40 years ago director Tobe Hooper and screenwriter Kim Henkel gave us one of the all-time great horror movies with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. If you haven’t seen it, I have no earthly idea why you’re on this site.
Dark Sky held an anniversary screening of the film at SXSW, but what made it truly special is the restoration this film has gone under. The original 16MM prints have been digitally transferred and color corrected in a new 4K transfer. The audio has been remixed in 7.1. By all accounts it is gorgeous. Even for a film as grimy and gritty as we know TCM to be.
But it turns out there were some truly stomach churning moments onset that had nothing to do with what ended up in front of the camera. Filming conditions are often brutal, especially when you’re dealing with extreme heat or cold (TCM endured the former), but this story is extra… pungent. I’ll let Mr. Hooper take it from here…
“The last day of shooting went on for like 26 or 27 hours. Maybe even longer because I had to shoot an actor out. And it was the last prosthetic job on Old Granpa, and he was melting. The lights were so damn strong that the bones [they were using as props] started cooking. So every time I’d say cut everyone would run to the window and puke, throw up. A doctor had to come out and administer dramamine to help settle people’s stomachs.
This family was into death art, it was a hobby. And we needed animals. The city pound had done their due for the month and they came out with a dump truck, I was in the house I didn’t even know it has happening. Anyway they pulled up about 20 meters from the house and dumped about 500 lbs of dead animals out front. I came out and looked at it and realized it was over the line, that a domestic animal is like a child so seeing all those dead cats and dogs would ruin the movie. So I said, “get rid of these.” And then I went back inside and I was shooting.
The house was tinted because we were shooting the dinner table scene, which takes place at night but we were shooting part of it in the day. But when I told them to get rid of it, someone got 5 gallons of gasoline and poured it over all of those dead animals and set fire to them. I guess they were thinking that they were going to disappear or go up into ashes. The house was bad enough with the bones cooking and everyone throwing up, but then all of this smoke [from burning fur and flesh] started coming in through the house. That’s when everyone really started losing it. ”
So yeah, there you have it. Be glad you weren’t on set that day.