“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is one of the most notorious films of the 1970s. Like “Night of the Living Dead” its title is synonymous with horror cinema and you are probably very well aware of the title even if you haven’t seen the film. Inspired by Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein’s exploits, the film was advertised as being a literal true story (like every other exploitation film made during that era) but was only very loosely based on the killings committed by Gein in the 1950s.
Shot in the sweltering summer of 1973, director Tobe Hooper and his small crew endured record high humidity and shot the picture in a farmhouse that wasn’t air-conditioned. Heat exhaustion nearly put actor Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) out of commission if he wasn’t immediately hydrated by a fellow crewmember. In one scene, an actor willfully cut his finger to produce blood since the tube used for the stage blood wasn’t working. In another violent scene, one of the lead actors was instructed not to move in order to avoid being sliced by the chainsaw that was only within three inches of his face.
A small distributor named Bryanston, the company that distributed Deep Throat in 1972 and was also an enterprise run by the Peranio crime family, released the film in August 1974. This resulted in litigation brought forth by the filmmakers when they did not receive their cut of the box office profits.
The film was one of the most successful independent productions of it’s time. Before the advent of cable and home video, the film played theatrically for years. It was re-released by the then modest exploitation house New Line Cinema. Critics such as Rex Reed lauded the film but that didn’t mean local controversy wasn’t inevitable. According to wikipedia.org, “In February 1976, theatres in Ottawa, Canada were asked by the local authority to withdraw The Texas Chain Saw Massacre due to concern about increasing levels of violence being associated by the public with the film.”
But fans of Texas Chainsaw Massacre can rest assured that the local fear mongering connected with the film is no more and on Friday April 16 at 11:15pm, the Mayfair will be showing a rare 35mm print of TCM, uncut. So come by and purchase a ticket to a film that changed the *face* of horror films forever.