Starring – Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A Partain, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal.
Picture the scene – it’s the early 1980’s in a small Yorkshire town in
England. A young man who has more than a few dreams in his head, stars in
his eyes, and a growing obsession with all things Science fiction and
horror, hears something startling and wondrous on a national news bulletin.
Namely, a that particular movie which had over the years gained
a reputation of controversial and mythical proportions, arguably as no
other has in the history of movies, was finally to be released on video.
Amazingly after some 7 years after its initial production the seminal
horror movie *The Texas Chain Saw Massacre* was finally going to see the
light of day over here in the UK. Believe me, this was big news. Since its
release in the UK in early 1975 the availability in cinema’s had been
withheld by the British Board of film classification who
believed vehemently that the magnitude of violence, particularly in two
noted scenes and the feeling of claustrophobic terror in the last 3rd of
the film, was far too much for the sensibilities of a British audience.
Therefore deeming that it was therefore unsuitable for a BBFC X certificate
to be issued. Ah bless the BBFC for protecting us from making up
our own minds.
So it finally seemed in those dark and distant days of 1981 that the
British Board of film classification had finally seen sense it seems and
permitted the movie’s release – though as it shortly turned out, the video
was soon to be removed from the video stores after new video classification
rules came in (‘Thank you’ Margaret Thatcher…). Indeed, no theatrical or
video release was going to take place for another 18 years, thanks to the
backward and miss-placed ‘protection’ of the the public sensibilities.
However, before it was unceremoniously pulled from the shelves, a lucky few
of us had managed to get our hands on the film, and it’s iconic horror
bad-guy, that had by now achieved cult status of fabled proportions.
The plot is cunningly simple. It is 1974 and a group of teenage friends are
travelling through the back roads of Texas on their way to their
grandfather’s apparently vandalised grave.
Among them are Sally Hardesty,
and her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin. At one point they pick up
the hitchhiker from hell, who they quickly realise is a little unstable as
he slashes both himself & Franklin with a knife. The others manage to eject
the hitchhiker from the vehicle, but shortly after wards, they are forced
to stop for petrol at an old property that they’ve stumbled upon. What none
of them realise is that this house is the home of the knife
wielding hitchhiker together with his evil and quite frankly not very nice
family of cannibalistic psychopaths. This is not going to end well for the
group of friends as they are picked off one by one.
Forget the basic storyline. Put aside opinions on the quite frankly ropey
and amateurish acting (the cast taken mostly from Hooper’s teaching friends
and students). While you’re at it, if you haven’t ever seen the film,
ignore the rather miss-placed and over sensationalised claims that the film
is nothing more than pure violence and nothing else. No, this is a movie
purely for the emotional and sensory experience of the viewer. Indeed,
there are times, particularly in the last act of the film when that
the experience becomes more of a sensory and emotional overload – such is
it’s intense and unsettling power.
There are scenes and images within this
film that burn themselves onto your consciousness for a variety of reasons.
Yes there are scenes of unyielding violence which will shock, even
on repeated viewing, particularly from one of the true iconic horror
The cinematography is frankly stunning, originally shot on poor quality
16mm film, this seems if anything to add to the overall atmospheric
ambiance, partly in the external country scenes but particularly in the
internal terror scenes.
As I mentioned previously, it wasn’t until 1999 that the BBFC realised that
years of complete miss-interpretation of the movie had taken place.
Contrary to popular misconception, there is no over-reliance on explicit
violence ( in fact there is a distinct lack of blood and gore throughout).
Rather it is the often implied threat of violence and atmosphere that
creates the power to shock and discomfort the viewer.
I could also talk at length about Leatherface and his family’s treatment of
the teenagers being an evocation and allegory of America in the 1970’s with
such things as the Watergate scandal and Vietnam making it it quite
clear that the modern world world was cruel and nothing
like your childhood memories said it was. No one is safe, no-one can be
trusted. The hippy peace loving days of the 1960’s were long gone. But
I’ll leave that sort of discussion for those far more qualified and able
In my humble opinion, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is perhaps the single
most powerful example of horror movie making that I have ever experienced,
either now or for that young man in the early 1980’s………
A genuine, unaldulterated classic 10/10
About Stuart Anderson
I can trace my love of horror back to my first experiences of the genre when I was about 9 years old and allowed to say up and watch one of the Universal classics (The son of Frankenstein). Since then I've had an obsession not only with the classic Universal horror, but also Hammer horror and a variety of sub-genres such as slasher and zombie films etc. The current independent horror and sci-fi movie scene is fascinating - so much so I decided 6 months ago to write my own blog (The Fifth Dimension) which full of lovely reviews and interviews. The links to the fb page & blog is