Thursday, 8 October 2009


Tobe Hooper's savage, unrelenting nightmare has a chequered history here in the UK.
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE was refused a cinema release back in 1974, and was only granted certificates for cinema and home video in 1999. The retirement of BBFC head honcho, the late James Ferman, opened the door for many previously outlawed films: indeed, Ferman had found the whole Chain Saw experience to be so intense that he declared it was impossible to make any cuts to this film and make it available for public viewing.
So, Hooper's film simply gathered dust here, though the thriving UK fanzine community ensured those who really wanted to see the film could do so, courtesy of third-gen bootleg tapes which were always at the top of most peoples 'swap lists'.
Now, the Blu-ray format has caught up with Chain Saw in the form of the 'Seriously Ultimate Edition'. Thanks to Second Sight Films, this 16mm journey into darkness looks as good as one could hope for. Happily, this transfer retains the grain 'n' grit but also looks sharp and colourful in places, echoing Hooper's intention that his film should no longer be the victim of heavy, heavy grain Ala the early theatrical screenings.

With an impressive roster of juicy extras, TCM comes over as an even greater accomplishment, with the excellent 'The Shocking Truth' documentary giving us the low-down on exactly what went into the making of this film, and the heavy toll it took on those involved; particularly Marilyn Burns who deserved some kind of medal for her participation. With tales of The Mafia and reminiscences from the heat of on-screen battle , Dave Gregory's doc acts as a valuable record of the filming and the legend that simply refuses to lay down and die. Of course, there are cast and crew members sadly no longer with us and they are remembered in the moving 'In Memoriam' segment of the 'Flesh Wounds' featurette.

The film itself still holds up as one of the most enduring in Horror Cinema. I find it every bit as difficult to sit through as my first Chain Saw experience many years ago. It's a relentless, in-your-face production and it's testament to the power of this film that many of us still go away thinking we've seen more than was actually shown. There's only a modicum of blood spilt onscreen, but the charnel house atmosphere and endlessly imaginative set designs combine with committed performances to fashion a true genre heavyweight. With just an 80 minute running time, Hooper's film seems a lot longer, and I offer that observation as a compliment.

With Blu-ray releases for DAWN OF THE DEAD and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on the horizon, Blu-ray is starting to become a fitting home for some of our favourite movies. For the target audience, these are the sort of releases that sell Blu-ray players and it's nice to see THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE receive such reverential treatment.
Initially, this will be a HMV exclusive here in the UK, but will be more widely available early next year.


  1. I never realized until recently that some films were banned in Britain.

  2. Yes, and often, the only way to see certain films was by swapping titles with like-minded fans. Usually, these hard-to-see films dropped through the letterbox on videotape, and were invariably 3rd or 4th gen copies. It was better than not seeing the films, though the police went through a period of staging dawn raids at the homes of guys who just wanted to see a film.