Monday, November 17, 2014

THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) 40TH ANNIVERSARY RESTORATION (SECOND SIGHT FILMS)

THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) 
2-Disc 40th Anniversary Restoration 


Label: Second Sight Films
Region Code: B
Rating: 18 Certificate
Duration: 8d Minutes
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.77:1)
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and 5.1 / PCM Stereo 2.0, PCM Mono 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Allen Danziger, William Vail, Jim Siedow, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal 

When I was just barely in the double digits my parents rented a laser disc player (what's that, right kids) and a few scary movies movies and one of them was THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and the other was the erotic-demon shocker MAUSOLEUM (1988) starring the demon-boobied Bobbie Bresee. 


From the very first frame it was unsettling and filled me with an unease, the image of the sun baked armadillo dead on the roadside right away gave me the heads-up that I was about to endure something awful. Layer on top of that the macabre images of the disinterred corpses staged at a cemetery and the unsettling flash photography and I was already a bit nauseated.


Enter a group of twenty-somethings travelling cross country in a Volkswagen van, we have Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) and her paraplegic brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain) travelling across Texas with friends Jerry (Allen Danziger), Kirk (William Vail), and Pam (Teri McMinn), to visit the grave of the Hardestys' grandfather which may have been desecrated following the the macabre acts of vandalism mentioned previously.  


Along the way they have the unfortunate urge to pick-up a very strange Hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) who has an unsightly birth mark on his face. Once inside things go weird when he goes on about the joy of killing cows at the slaughterhouse and how tasty his brother's homemade head cheese is before he takes a pocket knife and slices open his own palm...  watching this for the first time I quickly realized I was seriously in over my head. Now everyone in the van is on edge and panicked when suddenly the but grabs Franklin and slices open his arm before being thrown out the van. Running alongside the van as it speeds off he smears his blood on the van and the group continue on. 


arriving at the cemetery they conform that their grandparents graves have not been disturbed and head off to check out the now abandoned Hardesty house, Before arriving and they realize they are running on fumes and top off at a gas station only to be told they are out of gas and the fuel truck won't arrive until the next day. With the Hardesty farm house just a few miles away and they decide to make the short trip of it and return to the gas station later that night to refuel. 

At the house Kirk and Pam wander off to a swimming hole rumored to be nearby while Sally and Jerry explore the dilapidated house leaving poor wheelchair bound Franklin on his own, unable to navigate the crumbling home. Early on we discover what an annoying whiner Franklin is but he takes it to the next level at the house. Unable to follow his sister he's left on his own to complain while giving disapproving raspberries in his sister's direction. The poor bastard is a cripple and you would think you might have some sympathies for him but he is such an unlikable character who wallows in hos own self pity. 

Pam and Kirk never do find the swimming hole but they do come across a neighboring home after they hear a gas-powered generator humming away in the distance. The curious Kirk enters the home and meets one of the inhabitants with deadly consequences. A hulking figure wearing a dead-skin mask named Leatherface (Gunnar Hanson) smashes his skull with a mallet, the encounter is quick and before you know what's happening Kirk is dead on the floor with his legs creepily twitching away. 

Pam hears the commotion and come inside looking for Kirk whom she assumes is playing a joke on her. Inside she enters a room blanketed in chicken feather and eerie sculptures made from the bone of animals and what appear to be human. Realizing something is very wrong she attempts to leave but Leatherface snatches her up and impales her on a meat hook! While she hangs there helpless and squirming Leatherface starts to carve-up Kirk with a chainsaw. 

As night sets in the group back at the Hardesty homestead begin to worry about Pam and Kirk, Jerry mounts a one-an search party and sets off into the night finding his way to the home not expecting to discover the horrors that await him inside. He hears a noise coming from a freezer and opens it to find Pam still alive just as Leatherface kill hims.

Now completely dark outside Sally and Franklin begin to worry and set off through a brush thicket to find their friends when Leatherface emerges from the darkness chainsawing poor Franklin to death as the hysterical Sally lets loose the first of many marathon screams - it is a supremely effective kill scene to this day, every death onscreen in this move carries a weight to it and that makes it so damn effective - nearly bloodless but brutal. . 

Sally escapes Leatherface and makes her way to the gas station seeking the help of the the proprietor (Jim Siedow) who turns out to be the father of Leatherface and the Hitchhiker, of course. He beats her with a broom before tying her up and placing her in sack. Siedow is truly demented in the role and brings a lot to the character, it's a nightmarish encounter. He throws her in his truck and makes his way back to the farm house where the strange clan sit down for a family dinner with Sally as the main course. They wheel out the desiccated corpse of their Grandpa (John Dugan) who looks mummified until he gets a taste of Sally's blood and then he becomes a bit more animated. Apparently he was quite the killer back at the slaughterhouse and the family want him to do the dirty deed. They kneel the hysterical Sally over a large wash bin at Grandpa's feet as he limply attempts to smash her brains in with a hammer. It's such a nightmare scenario and infused with the crazy energy of the cannibal clan and Marilyn Burn's marathon of screams, her duress is nerve-shattering.

While Grandpa swings away to the cheers of the family Sally somehow manages to get away by leaping through a window pane of glass, sprinting for the main road with both Leatherface and the Hitchiker just behind her. The film ends with a semi truck happening upon the bizarre scene with the Hitchhiker splattered on the road and Sally jumping into the bed of a passing pick-up truck laughing and screaming hysterically as Leatherface spins the chainsaw in the air in anger. 


I remember watching it for the first-time like it was yesterday, my nerves were a wreck. I was shaking and scared out of my mind and for some reason I loved it - it was at that moment I knew I loved to be scared. Subsequent viewing bare witness to the continuing power of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, a tightly crafted film with not an excess ounce of filler to it. Everything onscreen carries with it a weight that cannot be denied - a terror classic without equal.

BLU-RAY:
When I first heard there was a brand new 4K remaster of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE on the way I scoffed at the notion that you could improve this 40 year-old classic shot on 16mm. This had always been a sweaty film with copious amounts of grit and grain galore. Could a new 4K restoration even be worth it, or worse take something away from it? 

Now that I've watched it I must say that the film certainly has never looked better - which is not to say pristine. There's only so much you can do with a 40 year old film shot on the inherently grainy 16mm film stock, let's be real about that. Knowing that the grain structure is intact and appears natural without any wholesale DNR having been applied leaving as much fine detail as the possible onscreen. The colors are solid but this film has always been a bit soft but the fine detail and textures do come through with a deeper clarity and vibrancy - though I would stop short of saying there's a lot of sharpness to the image., it's a sweaty film but this new restoration is worth the double-dip in my opinion. 

We have four audio options including the original PCM Mono 1.0 for the purist and a newly created DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Thankful for the inclusion of the original mono but I gotta give it to the new 7.1 surround mix, some great use of the surrounds creating a terrifyingly immersive experience with chainsaw, screams and creepy sound design filtering in from the surrounds with surprising effectiveness. 


SPECIAL FEATURES:

Onto the extras we have almost everything ported over from the Dark sky Films Ultimate Edition Blu-ray with the notable exception of one - that would be the 'Dr. W.E. Barnes Presents"Making Grandpa" (1 Minute) detailing the transformation of the actor from baby-faced youth into the hideous visage of the blood-sucking grandpa character. 

Onto the new extras on disc one we have two brand new commentaries. The first being a commentary with Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper and the second with Editor J. Larry Carroll and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolaou. Between the four commentaries you will know everything you could ever hope to know about this terrifying film.


Onto the jam-packed second disc we have the carried over features plus nearly an hour of new content exclusive to the 40th Anniversary Restoration. A new interview with production manager Ron Bozman, John Dugan the actor who portrayed the blood-sucking grandpa, editor J. Larry Carroll plus new deleted scene and outtakes presented silent in the absence of an audio track. 


Additionally there are 22 minutes of interviews with Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel which I do not believe are on my Dark Sky Ultimate Edition Blu-ray or the 40th Anniversary version from MPI in the US. 


The MPI release here in the US has courted some controversy regarding a cut to black that was originally a fade to black and Sally's scream/laugh appears to be oddly looped during the finale . Second Sight were aware of the issue and took corrective steps to return the fade to black during the flash photography sequence and the audio glitch, which is appreciated. 


DISC 1
- NEW 40th Anniversary Restoration supervised by Tobe Hooper

- NEW 4k transfer from the original 16mm A/B rolls
- NEW 7.1, 5.1 and stereo mixes as well as the original mono
- NEW audio commentary with Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper
- NEW audio commentary with Cinematographer Daniel Pearl,
- Audio Commentary with Editor J. Larry Carroll, Sound Recordist Ted Nicolaou
- Audio commentary with Writer-Producer-Director Tobe Hooper, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Actor Gunnar HansenAudio commentary with Actors Marilyn and Burns, Allen Danziger and Paul A. Partain, and Art Director Robert A. Burns

DISC 2
- ‘Cutting Chain Saw’ with Editor J. Larry Carroll (11 Minutes)
- ‘Granpaw’s Tales’ with Actor John Dugan (16 Minutes)
- Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: TCSM (20 Minutes)
- New Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (15 Minutes)
- ‘The Shocking Truth’ Documentary (73 Minutes)
- 'The Shocking Truth' Outtakes (8 Minutes)
- ‘Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of The Saw’ (72 Minutes)
- ‘Off The Hook’ with Actor Teri McMinn (17 Minutes)
- ‘The Business of Chain Saw’ – with Production Manager Ron Bozman (16 Minutes)
- ‘House Tour with Actor Gunnar Hansen’ (8 Minutes)
- Tobe Hooper interview (14 Minutes)
- Kim Henkel interview (8 Minutes)
- Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (25 Minutes)

- Bloopers (2 Minutes)
- Trailers and TV Spots (7 Minutes) 

- Radio Spots (1 Minute)
- Stills Gallery (2 Minutes) 

- Trailers (2 Minutes) 

VERDICT:

THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE will always be a terrifying slice of horror and this 2-disc edition from Second Sight in the UK is just fantastic with a brand-new 4K restoration and a sweet new surround mix with a wealth of bonus material clocking-in just shy of the eleven-hour mark, making this about as damn near definitive as we are ever going to see. Not just a high recommend but a must-own release for any red-blooded horror fan. 

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