On August 18th, 1973 five teenagers went for a drive in the Texas countryside, Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), her paraplegic brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain), Jerry (Allen Danziger), Kirk (William Vail), and Pam (Teri McMinn). Their first stop was to the grave of Sally’s and Franklin’s grandfather to check on any vandalism. The news had reported some serious vandalism at the cemetery and many relatives were concerned about their loved ones. Assured that their grandfather’s grave wasn’t disturbed they go on their way.
They pick up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal). The hitchhiker is one whack-o dude. He freaks everyone out when he takes a knife and slices up his own hand. With his camera he then takes Franklin’s picture and demands that Franklin pay him two dollars for it. When Franklin refuses he sets the picture on fire, takes out a straight razor and slices Franklin’s arm. Shocked and horrified the kids kick the psychotic man out of their van.
Having decided to check out an old farm house belonging to the Hardesty family they first stop for gas. The station owner tells them that he is out of gas but is expecting a delivery sometime that afternoon. With no other station in the area they continue on to the farm house. Franklin mentions that there is a swimming hole nearby. Pam and Kirk head down there for a swim.
Pam and Kirk stumble on to another farm house. They hear a motor running. Kirk thinks they may be able to get some gas from the homeowners. When Kirk enters the house he is killed by Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), a man wearing a mask made from human skin. When Pam enters the house Leatherface grabs her and impales her on a meat hook.
Later Jerry goes looking for his friends. He also finds the house and has a similar ending as Kirk. By nightfall Sally and Franklin are frantic and begin looking for their friends. Franklin is killed by Leatherface with a chain saw and Sally runs to the house for help. This is where her nightmare begins.
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was released in 1974 and was directed by Tobe Hooper. It is a low budget “B” horror movie and very much a cult film.
The uproar that this movie caused is legendary. The opening credits themselves are actually quite gross. Flashes of dead bodies covered in adipocere and then posed in a gruesome way are the first images shown. Then there is the dead armadillo in the roadway. Unfortunately the film also has a tendency to make most Texans look like a bunch of imbeciles and cannibalistic ones at that.
The movie was banned in several counties and in the U.S. many theaters stopped showing it due to complaints about the violence. Of course that made everyone want to see it and made the film not only a hit but a cult favorite as well. It did so well it spawned a franchise of sequels, prequels and video games not to mention reboots. The film was credited with defining some of the standard elements of the slasher film and has influenced many other films and filmmakers as well as spawning a bunch of massacre movies and the use of power tools as weaponry.
The opening of the film says that it is based on a true story. Not really. It may have been inspired by the story of the real life leather face Ed Gein and some elements of the real life serial killer Elmer Wayne Henley but the story is fictional. Director Hooper maintains that his inspiration was not only Gein and Henley but also cultural and political influences of the seventies including Watergate, the Vietnam War, the oil crises and just in general being lied to by the government. World events and local news showed cruelty, violence and a lack of empathy as the norm. Man as monster.
The house that was used in the film was moved to Kingsland, Texas and turned into a restaurant.
Ed Gein AKA the Butcher of Plainfield AKA the Plainfield Ghoul was a murderer and body snatcher from Wisconsin. He exhumed bodies and created trinkets from their bones and skin. He was eventually found legally insane and remanded to a psychiatric hospital. He died in 1984 and was buried in an unmarked grave. Elmer Wayne Henley was a serial killer and sex offender from Texas. Convicted of his participation in what was known as the “Houston Mass Murders” Henley received six consecutive 99 year terms or 594 years. It is believed he aided Dean Corll and David Owen Brooks in the kidnapping, torture, rape and killing of twenty-eight teenage boys and young men.