My Review of Exploited Video's TCM Documentary, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre - The Shocking Truth"
It's going to be difficult to review this video without giving away any of the great moments that has been captured in this documentary. The primary value to this video is that it is already many steps ahead of the first popular documentary made 13 years ago called "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A Family Portrait". Not only is it more up to date, but Exploited Video made the effort to talk to many more people than just most of the primary actors from the film. Even though a few actors and crewmembers are missing from the documentary, their words have previously been heard from the Family Portrait video. Such as Ed Neal and John Dugan. But this video is very important to the TCM genre because they have finally documented facts about the film straight from the people who were there that played important roles in the making of the film - which has never been covered previously and released to a worldwide audience. This video is indeed the most complete documentary to cover the film than ever previously known. And it's about time!
The video starts with several trailers of horror films by Exploited Video. After the trailers end, Exploited starts the documentary off in a true Texas Chainsaw Massacre manner with their own version of an opening dialogue imitating John Laroquette. This definitely brought a smile to my face and set the pace for the rest of the video, clearly separating any fear that you had/have when viewing TCM and bringing in a light-hearted look into the 26+ year old film. Again, in true TCM fashion, we see a shot of a dead armadillo found on a Texas road. David Gregory related the story to me that they found the armadillo on the way back from interviewing Marilyn Burns and Jim Siedow in Houston, Texas.
The cast and crew are next seen in between many cuts of each other in an effort to compare people's answers to the interview questions. You get to hear all sides of the story on how TCM was made, for how much and other many stories that each of them share. Marilyn Burns' recollections, as well as Bob Burns' (no relation to each other) are particularly important because their sides have never been heard before and they definitely add flavor to the documentary. Paul Partain is interviewed on his back porch, which looks over a lake. When I was there with Exploited Video, Gunnar Hansen and my wife, we visited his home and he recalled the interview by relating a rather funny thing that happened during the interview. He said that while he was on camera with David Gregory, a neighbor of his across the lake came out with a chainsaw and fired it up. This did not make the video. Marilyn Burns is interviewed on Jim Siedow's couch. Jim Siedow is interviewed at his dinner table. Incidentally, Brad Shalady interviewed Jim for the Family Portrait video 13 years ago in his chair against the wall next to a glass sliding door that goes out to their back porch. That area of Jim's house is in the middle between the couch and his dinning room table. We are very fortunate to have Tobe Hooper involved with the documentary, and he is pictured sitting in front of the Bryanston TCM poster characteristically smoking his cigar. Tobe at first was not going to be a part of the documentary with Exploited Video. David Gregory and his crew had packed up and returned to England before they got word from Mr. Hooper that he would participate in the video. Exploited Video made a separate trip to Los Angeles at the last moment to interview Tobe before they started the editing process on their documentary. Bob Burns is interviewed while sitting in front of his puppet creation. He has several puppet creations that he has made. The puppets are large, full costume puppets in which he puts his entire body. The one that is in the background is a puppet with two heads, both playing guitar. Bob goes to regular town performances to entertain the public with his talent to create and operate the puppets. Bob contributes not only his invaluable information about the movie for the camera, but also provides Exploited Video with never before seen behind-the-scenes black and white pictures of making the 3 Leatherface masks, props and the Leatherface house in Round Rock as it was before they converted the setting for the movie back in 1973. Gunnar Hansen is interviewed in two places. At his mothers home and the front yard of his apartment which he rented here in Austin for several months. Kim Henkel and William Vail are interviewed outside in what appears to be a part of their back yards. Caroline Williams (the heroin of TCM 2) is interviewed as well later in the documentary when the subject matter moves to the sequels of Chainsaw. Robert Kuhn, the lawyer and investor in the original movie, is interviewed in what appears to be his office and he brings to light the production and investment companies involved in the making of the film. Wayne Bell is interviewed in front of what appears to be piano strings and is later pictured with his young child. Allen Danziger is interviewed on his back porch.
Exploited sets the mood of the film genre of the early 70's by covering other cult films such as "Night of the Living Dead", "Easy Rider" and "Last House on the Left". They also bring to light the general attitude of people in America and Texas and they're regular visits to the drive-in theatres. And you cannot have a complete documentary about TCM if you do not cover the initial inspiration of the film, which was the cannibal killer Ed Gein. Exploited does a fine job in summarizing those events that happened in Wisconsin from the early 1950's.
Many great stories are told during the documentary by most all of the people who appear in the film. Stories that stand out in my mind are Bill Vail's recollection of his dismemberment scene. He vividly recalls his real near-death experience in making that shot. Marilyn Burns talks about her injuries and frustrations during the summer shoot. But all is in a lighthearted manner. Jim Vanbebber, director of "Charlie's Family", is shown describing what TCM means to the horror genre in his own - perhaps in an egotistical way.
Exploited visits a couple of film locations, such as the Kingsland Old Town Grill (which is the original Leatherface house now turned into a restaurant) and the gas station that also served BBQ. You can in fact see a part of my wife's car parked in front of the gas station in the video as well!
The distribution and payment (or lack of) to the cast and crew is then talked about with Robert Kuhn in the forefront explaining the horrific details of how everyone else made money from TCM while the rest stood with their pockets inside out. Newspaper clippings shown in a glass frame belong to Allen Danziger and they hang on the wall in his office. Then, the British censorship is compared by Exploited Video to images of the 3rd Reich!
Sequels #2-4 are covered as well with great insight to the troubles that plagued TCM 2 with stories from Tobe Hooper and Caroline Williams. Jim Siedow again sugar coats his thoughts on TCM 2 as he does with his recollections with the dinner scene from TCM 1. But I'm sure at his age of 80 that he is wise enough to forget the more unpleasant times of his life. There are also more behind the scenes footage of the sequels, including brief comments by the stars of TCM 4, Matthew McConaughey and Rene Zellweger.
The documentary has a fantastic and entertaining end by playing Roger Bartlett's "Fool For A Blonde" while showing very pleasant and humorous shots of the cast and crew. Each person has a short summary of what they are doing now. This was indeed a highlight of the entire documentary - once again bringing a light heartedness to the documentary but at the same time bringing the facts to the viewer answering the question, "Where are they now?"
The credits roll (watch for my name in there twice!) and more Exploited Video trailers are seen. Then, excerpts from the TCM 20th anniversary amateur video are shown. This video is actually much, much longer in length and has very thankfully been cut down to several minutes in length. Besides seeing the cast of TCM (including Ed Neal and John Dugan), you get to hear a few words from the maker of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A Family Portrait" Brad Shalady who proudly shows the actual Leatherface killer mask that Gunnar Hansen wore in a sealed glass box. My personal favorite part of the video, ever since I first saw the raw footage (which is cleverly included in the video) is where Jeff Krulik finds a guy who belongs to the Ed Gein fan club. He goes on to explain in his own special, and unbeknownst to him, humorous way what members of the fan club do. It's a real must see for a chuckle!
The video also comes with a CD-R of Roger Bartlett's song, "Fool For A Blonde". The CD has a silk-screened image on the top of it of Leatherface holding the chainsaw over Grandpa's head.
If I had to pinpoint any particular part of this entire video that I felt had lacked in any way, it would be the soundtrack. At times the backing sound track was too loud or in an imbalance with the vocal dialogue. But this in no way actually impairs your ability to view and enjoy all that the video has to offer the casual viewer or the hardcore TCM buff. Keeping your finger on the volume control (at least for my television set) may be required at times.
The guys from Exploited Video have noticed this problem as well and have since corrected the audio problem. The audio problem only occurred on the NTSC VHS version and it happened somehow during the transfer from PAL to NTSC. Since then, they have had more NTSC copies made with the corrected audio. Although, these new videos do not have Exploited preview trailers at the beginning and end of the video as the original “first printing” of the video. Chances are, that if you purchase the video now, you will not have this audio problem.
All in all, as said before, this video is a must for any person that has seen or has heard of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Exploited Video has shown that they are professionals in not only interviewing the cast and crew, but delivering to the public the information in and entertaining but very informative format. The video runs approximately 75 minutes in length. It's cost is $30.00 American dollars and can be purchased by sending an e-mail to email@example.com with your name, address and your credit card number, expiration date and the full name that appears on the credit card. Take it from me, your $30.00 will be a true investment in owning a piece of important TCM and horror history! My thanks again go to David Gregory, Jake Shaw and Carl Daft for allowing me to be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity.
For more information and behind the scenes pictures of Exploited Video making their production of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre - The Shocking Truth", please visit this page.
© 2004 Tim Harden firstname.lastname@example.org