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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Slasher > The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – 2-Disc Ultimate Edition (1974 Original Version/Dark Sky Films)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – 2-Disc Ultimate Edition (1974 Original Version/Dark Sky Films)


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: B+     Film: B



With more imitators and rip-offs than ever before, the original 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre continues to be an American Horror film that resonates for so many reasons, even as very, very bad and predictable as the rip-offs have been.  Its recent sequel even led to a prequel.  After suffering with authorized copies that left something to be desired, Dark Sky Films has issued a new upgrade to the classic that is long overdue.  Carrying over all the extras from the previous editions, their 2-Disc Ultimate Edition standard DVD set is now the edition to own.


The last DVD issued of the film was by Pioneer before they sold their home video subsidiary to Geneon.  This critic covered that version with all the thoughts about the famous film five doomed teenagers at the following link:





The opinion is unchanged, with al the bad imitators only confirming some of the film’s shortcomings.  However, it is the real think and the new transfer shows all the more why the film (shot in 16mm Eastman Kodak’s ECO reversal stock (#7252) with a slow exposure number) is superior to the digital, HD and 35mm imitators and revisits that have reached a new high for now.  Director Tobe Hooper and cinematographer Daniel Pearl knew 35mm blow-ups were going to be made and thought in terms of 1.85 X 1 (according to Pearl, or 1.66 X 1 as the previous DVD was) when blocking scenes.


The earlier DVD offered a then “new widescreen Digital Superscan transfer supervised by director Tobe Hooper” that was done many years ago and is actually an older analog High Definition system.  I suggested comparing it to 16mm restorations of Criterion Rockumentary DVDs Gimme Shelter and Monterey Pop.  Now, we have the first totally digital High Definition transfer from the talented Don May, Jr. of Synapse Films.  He has always done fine transfer work and though Hooper supervised the older transfer, this is a major improvement from the previous DVD editions.


Having seen the film years ago in a very good 35mm blow-up and considering Hooper’s work on the older edition, there is still room for improvement in several scenes, which may in part involve expensive photochemical work on the original 16mm camera footage.  Though not always meant to be very colorful, I remember better moments in the 35mm blow-up print and there may be subtleties in shadows and color Hooper had on the older transfer that are missing here.  These are minor complaints, but I just hope that Pearl gets to approve a final HD transfer before the film arrives in HD-DVD or Blu-ray.  Otherwise, May did a fine upgrade that looks naturalistic and film-like, avoiding the yellowish look of the then “new” 16mm inter-negative of the previous transfer.


While the old DVD had a Hooper-approved Dolby Pro Logic mix from the PCM 2.0 on the LaserDisc to the Dolby Digital 2.0 on the DVD, this new edition attempts to add a Dolby 5.1 mix.  While it is as passable as the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo-boosted Pro Logic mix also included, the best track (like the recent upgrade of the original Black Christmas reviewed elsewhere on this site) is the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that is louder, cleaner, clearer and more realistic than the upgrades that thin out the sound and overall impact of the film.


Extras include a new audio commentary by actors Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allen Danziger, and art designer Robert A. Burns, the vintage commentary by director Tobe Hooper, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, and actor Gunnar Hansen, trailers, TV and radio spots, 73 minute documentary "Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth", 74 minute documentary "Flesh Wounds", Tour of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre house before and after remodeling, conduced by Gunnar Hansen, deleted scenes and outtakes, blooper reel, outtakes from "The Shocking Truth" and a few still galleries including posters, ads, and collectibles.  Carried over from the older edition, the blooper reel is amusing, deleted scenes worth checking out (though none of them feel like they should have remained, they are worth catching), and the alternate footage includes all the footage shot for the brief, still chilling enough first abduction by Leatherface.  The trailer for the unnecessary sequel was dropped and these documentaries are mostly new.


The tin case is also nicely designed and more durable than the usual DVD casings.  Dark Sky has done a great job and even if you have seen the film often, this new edition will impress.  Let’s hope more Horror films get this kind of treatment.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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