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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (4K SteelBook Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


A group of friends drive out to rural Texas to visit the vandalized grave of two of the friends' grandfather and run into a killer cannibal family, including a chainsaw wielding killer who wears a mask made out of human flesh.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Tobe Hooper’s 1974 cult classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre picked up on the story of notorious Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, which had already been adapted to the screen in horror form by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Hooper’s film, however, laid the groundwork for the slasher subgenre boom to come and changed the direction of horror films.

Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) and her disabled, wheelchair-bound brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) get news that their grandfather’s grave has been vandalized. They gather a group of friends and drive out to the rural area, formerly a booming cattle slaughterhouse town, to check on his grave. On their way there they pick up an oddball hitchhiker who should give them pause, but they press on. Arriving in town, they decide to go check on the Hardesty’s old farmhouse – this is when the trouble begins. They run into a family of homicidal slaughterhouse workers, including the chainsaw wielding Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), who wears a human flesh mask. Soon the group of friends are brutally off one-by-one.

There are so many precedents set by this film that just were not a thing beforehand. Hooper’s film is supposedly the first horror film to have teens centered as the protagonists and tt created the “final girl” trope. It is also much less gory than one might expect, with Hooper choosing to use implied violence to permeate the film with a sense of violence.

Despite being made on a shoestring budget, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre works and is one of the scariest slasher films ever made. It holds up today even after decades of increasingly vivid, violent, and blood-splattered films that have crowded the genre.

  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 4K Ultra HD SteelBook (Dark Sky Films)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 4K Ultra HD SteelBook (Dark Sky Films)

The Video

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was restored in 4K from its original 16mm source in 2016 and approved by director Tobe Hooper. This new 4K release seems to be taken from that same restoration and 4K digital intermediate and remastered with Dolby Vision HDR. It is supplied in a 1.85:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement with HDR10 metadata showing a MaxLL of 1000 nits and a MaxFALL of 400 nits.

This is not a film that is ever going to look pristine, or reference quality given its source, provenance, and budget, but this 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision remaster is the best it has ever looked. Inherent source damage like scratches aside, and limited resolution of 16mm which also leads to some clipping of white levels and a bit of crush and noise in the black levels, the grain looks natural. The Dolby Vision wide color gamut adds extra vibrancy to the warm color palette, especially reds like Pam’s red shorts or in the scene at night when Sally runs to the gas station and realizes what she has gotten into. The red light glowing in the darkened room looks mesmerizing while there is also good specular highlight sheen on the metallic parts behind her.

The Audio

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre gets a spruced up lossless Dolby Atmos audio mix for this 4K Ultra HD release. Given this 1974 film as an original mono mix (which is also supplied in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0) the Atmos mix cannot be expected to be as impactful as a contemporary mix. Still, the sound is upgraded nicely and the channels are well used, with lots of atmospherics and some sound effects moved into the surrounds, and good saturation of ambience in the height channels.

The Supplements

Dark Sky Films has loaded this release with a ton of bonus features, many previously released, but well worth owning and watching or listening to anyway. The four audio commentaries are all great listens and the new documentary from Second Sight on the impact and history of the film is a must-watch for fans. There is also a two-sided poster included.

  • Commentary with actors Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Allen Danzinger, and art director Robert A. Burns
  • Commentary with director Tobe Hooper, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, and actor Gunnar Hansen
  • Commentary with director Tobe Hooper
  • Commentary editor J. Larry Carroll, cinematographer Daniel Pearl, and sound recordist Ted Nicolaou

Bonus Features Blu-ray Disc:

  • The Legacy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1080p; 01:22:45) (NEW) – An excellent documentary from Second Sight that includes interviews with filmmakers on the impact of the film.
  • The Cinefamily Presents Friedkin/Hooper: A Conversation About The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Between William Friedkin and Tobe Hooper (1080p; 00:54:09)
  • Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (SD; 01:12:49) – The classic archival documentary from Blue Underground.
  • Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw (SD; 01:11:42)
  • A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen (SD)
  • Off the Hook with Teri McMinn (1080p; 00:17:02)
  • The Business of Chain Saw: An Interview with Production Manager Ron Bozman (SD; 00:16:26)
  • Deleted Scenes & Outtakes (SD; 00:25:23)
  • Grandpa’s Tales: An Interview with John Dugan (1080p; 00:15:48)
  • Cutting Chain Saw: An Interview with Editor J. Larry Carroll (1080p; 00:10:47)
  • Blooper Reel (SD; 00:02:21)
  • Outtakes from The Shocking Truth (SD; 00:07:41)
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: TCSM (SD: 00:20:21)
  • W.E. Barnes Presents “Making Grandpa” (1080p; 00:05:30)
  • Still Gallery (1080p; 00:02:48)
  • 40th Anniversary Trailer (1080p)
  • Trailer 1 (SD)
  • Trailer 2 (SD)
  • Television & Radio Spots (SD)

The Final Assessment

A true horror classic that is nightmare inducing, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre may never look great, but it has never looked better than it does now. Highly recommended.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is out on 4K Ultra HD SteelBook February 28, 2023, from Dark Sky Films.

  • Rating Certificate: R
  • Studios & Distributors: Vortex | Dark Sky Films
  • Director: Tobe Hooper
  • Written By: Kim Henkel (screenplay by) | Tobe Hooper (screenplay by)
  • Run Time: 83 Mins.
  • Street Date: 28 February 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 1000 nits
    • MaxFALL: 400 nits
  • Primary Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible)
  • Secondary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1 | English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo | English DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English

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A group of friends drive out to rural Texas to visit the vandalized grave of two of the friends' grandfather and run into a killer cannibal family, including a chainsaw wielding killer who wears a mask made out of human flesh.The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (4K SteelBook Review)