place. Much of the interview footage is very dark indeed and quite grainy, so it isn't all that easy to watch. There are several quite significant video tape flaws in the transfer, including a really nasty looking one at 27:54.

Deleted Scenes (6 + 3 Alternate Takes)

    There are a total of 6 deleted scenes and 3 sequences of alternate footage. They are variably presented, some with audio, some silent, but all have introductory text screens which put them into context and some of the silent scenes have script notes as well. This is the way to present such extras!

Featurette-Killing Kirk

    All the additional footage and coverage shot for this sequence.

Outtakes

    Mildly amusing.

Featurette-Props And Set

    Silent footage of the sets and set dressing. Of limited interest.

Gallery-Photo (8)

    Short but sweet - Grandpa's make-up sequence makes it worth checking this gallery out.

Gallery-Poster

    24 posters and lobby cards.

Booklet

    A brief description of the restoration process and a chapter listing.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on;     The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;     This is a tough call. Normally, the availability of 16x9 enhancement and the documentary would make this a fait accomplis for the Region 4 version. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case here.

    When comparing the original release in Region 4 to this release, this new 16x9 enhanced version is definitely significantly sharper...until the image starts to move significantly. Then, it dissolves into an interlaced mess. Whilst the original Region 4 release has a softer picture, the relative clarity of pans make it much easier to watch. I suspect that at 68cm or below, the interlacing blur won't be too much of a problem, but it will be for anyone watching this on a decent-sized screen.

    For now, I have to say that transfer-wise, the previous release of this DVD is to be preferred to the current release. Extras-wise, the opposite applies. Not having seen the R1 version, I cannot comment on its relative quality.

Summary

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a cult classic, presented here with a very good collection of extras, seemingly better than those available anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, the video transfer has been done a major disservice, with interlacing artefacts making the image almost unwatchable when it is in motion.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
Friday, August 10, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3300/Toshiba SD-1300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Art-95 (95cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder and Denon AVD-1000 dts decoder. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationEA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifier for Left & Right Front; Marantz MA6100 125W per channel monoblock amplifiers for Left & Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
SpeakersPhilips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer

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