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Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Special Edition




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: November 14, 1999

Released by: Elite Entertainment
Release date: December 3, 1996
MSRP $89.95 (OOP)
NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: N/A



The Story

inline Image A series of grave robings in Texas have caused many families to be concerned about the remains of their buried relatives. Even more bizarre is that unearthed corpses have been discovered mounted on top of monuments twisted in a grisly work of art. In total a dozen crypts were found empty and more will likely be discovered. Sally Hardesty (Marylin Burns) and her wheel chair bound brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain), concerned about their Grandfather's remains take a trip to the cemetery to check on his grave.

inline Image Along for the ride is Sally's boyfriend Jerry (Allen Danziger), Kirk (William Vail) and his girlfriend Pam (Terry McMinn). Upon leaving the cemetery secure that Sally's grandfather's grave has been untouched the five hop back in their van and head home. Along the way they come across a hitchhiker and pick him up only to be attacked as he turns violent after Franklin refuses to pay him for a picture he took. Running low on gas Jerry stops at the local gas station to re-fuel.

inline Image The old man running the store informs them that he has no gas and won't get any until later. With nowhere to go Sally and Franklin decide to visit their old home and make the trek to the house. Upon arriving Pam and Kirk decide to go swimming and separate from the rest of the group. Kirk discovers a house with an incinerator and decides to ask the residents if he can borrow some gas. Poor Kirk doesn't realize that no ordinary "family" lives in that house and as he'll soon discover they aren't vegetarians either.

inline Image One by one the rest of the group go out to look for each other after they don't return and each of them come across the house, its twisted occupants and Leatherface's saw. Like the film's tag line one has to wonder "Who will survive and what will be left of them?".

inline Image Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a masterpiece. It's an unrelenting terrifying no holds barred film that relies more on setting and atmosphere than over the top gore. Believe me, it would have been very easy for TCM to be a gory film considering the subject matter, but Director Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel are well reserved. The film, while slow to start, is like a rollercoaster of horror each scene more horrific than the next. Until it's fantastic climax. The tension that builds during the film is excellent and really drives the film. Early on we learn that Sally and her friends are in serious danger, but they aren't aware of it so they foolishly walk into the spider's web.

inline Image Texas Chainsaw Massacre also introduced us to some of the most horrific and memorable characters such as Leatherface, Hitchiker, Grandpa and the Cook. They all have their moments sometimes they make you laugh and sometimes they are terrifying. Another thing that makes TCM a more frightening film than most is the fact it's not entirely impossible for people like this to exist. They are very strange but never go to the point of being fantastic or improbable.

inline Image Let's talk scream queens for a second. How can someone think of a scream queen and not come up with Marilyn Burns? She will always be my favorite scream queen because of her performance in Texas Chains Massacre. She gives scenes a genuine feel thanks to her believable performance even though the things happening around her can be quite absurd at times.

inline Image Another thing is Sally screams a lot around the last 15 minutes of the film so casting someone who can scream well was definitely a crucial factor for the film. I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre - it certainly cracks my top ten list of favorite horror films and is in my opinion Tobe Hooper's greatest film. I hate when people refer to TCM as a "slasher" because I think it's so much more than that. It's a highly effective and relentless horror film that is very unique and at times disturbing.

Image Quality

inline Image Elite Entertainment presents Texas Chainsaw Massacre in its 1.85:1 aspect ratio taken from a "SuperScan" transfer. The transfer is gorgeous and really shows Texas Chainsaw Massacre in a whole new light. The scenes that look best are undoubtedly the outdoor scenes, which exhibit strong colors and beautiful blue skies. These scenes are remarkably clean with hardly any grain.

Interiors suffer a bit more from grain. Scenes inside the gas station and "Franklin Place" appear a little dark and grainier. Nighttime scenes are also excellent restoring a beautiful blue hue. Blacks are very good I noticed only a few instances of noise in the image. Print damage was minimal and the LD pressing was very good there's very little "speckling" in the image. I must say I'm very impressed with this transfer.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre was shot in 16mm and blown up to 35 for it's theatrical run so naturally the film has never really looked good and when you combine that with the films age you can't expect much for a good home video presentation. However, Elite Entertainment worked some magic on this disc and TCM looks wonderful. Hats off to Elite for this excellent transfer which was and still is the best looking version of the film.

Sound

The sound on the LD is presented in a new Stereo Surround track there's also the isolated original Mono track. Overall the sound is excellent. The musical score by Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell is very unsettling and perfect for the films atmosphere. The stereo surround track sounds excellent dialogue is clear and the sound effects are very nice - especially the chainsaw.

Supplemental Material

This LD is loaded with supplements from top to bottom. Packaged in an attractive deluxe gatefold, Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes in two discs. One with the film and the other containing the supplements. First, there's a commentary by Director Tobe Hooper, Gunnar Hanson, and Director of Photography Daniel Pearl. The commentary is excellent and a fun listen. The three talk about everything from the films alternate titles to the grueling filming sessions of the "dinner scene".

Gunnar Hansen talks a lot about his experiences on the set and gives a lot of behind the scenes info including the fact that he actually does cut - Sally, when Leatherface and Hitchhiker "feed" Grandpa. There's also talk about the cast members, casting sessions and the relationship between the actors on and off camera. It's an excellent commentary like all of Elite's.

Second are deleted scenes and there are plenty of them. Many of them are talked about in the commentary and they are included in the supplemental section. The scenes include Leatherface making himself up, Pam and Kirk discovering the remains of a campsite, Leatherface throwing a tantrum after Sally gets away from him in the chase sequence and many more.

There's also a long take of Sally screaming and acting crazy when she first bursts into the gas station after being chased by Leatherface. It's very long and really shows you how much Marilyn Burns was into the character. Also included is a blooper reel, trailers from both TCM one and the sequels and still photos. The supplements are fantastic you can't ask for a better collection of features.

Elite's Texas Chainsaw Massacre LD has to be one of my favorite LDs. Oddly enough, I bought it after buying the Pioneer DVD since I read that the Elite LD has a better transfer due to Pioneer using a second generation master or something like that. This would appear to be true as the LD has much stronger colors and less grain for me this is most noticeable in the gas station scenes after the chase. If you have a LD player, definitely seek this one out it's worth the price.

Final Thoughts

Of course the film speaks for itself if you love TCM you need to add this LD or the DVD to your collection.

Rating

Image Quality - A-
Sound - B
Supplements - A+

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 24 minutes
  • Color - High Definition Superscan Transfer - THX Certified
  • Rated R
  • 2 Discs, 4 Sides | Sides 3 and 4 CAV
  • Movie - 41 Chapter Stops | Supplements - 22 Chapter Stops
  • New Stereo Surround Sound Re-Mix
  • Original Mono soundtrack isolated on Analog track

Supplements
  • Isolated Score
  • Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper, Actor Gunnar Hansen and Director of Photography Dan Pearlman
  • Approximately 30 Minutes of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
  • Blooper Reel
  • Original Theatrical Trailers and Television Spots
  • Trailers for Other Films in the "Chainsaw" Series
  • Still Photos
  • Posters and Collectibles

Other Pictures

 

 

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