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Texas chainsaw massacre photo: Texas Chainsaw Massacre texas_chainsaw_massacre.jpg

            An interesting phenomenon occurs when one watches a Horror movie.  More so than any other genre, the mind is often required to fill in the blanks.  It is well known that the less you show, the scarier it often is.  Indeed it’s almost as if the implication of Horror is enough to inspire it.  Sometimes, a film is so effective in what it implies, that it becomes, in the mind of those that saw it, something altogether more than what it was.  THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is just such a film. A lot of people seem to remember it as a non-stop gore-fest. As an exploitative exercise in graphic depravity.  The reality is that this flick, while indeed twisted and disturbing, has very little gore and no nudity at all..  What makes THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE special is that while the first half is a 'pick off the teens one-by-one' film, the second half is a menacingly surreal romp that is almost psychedelic in its effect.

More under the fold!

             Directed with great visual flair by Tobe Hooper (on a budget of only $300,000), THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE throws the audience off balance right away by claiming that the film is based on a true story.  Of course it isn’t, but Hooper  made the assertion in response to the lies and misinformation surrounding Watergate and the Vietnam War (it was 1974 after all).  This air of ‘truth’ around the film is reinforced by the cast, who were all unknown young local actors from the central Texas area.  Having no familiar faces among your protagonists instantly heightens the sense of danger, since you have no ‘star’ that you can assume will survive.  The cast all give good, convincing performances but particular attention should be paid to Gunner Hansen, who played the most memorable of the villains; Leatherface.

Leatherface 1974 photo: Leatherface Leatherface1974.jpg

    Leatherface is cuts such a horrifying figure that he has become the ‘face’ of the franchise - completely obliterating any cultural memory of the fact that the antagonist of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is an entire family.  Gunner Hansen decided in the development of Leatherface that he was a mentally disabled man who had never learned to communicate properly.  He researched the role by studying the movements and mannerisms of the students at a Texas special needs school.  Far from just a creepy mask slapped onto a large man, Leatherface is a carefully constructed and fleshed out character - which only serves to make him all the more terrifying.

    So disturbing are Leatherface and his family that people see blood and gore that is simply not there at all.  What little blood is shown is limited to, for example, some scrapes on Sally’s body (the scrapes were real, received as actress Marylin Burns ran through the brush) and the cutting of Sally’s fingertip (again, real - the fake knife didn’t work).  In the scene where Pam (Teri McMinn) is hung from a meat hook, the action is so visceral that there are people out there who swear that they can see the hook enter her body.  Of course you can’t, but it is a testament to just how frightening the moment is.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 photo: ONE GAL, ONE HOOK/ TCM 1974 CloseupofPamonthehook.jpg

    The absence of blood was actually a commercial choice.  Tobe Hooper intended this film to be PG, but of course, never got it.  It’s just as well - the film was much too scary for PG even with no blood.  It is a masterpiece the genre and a study on how the mind works when watching Horror.

Texas Chainsaw massacre 1974 photo: The Family Dinner texas1974.jpg

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE fun facts - For the scene when Pam was hung up on the meat hook, actress Teri McMinn was held in place by a nylon cord that went between her legs.  It was so uncomfortable for her that much of the pain expressed on Pam’s face is genuine.

One alternate title for the film was “Headcheese”.

Tobe Hooper tried very hard to edit this film down to a “PG” rating.  So effective was the Horror in his movie, that no matter how much he cut, it always came back from the ratings board as “R”.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 photo:  1974-lamasacredetexas2.jpg
Old Man - “I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it.”

Pam - “Oh, no. Capricorn's ruled by Saturn. ‘There are moments when we cannot believe that what is happening is really true. Pinch yourself and you may find out that it is.’”

Hitchhiker - “You could have dinner with us... my brother makes good head cheese! You like head cheese?”

Originally posted to cmcolin on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Poll

This year, my Halloween costume is...

10%4 votes
7%3 votes
2%1 votes
12%5 votes
2%1 votes
65%26 votes

| 40 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  "True" story (6+ / 0-)

    as with Psycho and Silence of the Lambs, loosely based on the real-life horror of Ed Gein.  

    We do not forgive. We do not forget. The whole world is watching.

    by Tracker on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 08:11:35 AM PDT

  •  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre started (6+ / 0-)

    the minute Bush beat Ann Richards and hasn't let up since. LOL.

    Now, in all seriousness, sometimes a graphic cult horror movie just hits the spot. ;)

    The "Shot heard 'round the world" is now known as the "Pinochet Ricochet". --commonmass

    by commonmass on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 08:12:26 AM PDT

  •  I don't care for (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cmcolin, niemann, duhban, Matt Z, coquiero, bumbi

    movies where people are nasty to people.  For this reason, I avoid reality television like the plague.

    Undoubtedly, this says something about my psyche.  I'm just not sure what it says, exactly.

    I tend to prefer the Sci-Fi and Fantasy horror sub-genres where the threat is from another species or the supernatural.  

    (-6.38, -7.03) Moderate left, moderate libertarian

    by Lonely Liberal in PA on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 08:12:29 AM PDT

    •  I agree completely. (3+ / 0-)

      I get enough of nasty, crazy, violent people in everyday life.  I don't want to watch it for "entertainment."

      Some time ago I read something interesting and insightful about how Halloween has been degraded over time.  (It may even have even been a diary here on DK.)  The holiday was originally based in a celebration of the mystery and power of the universe -- some parts of that being scary, of course, but other parts full of awe and humility.

      Now Halloween has become increasingly about blood, gore, and "dress up like serial killers."  That, to me, reveals something about the modern American (at least) psyche ... and to me it feels just as unhealthy as the American obsession with nasty reality TV.

      •  I gotta admit (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        niemann, Matt Z

        Realizing that it's supposedly the night when the veils are thin, I light our pumpkin (OK, so I use a home-made LED light for it, but same thing) and spend a moment thinking of those in my life who have passed.

        Knowing the pumpkin's supposed to keep them away.  Fine by me, I'd rather not get three ghosts after midnight.  I have to get up early.

        To a point, I think the popularity of slasher flicks and scary costumes reflects the fact that we're laughing at the danger.  Life nowadays is a lot less uncertain in many ways than it was in the Middle Ages and Ancient world.

        So scary is allowed to be enjoyable.

        I don't have much problem with it, but always went as something fun and harmless for Hallowe'en.  Even my children's costumes were in that class.

        Last year I went as an Italian Renaissance scholar to a party (complete with hat and copy of the Ars Nova).  Nothing scary there.

        (-6.38, -7.03) Moderate left, moderate libertarian

        by Lonely Liberal in PA on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 12:50:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What disturbs me is that a lot of the slasher ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Matt Z, walkshills, northsylvania

          ... and gore films don't seem to be about laughing at all.  

          Some definitely are, and clearly have a sense of humor and talent and imagination -- like some that have appeared in this series.  But others just seem to me to be out-and-out ugly and sick in their spirit.

          Sort of like reality TV.  It's not funny.  It's just repulsive people doing awful things.  The same thing also struck me recently when I saw that one channel I loved years ago -- the Biography channel -- has apparently become the "Serial Killer Channel," with nonstop documentaries about true crime and serial killers.  And A&E has also been taken over by true-crime-and-murder shows (when they're not focusing on rednecks and people fighting over storage units).  Not to mention the apparent obsession with TV series' and movies about gangsters, drug dealers, and low-lifes in general ...

          Again, I can only feel it reflects something not very healthy in the American psyche as a whole ... maybe a sense of powerlessness, fear, insecurity, anger, nihilism ...

      •  more taken over by Christainity (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        niemann

        and then taken over by the horror business. Originally it was called Samhain (and still is by most pagans and what not) and has a fascinating history that I encourage you to look up.

        Der Weg ist das Ziel

        by duhban on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 03:17:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think the taken over by Christianity was when... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          duhban

          ... they mystery and power of the universe -- of the unknown in the darkness, behind the veil -- was then categorized as EVIL.  That's when Halloween became about "good vs. evil."  

          Maybe that opened the door for "horror" and eventually, crazy killers.

  •  My horror movie of the day; '1984' (7+ / 0-)

    "But Ford - '1984' isn't a horror movie!" you say. Oh yes it is - the most real horror film you can imagine!

    1984

    Because, let's be honest; we all know that there are no demons, vampires, zombies, ghosts, poltergeists, witches or magical creatures of any kind out there to do horrible things to us. The REALISM of what could actually happen in '1984' should frighten us all, and it is much more likely to come true.

    19841

    Everyone knows the plot of '1984' of course - the entire world run by totalitarian governments who pretend to be different from the other totalitarian governments, but who are all the same. And who keep the masses under control with an artificial state of total war against the other countries, grinding poverty, constant surveillance, propaganda over the media, state approved torture, manufactured internal enemies for the people to hate, and destroying and rewriting history to whatever suits the needs of the moment. But fortunately all that is only fictional, and could never happen in real life. Right?

    19843

    The only prediction Orwell really got wrong was the '2 minute Hate', which he completely underestimated. With FOX and right wing talk radio, it's 24/7 hate, beamed directly into your home for your convenience.

    John Hurt as Winston Smith. His own personal sadness helped him

    19842

    This version is the ultimate film adaptation of the novel, bleakly and soul-destroyingly shot with an amazing cast, led by John Hurt as Winston Smith. This was also Richard Burton's final film.

    19844

    If you want to be TRULY scared this Halloween, watch this movie, and repeat to yourself; "It could never happen here.... it could never happen here.... it could never happen here........."

    They called Einstein 'crazy', too..... until he started KICKING ASS!!!

    by Fordmandalay on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 08:44:00 AM PDT

    •  why, thank you. (0+ / 0-)

      bleak and soul-destroying sounds perfect !

      Addington's perpwalk? TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes. @Hugh: There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution.

      by greenbird on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 01:11:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My neck of the woods (6+ / 0-)

    Used to ride my bike to school right past the house where they filmed it.

    Disclaimer: If the above comment can possibly be construed as snark, it probably is.

    by grubber on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 09:44:13 AM PDT

  •  Seeing things that aren't there. (7+ / 0-)

    Very true in this case.  Another example that comes to mind is Hitchcock's "Psycho".  I took a film class in college where the professor brought in a 16mm print of the film, and stepped frame-by-frame through the infamous shower scene.  This was the scene that filmgoers were convinced contained gore and/or nudity.  As it turns out, going through every shot in that sequence, some of them only a couple of frames long, there is essentially neither. If I'm remembering right, there was only one very brief shot that included both the knife and the character's body, and it didn't show her being cut.  No nudity to speak of, and the only blood is seen going down the shower drain.

  •  The Devil Doll, by Tod Browning. (5+ / 0-)

    Saw it this past week. Truly frightening...just the idea of shrunken people under others' control. And Robert Osborne is right...Rafaela Ottiano is a treat to watch. Worthy effort if you want to dig a little into our American film horrific past.

  •  Now that was... (5+ / 0-)

    ...one scary movie.

    Two visual things that stood out for me.

    One was the family scene that reminded me of a picture I once saw of three generations of the Rockefeller family.

    The other was the careful rationing of the color red. Red was almost (completely?) absent in the first part of the movie. So when accents of red showed up later, those served as effective stand-ins for the blood we viewers knew had to be flowing just out of camera range.

    best,

    john

    Strange that a harp of thousand strings should keep in tune so long

    by jabney on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 10:49:31 AM PDT

  •  Never saw it. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    duhban, Matt Z, coquiero

    Didn't like the concept. The whole torture, dismemberment, cannibalism, degenerate hillbillies/rustics thing doesn't appeal to me. Only exception I can think of is Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes". That was more a case of mutant hillbillies though.

    Still, Tobe Hooper is a fine director, so perhaps I should have given it a chance.

    Oddly, I didn't avoid Romero's Zombie flicks. Probably because the Zombies could never be confused with a real world threat. Even at that my favorite is "Dawn of the Dead", as much a comic satire as a horror movie.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 02:56:15 PM PDT

  •  a classic that sadly is ruined by the remake (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cmcolin, Matt Z, coquiero

    which is an over the top gore fest that completely ignores the actual subtlety of the original.  It's funny that most of what is considered the best of the 70s to 80s of horror is almost as subtle as it is not.

    I do think though that gore can serve a point but too many movies miss that and just go for the gore.

     

    Der Weg ist das Ziel

    by duhban on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 03:13:49 PM PDT

  •  it treated humans like farm animals - that was (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero, duhban, northsylvania, cmcolin

    significant for me as a vegetarian at the time.

    i knew and worked with the guy (James Gale) who played the british guy in the one with rene zellwegger and mathew mccauneghey- maybe the 3rd....

     james did some bit parts in some hollywood stuff but he was a shakespearian actor who put on his own shows. he and his regulars would renovate dumps and turn them into theaters and put on professional grade productions. good parties too.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 06:18:34 PM PDT

  •  I met Gunnar in Austin (4+ / 0-)

    several times...he hung out next door to friends of mine on Texas Avenue. In '76 or '77 I was on my way to Wyoming when I encountered a blizzard in Boise City, Oklahoma, where all the traffic northward was stopped. Got a room at the only motel and later saw Gunnar in the restaurant at a time when the motel was asking us to double up...there was a lot of truckers piling up with the road closed. The sound of diesels running day and night and 70 mph winds was eerie.

    So we doubled up and spent three days waiting the storm out - worst blizzard in 20 years, so they said - but we were well fortified for the time, the motel had a decent eatery, so we had a good time. He was on the way to a poetry festival in Boulder. He was a poet at heart, which I always thought was so ironic to the Leatherface image by which he became known. He was Icelandic by descent and had a really interesting history...his family eventually emigrated to New England.

    I saw the movie when it premiered in Austin...scary for the number of little barbecue places you see in our part of the country (and usually damn good except when you're on the menu). The movie and the mood it created had a strong impact on the audience at the time, but gained great appreciation for Hooper. Taking something commonplace and taken for granted and turning it into a threat and horror is a key means (like Cruz and logic).

    With the music scene becoming dynamic, the idea of film production in the area seemed a natural. And it came to be over the next couple of decades.

    None of the remakes are worth a damn.

    The truth is we are tortured by the truth.

    by walkshills on Thu Oct 17, 2013 at 07:36:00 PM PDT

  •  record-breaker for me: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cmcolin
    It is well known that the less you show, the scarier it often is.  Indeed it’s almost as if the implication of Horror is enough to inspire it.
    turned my head away and closed my eyes for the final scenes in "Looking For Mr. Goodbar..." -- out like a light.

    Addington's perpwalk? TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes. @Hugh: There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution.

    by greenbird on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 01:01:02 AM PDT

  •  Ironically, one of the scarier moments for me... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cmcolin, Avila

    is when the little skinny guy knocks on a girl's door, and when she answers, he is heating the tip of a coat hanger with a lighter and scratching his head with it.

    (actually that may not be from the original movie, but it sticks to the point of what is actually perceived as scary and disturbing and how you don't need blood to do it!)

    Ayn sucks. Please know I am not rude. I cannot rec anything from this browser. When I rec or post diaries I am a guest at some exotic locale's computer.

    by Floyd Blue on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 05:08:37 AM PDT

  •  Great analysis and review... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cmcolin, Avila

    this movie scared the hell out of me.  First time I really knew what being scared was all about.

    If debugging is the process of removing bugs, then programming must be the process of putting them in.

    by kharma on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 05:44:48 AM PDT

  •  It's all about (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cmcolin

    John Carpenter's The Thing.

  •  We lived in Austin (actually Cedar Park) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cmcolin

    when they filmed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre .... my son's high school band (Leander High) was chosen to play during the opening scene. The kids marched up and down the street for hours that day in the blistering heat. They wound up using about 15 seconds or so at the very beginning - if you look carefully you will see them in the background. He got to meet the actors, see a movie being made, and had an actors release form as a reward.

    The uber Baptist parents went nuts when they found out their children had participated in a film of the devil. The band teacher caught hell.

    However, the kids loved it.

    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. Frank Zappa

    by Da Rock on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 10:36:23 AM PDT

  •  Go as a house Republican (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terabthia2, cmcolin, Avila

    That would scare the majority of people in America

  •  My nominees for two (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila

    of the greatest horror films of all time are Mulholland Drive and Let the Right One In.  I couldn't get either of them out of my mind for days, partly because they were so beautiful.  

    Life is good. Injustice? Not so much.

    by westyny on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 11:05:46 PM PDT

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