The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

25th Anniversary Special Edition

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Horror Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1974 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 83:25 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Tobe Hooper

Force Video
Starring Marilyn Burns
Paul A. Partain
Edwin Neal
Jim Siedow
Gunnar Hansen
RRP $34.95 Music Tobe Hooper
Wayne Bell

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG 2.0 
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Dolby Digital 2.0 
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
English (MPEG 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
English (MPEG 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles French
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    I have a slightly embarrassing thing to admit to in this review. Up until today (January 4, 2000), I had never seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I had, however, correctly answered the trivia question "What film was advertised with the slogan 'Who will survive, and what will be left of them?'" once a few years ago with this title. As to whether the wait was worth it, well, I'm not so sure. I know this film is supposed to be the classic that started the whole slasher genre, but it has kind of been left behind by such titles as The Evil Dead. Like so many titles that were advertised in their heyday as being extreme, most of the horror lies in waiting for something extremely climactic to happen. As a result, time certainly has not been kind to this film - modern day critics express more amazement at how restrained this film is rather than how shocking its violence is. However, I think this is a major selling point of this film, as it gives a strangely teasing, pornographic feel to most of the staged murders in the film. Most of the murders committed by Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) are still quite horrifying in spite of how underdone they are.

    According to what I have been told, this film is actually based on real-life events, although you'd never know it from how ludicrous the action is, not to mention how bad most of the acting is. The story begins with a voice-over newscast describing a series of grave desecrations in an unspecified area of a state which is only specified in the title (presumably Texas). Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her invalid brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) have relatives who are buried in one such graveyard, and as relatives would do, they visit the area to see if anything has been done to any family graves. Along for the ride are their friends Jerry (Allen Danniger), Kirk (William Vale) and Pam (Teri McMinn), who are basically the same thing in this film as anyone besides Bruce Campbell was in The Evil Dead - chainsaw fodder. After their visit to the graveyard, the quintet make their way across the area by way of the slaughterhouses. Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) who is unbalanced to say the very least. After dropping said hitchhiker off in somewhat unpleasant circumstances, the five youths stop in an empty district where they encounter Leatherface and family. The rest, as they say, is history.

Transfer Quality


    Before we begin I'd just like to say that, like a lot of poorly presented films, the size (or lack thereof) of your screen can make a real difference to the perceived video quality of a film. Having just gone over the film again on an eighty centimetre screen, I've noticed all sorts of slips in quality that would go unnoticed on your average sixty-eight centimetre or smaller screen.

    According to the blurbs on the packaging, this film has been "painstakingly restored from the original 16mm ECO negative". This gives a false impression of the film's visual quality, because the words "painstakingly restored" imply the same quality as the recent remasterings of the classic Star Wars trilogy. On the other hand, given that the film in question arrived on cinema screens in the days when VCRs were a pipe dream, much less the days when VHS and Betamax were fighting it out for dominance of the market, it is better than I would normally expect. The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the same aspect ratio as the theatrical release, and it is not 16x9 enhanced. A pan and scan version was not included on the disc, but this hardly makes a difference in my view. So how does the film look after all has been said and done about the trouble that Force Video say they went to in order to get the best they could out of the source material? Well, it depends on how you look at it, really. Given that this film is simply unavailable on any other medium, a comparison between the DVD and analogue formats is pretty much impossible. Compared to films of much more ancient vintage that have made their way to DVD (Jason And The Argonauts immediately springs to mind), the quality is quite ordinary.

    A lack of definition plagues the transfer from start to finish, although it varies according to the subject of the shot. Daytime scenes were not too badly affected by this problem, but since most of the film takes place in the dark, it is rather noticeable for most of the film. Another area where the dark setting of the film works to its detriment in this transfer is in the rather poor shadow detail, although this is more likely a problem with the photographic equipment available in 1974 than the transfer. Given the 16mm source material this transfer was taken from, however, there is surprisingly little film grain apparent in the image, which is a rather pleasant surprise. MPEG artefacts were noticed from time to time, and were of two kinds. The typical MPEG-related background blockiness was seen more frequently, and some motion blur resulting from MPEG motion compensation artefacts also made their way into the picture. This was in spite of the bit rate of the transfer being consistently at the 10Mb/sec maximum data rate of DVD. The occasions where it did fall below this level were rare, and very brief, which makes the presence of MPEG artefacts all the more puzzling.

    Film-to-video artefacts were rare, and were mainly restricted to some telecine wobble during the opening credits that, strangely enough, enhanced the general feel of this sequence. Video artefacts were present in the image, which consisted of video dropouts. Said video dropouts appeared periodically as white lines across the image. These artefacts picked up in frequency during the latter half of the film, and were especially noticeable given that they are so rarely seen on DVD. Film artefacts were also present, but they were never particularly noticeable in spite of their frequency.


    The audio tracks consist of one language, presented in four ways. In the Dolby Digital arena, we had English Dolby Digital 2.0, with surround encoding and English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The latter option is described in the audio menu as the original soundtrack. MPEG soundtracks were also available in two forms: English MPEG 2.0 with surround encoding, and English MPEG 2.0 mono. Again, the latter option is described in the audio menu as the original soundtrack. I have sat through the whole movie listening to all four soundtracks, although the surround-encoded Dolby Digital soundtrack received the most use. Dialogue was muffled, distorted, indistinct, or all of the above throughout the film, which made it rather hard to understand exactly what was going on. This was especially problematic during the sequence in which Sally is forced to sit down to dinner with Leatherface and his clan of cannibals, with the screaming being the only part of the soundtrack that could be made out at this point. The problems with the limited frequency response of the original soundtrack remain present in the remastered soundtrack, although most of the background hiss has been removed.

    No audio sync problems were noted with this transfer. It would have added a nice comedic touch to the proceedings, although there's not much comedy to be had with people screaming incoherently at each other without their lips moving, if I must be honest. Still, it would have lent a certain comic value to the film that would have made for a much greater replayability value. Although much greater than "once in a blue moon" is really not saying much, I guess. On the other hand, the dark, eerie music contributed by Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell lends a certain effect to the film the that the dialogue doesn't. In a way, it reminds me of the music in Make Them Die Slowly, a film I can just see Force Video bringing out on DVD (yes, that's a hint).

    The surround channels were used in an uneven and rare fashion. The occasional dose of ambience and music was injected into the surround channels, but the soundtrack was generally very front-and-centre. The subwoofer basically twiddled its thumbs for most of the movie, injecting the occasional unenthusiastic yawn here and there.


    The extras are generally non-existent, although there is one thing present that rates a mention. The menus are animated in that typically cheesy running-blood horror film style.


    The menu "bleeds" whenever an option is selected, presumably in order to give the screen something to do while the user waits for the menu they've selected to appear. The menus are themed around the film, but other than that they are unremarkable.

R4 vs R1

        The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     In spite of what is missing from the Region 4 version, you would have to be very heavily into this film to consider sourcing it from Region 1. Even though the Region 1 version wins hands down in the extras area, the film itself is hardly worth considering paying the cost of Australian to American dollar conversion.


    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre offers an insight into the Renaissance of late-night horror films, and could rightly be considered a classic.

    The video quality is below average, although this can be attributed to the source material. I also challenge you to find a better presentation.

    The audio quality is below average, but this can also be attributed to the source material.

    The extras are non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
4th January, 2000
Amended 15th February, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video and composite outputs
Display Panasonic TC51M80A (51cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs;
Audio Decoder None/Built-In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE535, using analogue input; Sony STR-DE835, using bitstream/PCM digital input
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer