Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3
Studio: New Line
Rated: R (81 minutes) & NR (84 minutes)
Film Length: 81/84 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: DD 2.0 Surround, DD 5.1 EX, DTS ES 6.1
Tobe Hooper’s 1974 cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains one of the most important horror films in history due to its realistic visuals and the fact that it scared the hell out of people who saw it in those packed drive-ins. In 1986 Hooper returned with a semi-remake slash send up in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 but fans took the film as an insult and it was pretty much forgotten except for the biggest horror nerds (myself included) who actually got the “joke” behind it.
Then for some unknown reason—I’m guessing money—New Line decided to bring us a third film in 1990 with Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, which is finally hitting DVD due to the remake coming soon. I wish I could tell everyone that this is a good movie but I can’t quite do that. The sad thing is that the legendary battle between New Line and director Jeff Burr is a lot more interesting than the actual film. When the film hit theaters fans pretty much booed it off the screen yet the director swore up and down that he had created a masterpiece only to have it sliced up by not only the MPAA but also New Line.
For those who don’t know the legend, apparently director Burr was asked to deliver the goriest film he could possibly imagine. He was asked to go so over the top that even the biggest horror fans would be leaving the theater throwing up and that’s exactly what he delivered. He delivered a very dark and ugly horror film full of gore and outrageous violence. Now, according to the director, producer’s got very worried over how sick the film turned out to be that the negative was sliced to pieces with every death scene being trimmed of something. Apparently various storylines were also cut and this is before the MPAA slapped the “X” rating on the film. Of course that left more cuts and the final project was a confused mess. This here is well covered in the documentary Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth, which is quite brilliant and worth searching out.
Now, on to the actual film.
A young California couple, Ryan (William Butler) and Michelle (Kate Hodge) are on their way to Florida and it’s apparent that they used to be lovers but are now fighting at every corner. As they drive through Texas they came upon strange cowboy named Tex (Viggo Mortensen) who suggests that the couple save time by going down a back road in the middle of nowhere. The former couple thinks it’s best to stay on the main road but this is changed after they stop at a filling station where they are shot at by the crazed owner (Tom Everett).
While on the back road the couple suffers a flat tire and must get out to fix it. Of course, it’s pitch dark and our hero Leatherface shows up swinging his chainsaw like mad. The couple gets away but is soon in another accident with Benny (Ken Foree), a strange man who appears to be after the crazed killer. The three eventually take off running in the woods trying to find safety, which leads them to an old farmhouse, which unknown to them, is full of weirdo cannibals. Now the only question is who will live and who’ll become BBQ.
TCM3 pretty much forgets the plot of the previous film and the original for that matter. Although New Line called this a sequel it’s more of a remake than anything else. Every “family” member from the first film is pretty much on hand here acting out stuff from the first film. We get the crazy hitchhiker, the nutty gas attendant, grandpa and of course Leatherface supporting a new face. The film tries very hard to capture the feel and atmosphere of the original but it falls short in this department, which is the film’s major problem.
The film goes for many scares but comes up short on each one of them. The director also tries to show how crazy the family actually is but this here goes pretty over the top where you’ll be laughing more than getting scared. The film is a very dark one and it goes for the gore, which comes off very well. Due to the post-production problems there’s no telling how much gore is missing but what’s on hand is certainly worthy for gore fans. The R-rated cut is pretty much missing all the gore so there’s even less to like with that version.
I think the film’s biggest problem is its screenplay, which doesn’t capture the pure gold that they had in front of the camera. Kate Hodge isn’t a very good scream queen and she really adds nothing to the character making it hard for the viewing to take her very seriously or to hope she actually survives the night. William Butler plays your typical smart ass character, which we’ve seen in many horror films so that there doesn’t add anything new to the film. However, we’ve got Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree who steals the show with a wonderfully strong performance. Foree is a big and tough guy and that comes off wonderfully in his various fights with the family members especially the battle between he and Leatherface. Foree delivers some good lines for laughs but sadly most of the time the screenplay has him running around in the woods doing nothing. Had they put him into more of the action the film would have been better off.
TCM3 is a legendary horror film due to all the production problems but sadly we’ve got to judge the film we’ve actually got here. There are many wonderful scenes especially one where Foree starts shooting the family members who are losing body parts left and right. This here is so over the top that you can’t help laugh and cheer Foree on. On the other hand this theatrical version is a mess due to an alternate ending, which was shot and used for the final film. This ending makes no sense and really drags the film down at the very end. TCM3 isn’t a classic and it really isn’t a good movie yet for some strange reason it’s mildly entertaining, which is more than you can say for a lot of horror films. The outrageous gore scenes mixed with Ken Foree’s performances makes the film worth seeing but don’t expect anything like the original.
R vs. X
With a four-minute running time difference you’d expect the “X” rated version to be a lot more graphic but that really isn’t the case here. The more graphic scenes are apparently lost but the “X” rated version does contain a little extra gore and a few additional dialogue scenes, which really don’t add anything to the film. The most noticeable difference is the ending with Leatherface’s demise yet this scene doesn’t contain any gore.
VIDEO---The film is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. I’ve seen this film on countless formats from various countries and this is certainly the best the film has look or will ever look probably. In fact, from my memory I don’t recall the film looking this good in its theatrical run. The ending to this film is very dark and it has never looked good on previous horror releases. The best proof of how good this transfer comes during the opening moments in a scene dealing with a body pit. In previous versions it was very difficult to make out all the bodies yet the crystal clear picture here makes it very easy to tell how many mutilated bodies are down there. The entire print is free of any speckles, scratches or grain, which is all the more amazing considering this was a very low budget film. Everything looks very natural and the colors are wonderfully vivid.
AUDIO---We get three options here including the original DD 2.0 Surround track as well as newly created DD 5.1 EX and DTS ES 6.1. I was a little worried about the new tracks due to this being a low budget film but both come off pretty well but don’t be expecting anything like Final Destination 2. I really couldn’t tell much of a difference between the DD 5.1 and DTS tracks so I’ll leave it up to you to pick which one you want to listen to. Both tracks are very good with the dialogue upfront and crystal clear without any problems. The surrounds are perfectly used especially during all the fights where you’ll feel the chainsaw cutting on the back of your neck. For you purist the Dolby Digital Surround track has also been remastered and sounds better than previous releases.
EXTRAS---For starters we get the film’s theatrical trailer as well as four previews to other New Line films, although the remake teaser isn’t included. Up next is a 28-minute featurette called The Saw is Family: Making Leatherface, which will be an outright joy to fans of the film. Included are interviews with director Burr, New Line production executive Mark Oroesky, producer Jeff Engelman, special effects artist Greg Nicotero and actors Bill Butler and R.A. Mihailoff. I’ve got to give New Line a lot of credit for this featurette because they don’t hide the fact that they brutally destroyed this movie due to all the pre-cuts plus all the screenings, which left even more being changed or cut out. I think it takes a lot of guts for a studio film to include a featurette that pretty much bashes them throughout. Everyone involved agrees that the film turned out horrid yet they all seem to think things could have went better had everyone stayed out of the director’s way.
Up next is an audio commentary, which features all the above people except for producer Jeff Engelman. Fans will certainly get a kick out of this film because the director speaks freely about his thoughts on the film and all the cuts that it got. He also comments on the first two films and why this one tried to stay clear of their storylines. There are a few brief nods to the previous films that I never realized until this film. The commentary is full of wonderful stories ranging from production to the film’s legacy.
Up next we get the infamous alternate ending along with ten minutes worth of deleted scenes, which are in pretty bad shape coming from a rough cut of the film. I’ve seen a work tape, which featured many alternate scenes and from I recall the majority of them are included right here. Again, this film was so heavily cut that there’s no telling how much more was there but now lost. The deleted scenes is made into its own featurette, which also features brief comments with the director.
OVERALL---TCM isn’t a classic film but it is interesting enough for me to recommend this to any horror fan. Even the non-horror fans would probably be interested in this disc due to the wonderful commentary and featurette, which goes to show how much trouble horror films had with the MPAA. Of course, all the cuts made before the MPAA makes this thing all the more interesting. New Line has done a wonderfully job delivering the definitive version on DVD. They give us both cuts of the film with a brilliant transfer and wonderful sound. The extras alone are worth the price of the disc. I really don’t think New Line could have done anything else with this release. Horror fans certainly owe them a big thank you.
Release Date: September 30, 2003