AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Alternate Title: Leatherface
Director: Tobe Hooper (Dir)
Release Date:   1974
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: 30 Oct 1974
Production Date:   15 Jul--Aug 1973 in Austin, TX
Duration (in mins):   83, 85 or 87
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Marilyn Burns (Sally [Hardesty])  
    Allen Danziger (Jerry)  
    Paul A. Partain (Franklin [Hardesty])  
    William Vail (Kirk)  
    Teri McMinn (Pam)  
    Edwin Neal (Hitchiker)  
    Jim Siedow (Old man)  
    Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface)  
    John Dugan (Grandfather)  
    Robert Courtin (Window washer)  
    William Creamer (Bearded man)  
    John Henry Faulk (Storyteller)  
    Jerry Green (Cowboy)  
    Ed Guinn (Cattle truck driver)  
    Joe Bill Hogan (Drunk)  
    Perry Lorenz (Pick-up driver)  
    John Larroquette (Narration)  

Summary: In rural Texas, radio news reports the discovery of a decomposed body perched in a field like a scarecrow give rise to speculation that the body is from a recently vandalized local cemetery. Concerned that their grandfather’s grave may have been affected, paraplegic Franklin Hardesty and his sister Sally take a trip into the country, accompanied by friends Jerry, Pam and her boyfriend Kirk. After confirming that their grandfather’s site is undisturbed, the young people drive away in their van, passing a large cow farm and slaughterhouse. Further down the road, Jerry stops to pick up a lanky, long-haired hitchhiker. After revealing that he works at the slaughterhouse, as did his grandfather and brother, the hitchhiker shocks the van occupants by passing around grotesque photos of dead cows while enthusiastically describing how the carcasses are skinned, boiled and dissected. The hitchhiker further startles the group by suddenly cutting a deep gash into his palm with a penknife, after which he takes Franklin’s picture with a Polaroid camera. As the picture develops, the hitchhiker directs them to his home nearby and invites them to dinner, but they refuse. Angered when a puzzled Franklin refuses the hitchhiker’s demand that he buy the photo from him, the hitchhiker sets the photo on fire, then slashes Franklin’s arm with a switchblade. Jerry immediately stops the van, then the girls and Kirk push the protesting hitchhiker from the vehicle. As they speed off, the hitchhiker runs after the van and smears some blood from his hand onto the side of the vehicle. Running low on gas, Jerry pulls into a ramshackle service station, but the owner tells them the station is out of gas and waiting for a delivery. When Franklin asks directions to his grandfather’s old house, the station owner advises against going there. The friends set off, and soon arrive at Franklin and Sally’s grandfather’s empty, rundown house where Sally reminisces about her and Franklin’s childhood there. While the others investigate the interior, Franklin grows frustrated struggling with his wheelchair across the overgrown path to the house. Later, Franklin sullenly directs Pam and Kirk to a nearby swimming hole, which they find dried up. Upon hearing the steady drone of an engine, the couple follows the sound to a dilapidated barn, which contains a gas-run generator. Further on, they discover a large house with a tooth on the front porch. Kirk playfully teases Pam with it before knocking on the front door, hoping that the occupants will sell them some gasoline. When Kirk’s knocks and shouts elicit no response he tries the door, which is unlocked, then enters the darkened interior. After Kirk crosses a large room, a man in a leather mask and a butcher’s apron steps out and smashes him over the head with a sledgehammer. The leather-faced man then drags Kirk’s body into a room that he closes off with a metal sliding door. Alarmed when Kirk does not return, Pam tentatively calls out to him, then goes inside the house. Entering a dark room, Pam slips on a strange substance and realizes that the floor is covered with feathers. Through the dim light of a filthy window she sees a live chicken in a cage, then discerns several crude pieces of furniture made from bones and dried out animal skin. Gagging, Pam is confronted by Leatherface, who, annoyed by her subsequent screams, carries her to a butchering room. There he impales her on a meat hook, before dismembering Kirk’s body with a large chain saw. Back at the van, while Franklin wonders if the blood smear on the van has any significance, Jerry goes off in search of Pam and Kirk. At dusk, Jerry arrives at the house and, spotting a blanket that Kirk had been carrying, knocks on the front door, then cautiously enters the house. In the butcher room, Jerry is taken aback by the numerous heavy tools and drawn to a large storage freezer. Opening it, he is shocked to find Pam, shuddering, and in death throes. Moments later, an agitated Leatherface attacks and kills Jerry with the sledgehammer, then stuffs the thrashing Pam back into the freezer. As night falls, Sally and Franklin, who have remained at the van, grow anxious, then alarmed when they realize that Jerry has taken the vehicle’s keys. After an argument, Sally takes Franklin with her in search of the others, proceeding by the light of a flashlight. As Sally struggles with Franklin’s wheelchair in the thick undergrowth, the brother and sister are abruptly set upon by Leatherface, who is carrying the chain saw which he rams into the helpless Franklin. Screaming in terror, Sally bolts and runs to the farm house calling for help, as the maddened Leatherface follows. Slamming the front door behind her, Sally races upstairs to a lighted room, where she beseeches two figures for help, only to find the dried-out, shriveled bodies of an old couple seated next to a stuffed dog. Panic-stricken upon hearing Leatherface crashing into the house, Sally throws herself out the second floor window. Momentarily stunned, Sally is galvanized by angry grunts from Leatherface and races to the woods, pursued by the chain saw wielding madman. Stumbling and clawing her way through the dark, Sally reaches the gas station, where she breaks in, screaming for help. The station owner appears and calms her, and assures her he will get help. Moments after the man disappears, he returns with his pickup truck, a canvas sack and rope. Suspicious, Sally attempts to flee, only to be beaten senseless by the man, who ties her up and places the bag over her head before driving her back to house. He is met by his son, the hitchhiker, whom he berates for vandalizing the cemetery again. At the house, the man chastises his other son, Leatherface, for attacking the others, while the hitchhiker ties Sally to a chair and laughs when she recognizes him and screams. The brothers then bring the barely alive old man, who is their grandfather, downstairs and torment Sally by cutting her finger and sticking it on the man’s mouth. When Sally faints and revives later, the hitchhiker claims the old man was the best slaughterer at the cow farm, then attempt to get the weak old man to bash Sally in the head with a small hammer. Escaping from the sickening scene, Sally jumps through another window and, as dawn breaks, sets off with the hitchhiker and Leatherface in pursuit. Slashing at Sally with a switchblade, the hitchhiker bloodies her back and arms, but she continues running to the road where a semi truck appears and runs over the hitchhiker. When the driver pulls to the side of the road, Sally leaps into the passenger seat, only to see Leatherface approaching with the chain saw. Sally flees on foot, with the driver, who stuns Leatherface by throwing a wrench at him and causing Leatherface to cut his leg with the saw. Outdistanced by the terrified truck driver, a bloodied Sally continues stumbling down the road where she flags down a small pickup truck as Leatherface resumes chasing her. Sally manages to drag herself into the pickup bed, and as the startled driver pulls away, Leatherface is left flailing in outrage in the middle of the road.  

Production Company: Vortex, Inc.  
Production Text: A Vortex/Henkel/Hooper Production; A Film by Tobe Hooper
Distribution Company: Bryanston Pictures  
Director: Tobe Hooper (Dir)
  Sallye Richardson (Asst dir)
Producer: Tobe Hooper (Prod)
  Jay Parsley (Exec prod)
  Kim Henkel (Assoc prod)
  Richard Saenz (Assoc prod)
Writer: Kim Henkel (Story and scr)
  Tobe Hooper (Story and scr)
Photography: Daniel Pearl (Cine)
  Tobe Hooper (Addl photog)
  Lynn Lochwood (Lighting)
  Lou Perryman (Asst cam)
  J. Michael McClary (Cam asst)
  Linn Scherwitz (Key grip)
  Rod Ponton (Grip)
Art Direction: Robert A. Burns (Art dir)
Film Editor: Sallye Richardon (Ed)
  Larry Carroll (Ed)
Music: Tobe Hooper (Mus score)
  Wayne Bell (Mus score)
Sound: Ted Nicolaou (Loc sd rec)
  Wayne Bell (Post prod sd/Boom man)
  TODD/AO (Sd mix)
  Buzz Knudson (Dubbing mixer)
  Jay Harding (Dubbing mixer)
  Paul Harrison (Re-rec)
Special Effects: CFI (Titles, opticals and prints)
Make Up: W. E. Barnes (Grandfather's makeup)
  Dorothy Pearl (Makeup)
Production Misc: Ronald Bozman (Prod mgr)
  Mary Church (Script girl)
  Ray Spaw (Prod asst)
  Robert Pustejovski (Prod asst)
  N. C. Parsley (Prod asst)
  Sally Nicolaou (Prod asst)
  Paulette Gochnour (Prod asst)
  Paula Eaton (Prod asst)
  Charlie Loving (Prod asst)
  Jerry Bellnoski (Prod asst)
  Jim Crow (Prod asst)
  David Spaw (Prod asst)
  George Baetz (Prod asst)
  Tom Foote (Prod asst)
Stand In: Perry Lorenz (Stunt driver)
  Mary Church (Stunts)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: "Fool for a Blond," words and music by Clinton Roger Bartlett, performed by Roger Bartlett & Friends; "Waco," and "Glad Hand," words and music by Jim Shulman and Richard Dean, performed by Timberline Rose, recorded at Hill on the Moon, Austin, TX, engineer Jim Inmon; "Daddy's Sick Again" and "Misty Hours of Blue," words and music by Arkey C. Blue, performed by Arkey Blue; Feria de Las Flores," composer undetermined, performed by Los Cyclones.
Composer: Clinton Roger Bartlett
  Arkey C. Blue
  Richard Dean
  Shulman Jim
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Vortex, Inc. 29/8/1974 dd/mm/yyyy LU3676

PCA NO: 24006
Physical Properties: Sd:
  col: CFI Color

 
Genre: Horror
 
Subjects (Major): Cannibalism
  Chainsaws
  Family relationships
  Grave robbers
  Murder
 
Subjects (Minor): Blood
  Cattle
  Cemeteries
  Chickens
  Escapes
  Fear
  Friendship
  Gas stations
  Knives
  Mental illness
  Photographs
  Slaughtering and slaughter-houses
  Taxidermy
  Torture
  Truck drivers

Note: An early working title for the film was Leatherface . Although many reviews, articles and some publicity for the film list the title as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre , onscreen credits spell “chain saw” as two words. Before the film, a lengthy written statement that also is .heard in voice-over claims that the events in the story are true, but according to the Var review and many other contemporary and modern sources, the film was inspired by the novel Psycho , by Robert Bloch, a fictionalized account of the life of Ed Gein (1906--1984). Bloch’s book had been the basis for the Paramount 1960 release Psycho (see above), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The book was also the inspiration for the 1988 novel by Thomas Harris, as well as the 1991 Orion production, Silence of the Lambs . Gein, a handyman who resided in Plainfield, WI, was arrested after police found, according to the Var review, “dismembered bodies and disinterred corpses shrewn all over his farm house,” and later charged him with two murders. Modern sources add that Gein fashioned masks and “keepsakes” from the bones and skins of the bodies.
       According to the HR review, many of those who participated in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were former film students from the University of Texas, Austin. Co-writer and director Tobe Hooper was a film instructor at the university. Star Marilyn Burns, who played the sole survivor, “Sally,” and executive editor Bill Parsley were with the Texas Film Commission. The film was the first onscreen credit for comedy actor John Larroquette. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was Hooper's first nationally released film. Although he previously had produced, directed, co-written, edited and photographed the low-budget 1969 feature Eggshells , that picture had a very limited, regional distribution.
       In the film, scenes of skinned and boiling entrails over a large cauldron and the “dinner” sequence where Sally is tormented imply that the family of slaughterhouse workers are cannibals. In the story, the mask worn by “Leatherface” is supposed to be made from dried human flesh and made-up with lipstick.
       According to a 20 Nov 1974 LAT article and several reviews, publicity for the film stated that the bones used on the film’s set, including the furniture in one room of the house, were made up of parts of eight cows, two dogs, a cat, two deer, three goats and a chicken. According to a lengthy, two-part ^LAT article, on 5 and 12 Sep 1982, on the history of the The Texas Chain Saw Massacre , when, for one scene, the filmmakers could not bring themselves to film a real horse’s carcass found by accident on the first day of shooting, they ended up using a stuffed armadillo owned by art director Bob Burns.
       The LAT article stated that the film was produced for $140,000 from investors ranging from several attorneys, some relatives of the filmmakers and a suspected marijuana smuggler. Upon its completion, the film was rejected by every major Hollywood studio and several minor ones before being picked up by Bryanston Distributors, a small, family-run company that also distributed Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (1974, see above) and action star Bruce Lee’s Return of the Dragon (1974), among other low budget films. The LAT article stated that Bryanston’s president and vice president, brothers Louis and Joseph Peraino, were suspected by police of having connections with the Joseph Colombo Mafia family. Louis Peraino had made a fortune in producing and distributing the 1972 X-rated film, Deep Throat , according to the article.
       Upon its release, the film garnered mixed reviews. The LAT reviewer called it “despicable… ugly and obscene,” while HR called it “compelling and gruesome.” Over the next two years, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre took in a world wide box office return of $20 million, according to the LAT article. However, after Bryanston investors had been paid, the twenty-one Texas based filmmakers were left with only $8,100 to divide between themselves. In 1976, Bryanston collapsed after the Perainos were charged and indicted for obscenity and conspiracy charges for distributing Deep Throat . Distribution rights for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were later picked up by New Line Cinema.
       Although the film was screened in May 1975 at the Cannes “Director’s Fortnight,” and in 1976 won the critics prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, it was banned in France for five years after its national censor board rated it “X” for violence.
       As noted by the LAT article, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre went on to become “one of the most successful and influential exploitation pictures in the history of the movies.” By 1982, it had earned a total of $50 million worldwide receipts and would inspire a number of “knife” or “slasher” pictures such as Meatcleaver Massacre (1977), Torso (1983), Prom Night (1980) and two of the horror genres longest running film series, Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). In 1986, Hooper and co-producer Kim Henkel produced The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 distributed by Cannon Films. Hooper also directed that film, which starred Dennis Hopper as a sheriff trying to halt grisly murders by a family of cannibals. Only Jim Siedow, who played the gas station owner in the original film, reprised his role in the sequel. More sequels followed, including Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Masscre III in 1990 and The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1994. In 2003 New Line remade The Texas Chain Saw Massacre starring Jessica Biel and directed by Marcus Nispel. In 2006, New Line released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning , directed by Jonathan Liebesman and which detailed the back story of the cannibal family. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   21 Oct 1974   p. 4729.
Daily Variety   25 Oct 1974   p. 3.
Daily Variety   22 May 1981.   
Hollywood Reporter   29 Oct 1974   pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 May 1975.   
Los Angeles Herald Examiner   28 Oct 1974.   
Los Angeles Times   30 Oct 1974   Section IV, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times   20 Nov 1974.   
Los Angeles Times   5 Sep 1982   Calendar, pp. 1-7.
Los Angeles Times   12 Sep 1982   Calendar, pp. 3-5.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   13 Nov 1974   p. 47.
Variety   6 Nov 1974   p. 20.
Variety   27 Feb 1980.   
Variety   21 May 1980.   

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
Advanced Search
AFI Membership
The definitive list of classic American films

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.