Seventeen Things I Learned About “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” From “Profoundly Disturbing” (Book, 2003)


Written by Joe Bob Briggs

Profoundly Disturbing is, as the cover suggests, a compendium of “shocking movies that changed history” written by the inimitable B-movie critic, essayist and host of Joe Bob’s Drive-in Theater, Joe Bob Briggs (who, loose connection, appeared in a scene deleted from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 as “Gonzo Moviegoer”). His writing is really accessible here, sincere and articulate — neither condescending in tone, or exhaustively analytical, as some of these retrospectives tend to be. Briggs’ love for these movies shows through, and he proves yet again why he’s one of the world’s leading authorities on exploitation filmmaking. With the way this book is presented, one film per chapter, like the last book I sort of reviewed, I found it simpler to list what I learned (here, from a single section) than try to review the text as a whole.

Other shockers included herein are The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Mom and Dad, Creature From the Black Lagoon, And God Created Woman, The Curse of Frankenstein, Blood Feast, The Wild Bunch, Shaft, Deep Throat, The Exorcist, Ilsa, She-wolf of the SS, Drunken Master, Reservoir Dogs and (David Cronenberg’s) Crash. Overall, an engaging, informative read that I highly recommend to fans of these types of movies. Let me know if you’d like to see follow-up posts on any of these other titles by leaving your comments below.

And Now, the Trivia

•The impetus for the film was a Christmas shopping trip to Montgomery Ward. In director Tobe Hooper’s words: “There were these big Christmas crowds, I was frustrated, and I found myself near a display rack of chainsaws. I just kind of zoned in on it. I did a rack-focus on the saws, and I thought, ‘I know a way I could get through this crowd really quickly…'”
•Co-writer Kim Henkel is (or was, at the time of the book’s publication) a part-time university film instructor.
•Chainsaw-wielding Leatherface was not only based on the real-life murderer/necrophile Ed Gein, but one of serial killer Dean Corll’s teenage accomplices, Elmer Wayne Henley.
•Gunnar Hansen, the actor who played Leatherface, was the editor of an Austin poetry journal when he was hired.
•A quote by Hansen: “I’m happy I did [the film], but they’ll probably put ‘Gunnar Hansen — He Was Leatherface’ on my gravestone.”
•Funding was provided by Bill Parsley, an Austin-based politician and Vice President of Financial Affairs for Texas Tech University.
•The film’s iconic title came from Parsley’s friend Warren Skaaren, then-head of the Texas Film Commission. Henkel and Hooper had planned on calling it Head Cheese or Leatherface (the latter of which was used sixteen years later as the title of its second sequel).
•Principal photography began on July 15th, 1973 during an especially hot summer. Hooper shot seven days a week in hundred-plus degree heat. Work days ranged from twelve to sixteen hours, and the inside of the cannibal family’s house reportedly reached as high as one-hundred-fifteen degrees.
•Over the course of the shoot, art director Robert A. Burns utilized the remains of “eight dead cows, two dogs, a cat, two deer, three goats, one chicken, an armadillo, and two real human skeletons.”
•Leatherface’s skin masks were designed by an actual plastic surgeon, Dr. Walter Barnes.
•Hansen’s peripheral vision was blocked when he wore the skin masks. He almost buzzed himself (and a few others) while filming the scenes where he ran with and danced with the chainsaw.
•At ninety minutes, the film contains 868 edits, some as short as one-sixth of a second.
•According to Henkel, the biggest audience walk-outs were during the part where Teri McMinn’s character Pam is hung up on the meat hook.
•Released in Italy as Non Aprite Quella Porta, or Don’t Open That Door.
•The film was considered a “résumé killer” for most of the cast.
TCM grossed anywhere from five to ten million its opening week, at least twelve million in less than a year, and roughly fifty million in eight years.
•The film’s distributor, Bryanston (owned by a crime family), declared bankruptcy and ran off with the profits. As a result, Chainsaw‘s actors, who’d agreed to be compensated later with percentages of the film’s profits, were never paid, or paid as little as $28.45.


6 Responses to “Seventeen Things I Learned About “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” From “Profoundly Disturbing” (Book, 2003)”

  1. The Knitting Cinephile Says:

    I love movie trivia. It drives my hubster crazy (which, of course, is the point). I think I will have to check out this book!


  2. Xenolicker Says:

    I watched “Texas Chainsaw 3D” again this weekend. It might just be my favourite movie! They show parts of the original (which i never saw) in the beginning in 3D, i wish they would convert the whole damn thing!!


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