Horror fans can be obsessive about the films we love, re-watching our favorites until we know every line of dialog and every member of the cast and crew by heart. Certain films are so captivating, so visually arresting and/or packed with subtext, that they practically demand repeat viewings. And while plenty of films tell a compelling story, some have a behind-the-scenes history that’s just as interesting as the fiction.
Sometimes knowing too much about what happened during a film’s production can ruin the magic, making future suspension of disbelief difficult or impossible. But other times, knowing the trials and tribulations that went into making our favorites enhances our appreciation for the final product; one such film is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Below are 10 of the most interesting and infamous factoids I could find about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Enjoy!
Texas Chainsaw Uber-Fan Turning Dilapidated Landmark into Horror Destination
Last January, The Blood-Shed was the very first horror news outlet to report on renovations taking place at the Gas Station/BBQ joint featured in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Ohio businessman and entrepreneur Roy Rose recently purchased the dilapidated “Last Chance Gas Station” and is currently turning the property into a family-friendly horror destination. The venue will sport a restaurant, a stage for live music, a shop for memorabilia, and (most exciting) cabins for overnight stays. Rose’s partner in this venture is Ari Lehman, the actor who played young Jason Voorhees in the very first Friday the 13th movie. Rose and Lehman hope to have the spot opened for business by late summer. You can read the original article in its entirety HERE, and stay up to date on renovations on the TCM Gas Station’s official Facebook page HERE.
Hotter Than Hell
Filming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was nearly as nightmarish and grueling as the movie itself! It was shot during a particularly stifling heat wave with daytime temperatures peaking over 110 degrees, and nighttime temperatures hovering in the mid 80’s. This, along with insane hours and few amenities, led to all manner of trials and tribulations for the cast and crew, including:
Mary Jane and the TCM
The narration at the beginning to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was provided by actor John Larroquette who claims his payment was a single marijuana joint.
And speaking of marijuana: During filming at the house used for the Sawyer Family House, the crew discovered that one of the residents had been cultivating a marijuana field nearby. Apparently, they were so fearful of having the production shut down that someone called the sheriff (who, thankfully, never arrived to investigate). Hey, it was the 1970’s!
Gunnar Hansen is Leatherface
Gunnar Hansen is more than merely an actor who played the role of Leatherface, he was absolutely essential in creating everything iconic about the character. It was Hansen’s idea for Leatherface to be mostly mute and mentally handicapped, and, to prepare for the role, he spent time at a school where he observed the mannerisms of people with Down syndrome. The climactic final scene where Leatherface furiously swings his chainsaw was also a spontaneous move on Hansen’s part. Those on set were completely unnerved, believing the actor had lost his grip on reality—actually becoming Leatherface.
Origins and Inspirations
An urban legend claims that the “Real” Texas Chain Saw Massacre took place about 36 miles southeast of San Antonio in a remote town called Poth. This is false. One need merely pay close attention to John Larroquette’s opening narration for what amounts to an admission: How can events that took place on August 18, 1973 possibly be true when the filming of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre wrapped on August 14, 1973? Writer/director Tobe Hooper claims that this purposeful misinformation was a response to being “lied to by the government about things that were happening all over the world,” including Watergate and the war in Vietnam.
Claims that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is based on the life of Ed Gein, a notorious murderer and grave robber who prowled rural Wisconsin in the 1950’s, are an exaggeration. The filmmakers used aspects of Gein’s crimes as inspiration, as well as other cases, including that of Elmer Wayne Henley. Kim Henkel, who co-wrote the screenplay with Hooper explains:
Elmer Wayne Henley
I definitely studied Gein … but I also noticed a murder case in Houston at the time, a serial murderer you probably remember named Elmer Wayne Henley. He was a young man who recruited victims for an older homosexual man. I saw some news report where Elmer Wayne … said, “I did these crimes, and I’m gonna stand up and take it like a man.” Well, that struck me as interesting, that he had this conventional morality at that point. He wanted it known that, now that he was caught, he would do the right thing. So this kind of moral schizophrenia is something I tried to build into the characters.
For his part, Hooper claims he got the idea for the film while standing in the hardware section of a crowded store. While thinking of a way to get through the crowd, he spotted the chainsaws—and the rest is history!
Mob Ties and Porno Connection
According to IMDB:
The film’s original distributor was Bryanston Distribution Company, in fact a Mafia front operated by Louis “Butchie” Peraino, who used the movie to launder profits he made from Deep Throat (1972). In return, the production received only enough money to reimburse the investors and pay the cast and crew $405 apiece. The producers eventually discovered that Peraino had lied to them about the film’s profits; after Peraino was arrested on obscenity charges when his role in Deep Throat was revealed, the cast and crew filed a suit against him and were awarded $25,000 each. New Line Cinema, which obtained the rights to “Chain Saw” from the bankrupt Bryanston, paid the cast and crew as part of the purchase agreement.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is almost universally regarded as one of the most terrifying movies ever made, and a major influence on the entirety of horror. Entertainment Weekly voted it the second scariest film ever made, second only to The Exorcist (1973). It ranks #1, however, in Slant Magazine’s Top 100 Greatest Horror Movies of All Time.
Troubles at Home and Abroad
Believe it or not, Tobe Hooper actually filmed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre hoping to release it as a PG rated movie. Indeed, the onscreen violence and language is relatively mild, with the most gruesome action taking place someplace out of sight. The Ratings Board, however, insisted on an R for the “effectiveness” of the onscreen violence and the “implications” of what happened offscreen. This disappointment, however, pales to the cold reception The Texas Chain Saw Massacre received overseas.
The film was not released in Australia until the early 1980’s. In Finland, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre could not be seen until 25 years after its American release. In the UK, Hooper’s movie found itself on the infamous list of “Video Nasties”; it wasn’t until 1999 that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre could finally be seen in British theaters or on video. In Germany, the film was placed on an index of “youth-endangering media” and wasn’t available to viewers legally until September 2011!
Despite the implication of the film’s title, only one person is actually killed with a chainsaw. Still, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an infinitely better name than what they almost called it: Headcheese.
Chain Saw vs. Chainsaw
The title of Tobe Hooper’s film is The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (5 words total), not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (4 words) as it is most often referred to—a fact that vexes horror purists to no end. But no one can blame us for being confused since posters and promotional materials at the time varied wildly in their use of “Chain Saw” vs. “Chainsaw”. To make matters more confusing, all sequels and remakes use “Chainsaw”. Sheesh!
Did any of these facts about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre surprise you? What’s your favorite piece of Massacre trivia? Sound off in the comments section!
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