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Chain Saw Confidential: How We Made the World's Most Notorious Horror Movie

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When The Texas Chain Saw Massacre first hit movie screens in 1974 it was both reviled and championed. To critics, it was either "a degrading, senseless misuse of film and time" or "an intelligent, absorbing and deeply disturbing horror film." However it was an immediate hit with audiences. Banned and celebrated, showcased at the Cannes film festival and included in the New When The Texas Chain Saw Massacre first hit movie screens in 1974 it was both reviled and championed. To critics, it was either "a degrading, senseless misuse of film and time" or "an intelligent, absorbing and deeply disturbing horror film." However it was an immediate hit with audiences. Banned and celebrated, showcased at the Cannes film festival and included in the New York MoMA's collection, it has now come to be recognized widely as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. A six-foot-four poet fresh out of grad school with limited acting experience, Gunnar Hansen played the masked, chain-saw-wielding Leatherface. His terrifying portrayal and the inventive work of the cast and crew would give the film the authentic power of nightmare, even while the gritty, grueling, and often dangerous independent production would test everyone involved, and lay the foundations for myths surrounding the film that endure even today. Critically-acclaimed author Hansen here tells the real story of the making of the film, its release, and reception, offering unknown behind-the-scenes details, a harrowingly entertaining account of the adventures of low-budget filmmaking, illuminating insights on the film's enduring and influential place in the horror genre and our culture, and a thoughtful meditation on why we love to be scared in the first place.


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When The Texas Chain Saw Massacre first hit movie screens in 1974 it was both reviled and championed. To critics, it was either "a degrading, senseless misuse of film and time" or "an intelligent, absorbing and deeply disturbing horror film." However it was an immediate hit with audiences. Banned and celebrated, showcased at the Cannes film festival and included in the New When The Texas Chain Saw Massacre first hit movie screens in 1974 it was both reviled and championed. To critics, it was either "a degrading, senseless misuse of film and time" or "an intelligent, absorbing and deeply disturbing horror film." However it was an immediate hit with audiences. Banned and celebrated, showcased at the Cannes film festival and included in the New York MoMA's collection, it has now come to be recognized widely as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. A six-foot-four poet fresh out of grad school with limited acting experience, Gunnar Hansen played the masked, chain-saw-wielding Leatherface. His terrifying portrayal and the inventive work of the cast and crew would give the film the authentic power of nightmare, even while the gritty, grueling, and often dangerous independent production would test everyone involved, and lay the foundations for myths surrounding the film that endure even today. Critically-acclaimed author Hansen here tells the real story of the making of the film, its release, and reception, offering unknown behind-the-scenes details, a harrowingly entertaining account of the adventures of low-budget filmmaking, illuminating insights on the film's enduring and influential place in the horror genre and our culture, and a thoughtful meditation on why we love to be scared in the first place.

30 review for Chain Saw Confidential: How We Made the World's Most Notorious Horror Movie

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    R.I.P. GUNNAR HANSEN 1947-2015 He created one of the all time screen icons, starred in one of the all time horror movies and then wrote a great little book all about it. *** To my surprise The Texas Chain Saw Massacre still stands up as a great horror film. Its power, wild kinetic energy and aura of rot and disgust are intact. Further surprises are found when watching it again after many years – there’s only one scene which has any blood in it, and there’s only one death-by-chainsaw in the whole mo R.I.P. GUNNAR HANSEN 1947-2015 He created one of the all time screen icons, starred in one of the all time horror movies and then wrote a great little book all about it. *** To my surprise The Texas Chain Saw Massacre still stands up as a great horror film. Its power, wild kinetic energy and aura of rot and disgust are intact. Further surprises are found when watching it again after many years – there’s only one scene which has any blood in it, and there’s only one death-by-chainsaw in the whole movie. There’s no nudity, no swearing. Yet still the level of violence, physical and mental, is unremitting. This is the ur-text of slasher movies, and I think also for the torture porn we have been deluged with in recent years. (It’s recognised as the first movie to feature the Final Girl, the one who suffers but survives.) So now I have to explain, if I hate all those slasher and torture porn movies, why The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is actually good. This will take the kind of fancy footwork Leatherface displays in the last amazing shot. The answer is that TCSM is it, it’s pretty much all you ever need (should you need a high voltage film of terror in the first place). All the thousands of non-supernatural horror movies since 1974 have been riffs on this movie. Get a bunch of young people in a particular place and chop them up one by one. Make sure there are at least two hot young white women. (Essential.) That’s the plot. There are a handful of other non-supernatural horror movies of merit (The Fly, District 9, Calvaire) and they are the ones which aren’t riffs. So this is me saying – Dracula by Bram Stoker is a masterpiece, all the other vampire novels can be shredded (sorry Ann Rice). And this is true, unless you’re a genre fan. If you actually like the thousands of tiny variations of place, tone, character, ambience, costume, then you like your slasher or vampire or torture porn movies and novels, just like I like a lot of old blues, which are all variations on a single theme too. But for non-fans, all you need is the one good one. What did Johann Sebastian Bach do with Goldberg? He wrote 30 variations on a theme for him. Goldberg didn’t say hey Johann, I only need one, thank you very much. He was glad to have all 30. He was a fan. O UNHAPPY LEATHERFACE Gunnar Hansen played Leatherface and his book is charm-charm-charming. His account reveals that the movie was made by a bunch of film students who were all trying to get some kind of career going, only one actor had any experience, and they basically made up how to do a movie as they went along. No props manager, no stuntmen, no health and safety advisor. This meant that the actors were flinging themselves about and accreting numerous minor injuries, and coming far too close to actual real whirring chainsaws, so that by the end of the 8 week shoot, in the 100-plus degree heat of Texas summer, they were beat, battered, bruised and abused and they never wanted to hear another word about chainsaws. They limped home! The abuse didn’t stop there either – the movie, which none of them expected to do anything other than play a few Texas drive-ins, made let’s say between 50 and 100 million over the next 20 years, and they didn’t see any of that. Including Tobe Hooper, the director. So they had a horrible time making the movie, saw it become a top hit, and then got no pay for their pains. It’s one of many sad movie stories, all variations on another theme - the theme “what did we sign?”. This particular version features a company which was a front for the mafia. So, I guess, that’s where the money went. WHAT WENT RIGHT The movie had several strokes of dumb luck which made it the thing of wonder it is. The only person to get a big career out of it was Tobe Hooper, the director, so was its brilliance down to him? Tobe or not Tobe, that is the question. The answer is that without the great cinematography, terrific musique concrete soundtrack, without Leatherface’s genius masks and unique character, and especially without the set design in the cannibal family home – all those mobiles and artworks made of bones, the furniture made of skeletons, the odd carcass lying around, sourced from the local unwittingly-generous Texas farmers and from one of the women whose day job was a veterinary assistant (the set stank to high heaven, what with the 100 degree heat, and the actors were in there for 16 hours a day) then of course, it would have been weird and watchable but not the unrelenting pit of stomach fall down an unsuspected manhole experience it is. Leatherface is a nightmare. Gunnar was 6 feet 4 and they made him wear boots with three inch heels so he is enormous. But he moves fast, and he wears the horrible dried-human-face mask. And he doesn’t speak, except in pig-like squeals, very high pitched. Just when you are used to him as the lunatic chainsawyer, there’s a scene where he’s in the kitchen and he’s wearing a different dried-human-face mask, with make-up on it, and a wig of bountiful grey curls, and he’s puttering around with his apron on, and he’s MOTHER! My other favourite scene is after Leatherface has grabbed and sledgehammered the first kid and meat-hooked and freezered the second kid, we see him go to the front window and draw the curtain, he looks out anxiously, right, left, right again, he’s very worried, sits down holding his head, very distressed – WHERE ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE COMING FROM? ARE THERE ANY MORE? He’s all on his own and he’s having to cope with a home invasion! BANNED IN BRITAIN FOR YEARS Undoubtedly the chef d’oeuvre in the movie’s menu of misery is the suffering of the main female character Sally played by Marilyn Burns. The second half of the movie is all about her running, screaming, jumping through windows, being recaptured, bound, gagged, nearly chainsawed, nearly being brained by Grandpa, running, running, with Leatherface in hot pursuit, screaming. You know, this is not King Lear. Dialogue is at a minimum. This movie is laying out the future of horror right here : the point of these movies is the detailed display of female suffering, "the necessary demise of the female" as my GR friend Jan Rice called it. That’s what we’re here for. The boys may die in horrible ways too (as they do here) but their deaths will take up little screen time. The camera wishes to linger on the bound and gagged and terrified female. So yes, these are sadistic, sexist, probably misogynistic movies. You can’t pretend otherwise, although critics have seen TCSM as a parody of the family or family values or as a comment on Vietnam or as vegetarian agitprop (meat is really murder!). In the great documentary Video Nasties, there’s a clip of James Ferman, the head of the then British Board of Film Censors, saying why the movie was refused a certificate in Britain. It was according to him the unflinching focus on the suffering and agony of the young woman which takes up the last 25 minutes of the movie. In his opinion, this should not be permitted to be presented as entertainment. Well, naturally, all the movie buffs wrote him off as a stupid dinosaur – TCSM was shown at Cannes and bought by MoMA! It was art! But maybe the old dinosaur from the 1980s had a point. Not that I’d want to go as far as to ban a movie showing 25 minutes of a female being tortured – I mean, what do you take me for? Banning a movie? That would be barbaric.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mindi

    I honestly thought I knew the juiciest gossip from the set of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I was totally wrong. This book is full of fascinating info, and I really had a hard time putting it down. Sadly, it's now out of print, but if you search around you can find a good copy for a decent price. And if you are a big fan of the movie this is a book you are definitely going to want to read. I love that it was written by someone who was not only on the set every day but also in the movie. Leathe I honestly thought I knew the juiciest gossip from the set of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I was totally wrong. This book is full of fascinating info, and I really had a hard time putting it down. Sadly, it's now out of print, but if you search around you can find a good copy for a decent price. And if you are a big fan of the movie this is a book you are definitely going to want to read. I love that it was written by someone who was not only on the set every day but also in the movie. Leatherface is so terrifying, so it's nice to hear from the actor who played him, and get into his mind a little. In 1973 Gunnar Hansen was taking poetry classes as a graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin. He had done some poetry readings and student films as an undergrad and he needed a job, so he thought he would try acting again. He heard about a horror film that would be shooting nearby, and the next thing he knew he was meeting with the director Tobe Hooper and he had a job. The majority of the book is Gunnar relating his memories of shooting the film in the order they occurred, occasionally filled in with info from the cast and crew who offered to add what they remembered about shooting the film. I was absolutely horrified at how dangerous the entire production was. This was a new fact for me, but they used a real operational chain saw during the entirety of the movie. So Gunnar Hansen actually ran through the woods in cowboy boots with heels, a mask that prevented him from seeing practically anything, and a fully functional chainsaw. I'm sincerely amazed that there were no deaths during the shoot. Something else that stood out to me was that Gunnar was not permitted to talk to the victim actors while on set. This isn't uncommon in filmmaking, but for most of the first half of the movie, Gunnar was the only antagonist on set. So most days he sat alone in the brutal Texas heat. I just keep picturing Leatherface sitting all alone on set, and it's funny how bad I feel for him. I truly feel bad for Gunnar. CHAIN SAW CONFIDENTIAL is full little bits of information that I previously had never heard. This book is a quick read and one that sucks you in right from the very beginning. I enjoyed this one a lot, and recommend it to any fan of the film.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marianna Neal

    An absolute must-read for any fan of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but also a fascinating behind-the-scenes story for anyone interested in film in general!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark Desrosiers

    [RIP Gunnar Hansen 1947-2015] Gunnar is often too reliant on quotes from his colleagues to flesh out his narrative, but this is a fun and revealing descent into the making of one of the world's freakiest movies by a group of completely normal people. His quote about a chainsaw-swingin' mishap later in the filming could well describe the entire process: "It was pure luck -- dumb, idiotic, inbred-toothless-country-boy-banjo-twangin' beginner's luck. I'll never do anything like that again." Hansen c [RIP Gunnar Hansen 1947-2015] Gunnar is often too reliant on quotes from his colleagues to flesh out his narrative, but this is a fun and revealing descent into the making of one of the world's freakiest movies by a group of completely normal people. His quote about a chainsaw-swingin' mishap later in the filming could well describe the entire process: "It was pure luck -- dumb, idiotic, inbred-toothless-country-boy-banjo-twangin' beginner's luck. I'll never do anything like that again." Hansen concludes the memoir with some meditations on the nature of horror and violence, and in many ways he's a bit too simplistic on that front (I was hoping his inner poet would emerge here), but it's quite revealing so see how much dander gets raised by the flick 40 years later.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    *listened to audiobook* I loved this book! Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of my favorite horror movies, one of the first. I loved Leatherface.. and this book is written and narrated by Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen. After all these years I still learned so many things about TCM that I never knew before. Everything was so gritty. If you're a TCM fan, or a horror fan in general I highly recommend this book. *listened to audiobook* I loved this book! Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of my favorite horror movies, one of the first. I loved Leatherface.. and this book is written and narrated by Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen. After all these years I still learned so many things about TCM that I never knew before. Everything was so gritty. If you're a TCM fan, or a horror fan in general I highly recommend this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

    Texas Chainsaw Massacre has always been one of my all time favorite movies. So reading about Gunnar and his portrayal of Leatherface I found to be an unforgettable and fascinating biography on so many levels. Having studied film in college I was impressed at discovering the story behind how this film got made on such a low budget with a minimal crew. I imagined this could've been a film I would've loved to have worked on in college if only I had gone to film school in Texas in the 1970's! Beside Texas Chainsaw Massacre has always been one of my all time favorite movies. So reading about Gunnar and his portrayal of Leatherface I found to be an unforgettable and fascinating biography on so many levels. Having studied film in college I was impressed at discovering the story behind how this film got made on such a low budget with a minimal crew. I imagined this could've been a film I would've loved to have worked on in college if only I had gone to film school in Texas in the 1970's! Besides the revealing and entertaining stories about how the film was made and what took place on set, the final chapters discuss a bit of film theory around common ideas associated with the horror genre and the mainstream and critical responses violent slasher films tend to generate with the public. But most of all I was surprised to find out what the "man behind the Leatherface mask" was really like. I'm so glad I got to get to know Gunnar Hansen by hearing him narrate this audiobook himself and tell his own story. I have become so inspired by this story that I want to someday don my own version of the Leatherface costume and be a "female Leatherface" some Haloween in the future! And after this story I have come to appreciate one of my most favorite films of all time EVEN MORE.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    A fun book for fans of this horror film, written by the actor who was the original Leatherface.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    4.5⭐ "Whether or not you believe that "real" horror must have a supernatural element, Chain Saw unquestionably evokes the emotions that define horror, that are horror--the sense of dread, oppression, and emptiness, the loss of control, the glimpse of the unfathomable." Chain Saw Confidential is fascinating look behind the scenes of the original TCM written by Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface. I buddy read this one with my friend Mindi, and we both really enjoyed it. It's such a wild story, an 4.5⭐ "Whether or not you believe that "real" horror must have a supernatural element, Chain Saw unquestionably evokes the emotions that define horror, that are horror--the sense of dread, oppression, and emptiness, the loss of control, the glimpse of the unfathomable." Chain Saw Confidential is fascinating look behind the scenes of the original TCM written by Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface. I buddy read this one with my friend Mindi, and we both really enjoyed it. It's such a wild story, and it's insane that this movie actually got made (and was eventually incredibly successful). The conditions of the set and costumes were kind of horrifying to read. It never should have worked, and it's amazing that it did. If you're a TCM fan, I highly recommend picking this up if you can get your hands on it (it's out of print right now). This was a fun read, and this is definitely a memorable book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jim Dooley

    I have vivid memories of viewing THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. Chief among them was that I spent the last 30-minutes of the movie clutching the armrests of the chair. I have not seen anything before or since with such extended, unrelieved tension. I left the theater thinking that I couldn't imagine who would ever watch this a second time. Today, I believe I've seen it 4 times, and I own a striking Blu-ray copy. Love it or hate it, it is not a film that one sees and forgets about. All of the elem I have vivid memories of viewing THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. Chief among them was that I spent the last 30-minutes of the movie clutching the armrests of the chair. I have not seen anything before or since with such extended, unrelieved tension. I left the theater thinking that I couldn't imagine who would ever watch this a second time. Today, I believe I've seen it 4 times, and I own a striking Blu-ray copy. Love it or hate it, it is not a film that one sees and forgets about. All of the elements seemed to come together to create something more visceral than what was usually experienced on the screen. Through the years, I've had the opportunity to learn a good amount about the making of this film, so I was looking forward to reading this book with great anticipation. If you know little about the background story, it is an excellent introduction. If you have done some research, it is hit and miss. The writer is someone who definitely knows the details. For the most part, the information unfolds like a DVD commentary, with someone being reminded of things that occurred while they watch the show on a screen. For the slower parts of the movie, that means the commentary is less interesting. It was Chapter 9 when the details really crackled for me. From that point on, I found keen observations, and descriptions of details that were bordering on the insane. I became nervous just reading about some of the stunts, especially those live effects with the chain saw. I also have a healthier respect for the film. The writer gives excellent detail regarding commitment to acting, the care in setting up shots, and the many rewrites to hone the story into something more than the usual horror movie. It falls very short of the mark for me when the writer discourses on whether or not watching violent films encourages violence, and a chapter dedicated to the history of horror in drama, which reads like a class lecture. Yes, I suppose that the points made have value, but I doubt that anyone who would pick up this book would be drawn to such discussions. The bottom line is that if you have an interest in what happened behind the scenes and you haven't heard much more than the rumors, this is an excellent book for you. If you have mined the Blu-ray supplements for all they are worth, this book will fill in some blanks, but will mostly be a review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I picked this book up at a half-off sale on a whim after attending a late-night screening of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - my first time seeing the sequel. Across the board, that film was a very weak follow up to one of my favorite horror movies. Still, seeing Leatherface on the big screen inspired me to learn more about the making of the original film. I had some trepidation about the writing skills of the actor who played Leatherface and worried the book would be painful to read. Thankfully, his I picked this book up at a half-off sale on a whim after attending a late-night screening of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - my first time seeing the sequel. Across the board, that film was a very weak follow up to one of my favorite horror movies. Still, seeing Leatherface on the big screen inspired me to learn more about the making of the original film. I had some trepidation about the writing skills of the actor who played Leatherface and worried the book would be painful to read. Thankfully, his skills on-screen and off were very up to par. This behind-the-scenes memoire proved to be a fascinating, page-turning, perfectly detailed look at the VERY low-budget struggle to make a film that plays like a nightmare and was a nightmare to make. The penultimate chapter makes the perfectly stated point about the subjectiveness of horror and how our reactions to it are driven by what we bring with us while watching the movie - "the horror movie is not...defined by its overt content...but by the viewer's emotional reaction to what the movie creates. ...horror is more than just the scare...it is about glimpsing what we fear - that is, gaining some small sense of what we fear, not just the feeling of fear itself." Unexpected parallels emerged during the chapters analyzing horror and its role in society. Each day, I find myself worrying that four years from now, just like the ending of Chainsaw, the monster our democracy may become might be "the monster [that] goes unpunished. ...still there, still capable of returning. The normality, the predictability of the world is gone. There is no punishment. There is no relief from suffering. There is no justice. There is no order. Without justice and order, how can we have meaning? It is all nothing. This is the real horror."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kim Friant

    A while ago, I made the admission that I love horror. I can blame Ivan for introducing me to horror movies, but even before that, I loved the horror genre in books. The scarier the better! Ivan and our friend, Adam, have talked about Texas Chainsaw Massacre before and I had begged Ivan to watch it with me. He included the soundtrack from the remake on his Halloween playlist and that theme is seriously the scariest score I have ever heard, but I couldn’t watch the remake until I watched the origi A while ago, I made the admission that I love horror. I can blame Ivan for introducing me to horror movies, but even before that, I loved the horror genre in books. The scarier the better! Ivan and our friend, Adam, have talked about Texas Chainsaw Massacre before and I had begged Ivan to watch it with me. He included the soundtrack from the remake on his Halloween playlist and that theme is seriously the scariest score I have ever heard, but I couldn’t watch the remake until I watched the original, so I asked Ivan again to watch it with me. Finally, FINALLY, we sat down to watch it . . . blew my friggin mind! I jumped, I squealed, I shut my eyes, I asked why . . . but what shocked me was that a week afterward, I was still pondering. Ivan has a habit of asking me what I’m thinking about while we’re driving, and that week, I answered “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” He got so excited and we ended up having conservation after conversation about this dang movie! I have to say, I really love Chainsaw! It’s violent and graphic and horrible, but it’s riveting! I was so intrigued and continue to be so! Audible had a Halloween sale and look! A book by the man who played Leatherface all about the filming of the movie!!! I bought it, and listened to it, and now I want to watch Chainsaw again!! I learned so much; the people behind this movie were just as crazy as you’d expect. Reading about the dinner scene was enlightening and I was surprised at how horrible the filming was for the cast and crew. I am so sad that Gunnar Hansen is dead and I can never meet him. Toby Hooper, the director, is also dead . . . I was born in the wrong decade. This book isn’t for everybody, but if you are a horror fan, then this book is for you! I absolutely recommend it and the original movie!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sean K. Cureton

    Despite its slow, ponderously detailed first half, which provides a near shot for shot retelling of the entire process of making the film, which would be better suited to a making of documentary on a future DVD release of the film in question, Gunnar Hansen's memoir/cultural history/critical analysis of one of the world's most well known and notorious horror films is a delight for the film buff in all of us. Watching the film in which Hansen made his cinematic debut is disturbing to say the leas Despite its slow, ponderously detailed first half, which provides a near shot for shot retelling of the entire process of making the film, which would be better suited to a making of documentary on a future DVD release of the film in question, Gunnar Hansen's memoir/cultural history/critical analysis of one of the world's most well known and notorious horror films is a delight for the film buff in all of us. Watching the film in which Hansen made his cinematic debut is disturbing to say the least, and an experience that I for one was not entirely sure I wished to revisit, but in reading Hansen's personal account of the people who made the film with him, in addition to his well informed and researched insights into the implications of horror as a collective force for creative expression and entertainment, the staying power of the horror genre is expounded upon in such depth and detail that even its darkest elements are brought forth into the light, converting even the most timid reader to gaze more closely into the face of the monster inside each and every one of us. While Hansen's prose is inconsistent, often weakened and expunged by the book's overlong transcripts of conversations and interviews culled from over the years since the film's initial release, the portions that deal with Hansen's own life story are immediately compelling, shedding light on what being Leatherface means to the monster himself, and why a well written, directed, and edited horror film still matters to this day, critics and censors be damned.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    An excellent look at the making of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre from the perspective of its most famous star. Gunnar Hansen (who played Leatherface) is an excellent writer—not surprising considering he is a poet and highly educated—who not only takes the reader through the filming of the movie but has some exceptionally well-written commentary about the horror genre toward the end of the book. One chapter that was an unexpected gem was where he recounts experiences from encounters with people wh An excellent look at the making of the Texas Chain Saw Massacre from the perspective of its most famous star. Gunnar Hansen (who played Leatherface) is an excellent writer—not surprising considering he is a poet and highly educated—who not only takes the reader through the filming of the movie but has some exceptionally well-written commentary about the horror genre toward the end of the book. One chapter that was an unexpected gem was where he recounts experiences from encounters with people who are convinced that the movie is a true story or that they were somehow part of its production in some way (despite there only being perhaps a dozen crew members on set), the highlight being the guy trying to get Hansen to *wink wink* play along with the story that he was part of the filming so he can impress his girlfriend. Hansen handles it admirably and justly. I really just picked the book up out of curiosity. I mean, it is written by Leatherface himself. And the Texas Chain Saw Massacre (I know, we don't separate "chain" and "saw" in modern type but they did then) is often imitated but never duplicated. Well, it scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid and I was delighted to gain access to the artistry (and insane ramshackle tomfoolery at times) that went into its creation. Mr. Hansen is an excellent guide through the process and his thoughts on its cultural impact are equally interesting. Perhaps there is good reason Joe Bob Briggs loves this movie so much...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Khairul Hezry

    I first knew of Texas Chainsaw Massacre when I stole peeks from my bedroom door while my mother was watching it on the VHS. She loved watching horror and the video rental guy told her this would be right up her street. Boy, was she (and I) surprised. 30 years later, I'm reading a memoir on the making of the movie by Leatherface himself. Gunnar Hansen, a poet (Leatherface's a poet!), joined the cast because he thought acting in a small budget horror movie would be fun. Little did anyone involved i I first knew of Texas Chainsaw Massacre when I stole peeks from my bedroom door while my mother was watching it on the VHS. She loved watching horror and the video rental guy told her this would be right up her street. Boy, was she (and I) surprised. 30 years later, I'm reading a memoir on the making of the movie by Leatherface himself. Gunnar Hansen, a poet (Leatherface's a poet!), joined the cast because he thought acting in a small budget horror movie would be fun. Little did anyone involved in the movie dreamed that it would still be talked about today. It gets very interesting and somewhat sad at the end when Hansen discusses the money that none of them made despite the movie's popularity and the angry letters from alleged survivors of the crime that the movie was supposedly based on. Hansen wishes that these letters were satire. So do I. All in all, a very good read on how one of the famous 'splatter' movies of all time was made and received by moviegoers and critics alike.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Val O. Morris

    Who knew Leatherface was a poet? When I discovered this book, I had no idea Gunnar Hansen (Mr. Leatherface himself) was also a writer. Hansen brings a professional yet conversational style to the accounts (both his own and those of actors and crew) of the "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" production. I really dug this book. There were a few things about the making of the movie that I did not know - little tidbits of info for any aspiring filmmaker - that were quite enlightening. Some of the most intere Who knew Leatherface was a poet? When I discovered this book, I had no idea Gunnar Hansen (Mr. Leatherface himself) was also a writer. Hansen brings a professional yet conversational style to the accounts (both his own and those of actors and crew) of the "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" production. I really dug this book. There were a few things about the making of the movie that I did not know - little tidbits of info for any aspiring filmmaker - that were quite enlightening. Some of the most interesting stories involved Marilyn Burns (aka Sally) and what she went through all in the name of movie making. Hansen describes the rough shooting conditions with an almost nostalgic voice. It's clear he remembers his part in "Massacre" history fondly. While "Massacre" isn't my favorite horror film, it definitely leaves a lasting impression with its raw style. If you're even remotely interested in the movie itself or low budget filmmaking, this is a fun, enjoyable read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    This book was interesting behind the scenes look at a movie that freaks me out when I see it. I haven't seen it in a long time so I may feel differently now. From what Mr Hanson writes the shooting of this very low budget, sophomore effort by Tobe Hooper, film was brutal by anyone standards from start to finish. Intense heat, grueling schedule and really horrible odors. Some interesting stories in this book regarding production and development of this horror classic. All was good until Mr Hansen This book was interesting behind the scenes look at a movie that freaks me out when I see it. I haven't seen it in a long time so I may feel differently now. From what Mr Hanson writes the shooting of this very low budget, sophomore effort by Tobe Hooper, film was brutal by anyone standards from start to finish. Intense heat, grueling schedule and really horrible odors. Some interesting stories in this book regarding production and development of this horror classic. All was good until Mr Hansen begins to wax poetic about what is horror and the book last chapter turns from the movie into a text about horror which wasn't really that interesting in its philosophy. Worth a read if you are a fan of the film or love the behind the scenes and inner workings of a film production. If you are looking for a text about horror read Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian Joynt

    A literal scene-by-scene analysis of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, told from the viewpoint of the actor who played the original Leatherface. I'd have to say this is an account strictly for rabid fans of the movie. As a horror film historian, I found this mostly boring with occasional interesting anecdotes interspersed throughout; but then again, I don't think I'd even have TCSM in my top ten, so maybe I'm not its target audience. Hansen regales us with stories of everything you could possibly wa A literal scene-by-scene analysis of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, told from the viewpoint of the actor who played the original Leatherface. I'd have to say this is an account strictly for rabid fans of the movie. As a horror film historian, I found this mostly boring with occasional interesting anecdotes interspersed throughout; but then again, I don't think I'd even have TCSM in my top ten, so maybe I'm not its target audience. Hansen regales us with stories of everything you could possibly want to know about TCSM, from the weather conditions to the way things smelled at various stages of the shoot. He takes the role (and the movie) pretty seriously. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but there were parts where I was so bored I almost started crying.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pearce

    This is a solid production history for one of the greatest horror movies ever made, written by the actor who played its star villain. Gunnar Hansen was a smart and capable writer, and as well as offering his own memories he has interviewed many other cast and crew members to get their thoughts (as well as John Landis, who seems to represent the movie's fan base). Hansen doesn't linger too long over any aspect of production, and unlike a lot of these sorts of books he doesn't skimp on post-produc This is a solid production history for one of the greatest horror movies ever made, written by the actor who played its star villain. Gunnar Hansen was a smart and capable writer, and as well as offering his own memories he has interviewed many other cast and crew members to get their thoughts (as well as John Landis, who seems to represent the movie's fan base). Hansen doesn't linger too long over any aspect of production, and unlike a lot of these sorts of books he doesn't skimp on post-production even though he obviously was not present for it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Natàlia Cerezo

    Gunnar Hansen details the exhauting shooting of the film under the Texas heat (and a pot plantation in the yard). This was a very fun and interesting read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shane Grier

    Good read Enjoyed "Leatherface's" tale of the making of my favorite horror film. The details and revelations shared are priceless for a fan. A must read for genre fans, too. Good read Enjoyed "Leatherface's" tale of the making of my favorite horror film. The details and revelations shared are priceless for a fan. A must read for genre fans, too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex | | findingmontauk1

    4 out of 5! a book about one of my favorite horror movies written and narrated by Leatherface himself! yes, please! full review to come.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Loved this! Excited to rewatch this classic with my newfound knowledge of this crazy backstory.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael Grimm

    A must read for any Chainsaw fan or anyone interested in the behind the scenes aspect of film.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom Lehmann

    Having recently rewatched “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” my appreciation for this book was definitely raised. I liked Hansen’s stories about the making of the movie but the real kicker is reading about the aftermath of the film, I wish he’d dove more into that. Add a star to this rating if you’re a fan of the film.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Corbin Schaefer

    I went through a bit of a metamorphosis after watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre back in 2017. It revitalized my love for the horror genre and was just an amazing movie overall. It's an all-time favorite of mine. So, like with any hyperfixation, I researched almost everything I could about this movie. And I was comfortable with the conclusions I had found in that time, carrying those bits of knowledge with me as I rewatched the movie over and over again in the years that followed. But when Au I went through a bit of a metamorphosis after watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre back in 2017. It revitalized my love for the horror genre and was just an amazing movie overall. It's an all-time favorite of mine. So, like with any hyperfixation, I researched almost everything I could about this movie. And I was comfortable with the conclusions I had found in that time, carrying those bits of knowledge with me as I rewatched the movie over and over again in the years that followed. But when Audible presented me with this number, I couldn't help but feel tempted. The idea of "The TRUTH behind 'X, Y, Z'" sounds like a clickbait-y article you'd stumble across on zergnet, but to have an account written by Gunnar Hansen himself... I just couldn't resist. And I have to say that Chain Saw Confidential is a wonderful, thorough, and effective regaling of everything I didn't know I wanted to know about one of my favorite movies. It helps that Hansen is a writer himself. So it was a natural step, among all the hearsay and controversy regarding the production of this movie, that Hansen told his own truth. But what's especially genius about Chain Saw Confidential that I've actually seen the book criticized for is that Hansen stitches together a plethora of quotes, whether from personal conversations, interviews, or reviews, from the actors, production crew, critics, and a few other ancillary people to the scoop to really flesh out the entire image of the production, from its beginning to its fallout. Hansen keeps his ego out of the way, though I will say that occasionally I disliked his retelling of certain events and that there was a bit of mitigated bias behind a few things. But this is the most thorough scan of a movie's production I've ever encountered besides maybe the original Star Wars from 1977. It's absolutely enthralling. And I love that Hansen starts with his own experience from right before the production of the movie. It's almost like an odd narrative as we see him study and become Leatherface, then deal with the ails of harsh filmmaking, then... not STRUGGLE, but also not have a great time and trying to handle the disappointments that followed the movie's release. If anything is clear about the production of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I think it's that it was brutal. It was the early 1970s, a lawless and scary time for American filmmaking. Or at least, for smaller, ragtag filmmakers like Tobe Hooper and company. A critical issue that Hansen absolutely hones in on was the budget. This movie struggled so hard with to work with what it had, yet it prevailed through the use of creative solutions and smart filmmaking. That's probably the most beautiful part of all of this. Everyone struggled with this movie. There were injuries and arguments and some close calls with legality that could've gotten people in serious trouble. But this movie broke through all of that and ended up being incredible still. Hansen illustrates the power of good filmmaking overcoming adversity, which is a really hopeful and cool idea to the right audience, me included. Kind of jumping on that previous point, I appreciate that Chain Saw Confidential is unapologetic. This isn't Hansen or any of the producers apologizing for the rather toxic and unpleasant production. And I think that's because in the end, everyone was pleased with how it turned out. Everyone felt the suffering they endured was worth it in the end. And that's a part of what keeps all of this from feeling uncomfortable. I'm not saying the harsh decisions made on the part of Tobe Hooper are justified, but at the very least, he got results. I will say the moment that stung the most for me was when Marilyn Burns, the lead actress, described how when she had finished filming all of her scenes, no one congratulated or praised or thanked her. It hurt to hear that because she had gone through so much more than anyone else, I think, and for her to be finally be out of the element of the movie and still be treated as if she would be coming back in to film the next day sucked. Tobe Hooper really knew how to get what he wanted from his actors which is cool on one hand because everyone performed VERY well in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But it sucks that he went the Kanye West method of eliciting these performances by instilling such a harsh, cold, unforgiving environment on the set. He got what he wanted and everyone fell into the mold he envisioned, but it came at the cost of decency and respect. It's a gray area for me, I guess. How much should art cost? It's a question Hansen touches on a few times, and it's an interesting debate. But Hansen doesn't apologize on Hooper's behalf or anything silly like that. Chain Saw Confidential wasn't the place to make amends, and he recognized that. Because the harsh truth about all of this is that it already happened. The movie came out being made the way it was, and it was about 40 years ago at the time of this book's release anyways. At this point, the audience just wants to know what happened. It's like an autopsy. It's not anything ongoing, and many of the people involved aren't with us anymore anyways, including Gunnar Hansen and Tobe Hooper. So Chain Saw Confidential exists not as an apology or a justification, but simply as an explanation from Hansen's point of view, which is what I was hoping this book would be. I will say, there were two parts of this book I didn't like as much as the rest. But their power wasn't strong enough to detract from the whole shabang. Towards the end, Hansen gets into how the gains of the movie were handled. And to do this, he suddenly introduces a plethora of names and organizations that are new to the audience. I didn't enjoy this because it wasn't particularly entertaining, and didn't honestly feel that relevant. It involved a lot of suing and countersuing and the movement of money to certain people and why it moved there... Just very dull. And I understand economics are most certainly a part of filmmaking. And there's a delightful irony in TTCSM being such a low-budgeted, ragtag production, only to make a LOT of money and no one exactly knowing where that money should go. But a combination of the way that piece of the puzzle was told on the part of Hansen and the decision to include it at all was just kind of dull to me. The other part I wasn't a fan of, but am more forgiving towards, is when Hansen gives us an analysis of the genesis of the horror genre. I am glad this was towards the end of the book, as this random history lesson on the art of storytelling would have likely set me in a bad mood if it were in the beginning. It feels kind of trite and at first felt as if Hansen was trying to boost TTCSM by comparing it to fundamental stories like the Epic of Gilgamesh or something like that. But instead, and the reason why I'm more forgiving towards this unexpected venture into the history of storytelling, is because Hansen twists it a bit and instead provides the audience with hallmarks of storytelling, specifically how those hallmarks evolved as the horror genre evolved in the age of gothic storytelling. He then, with the help of more quotes and opinions on others speaking about the movie, reveals the essence of why the movie works. It brings great meaning to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but not in an egotistical, overindulgent way. It's more so to say that in hindsight, the movie is a complete vision fully realized, a gallery of excellent filmmaking and smart choices that led to the creation of one of the most iconic and, as Hansen puts it, 'notorious' horror movies ever. And in a way, that's what I wanted to end the book on. So I was very pleased, even if the road to get to that conclusion was a little eye-roll inducing. Overall, I loved Chain Saw Confidential as a huge fan of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, as a huge fan of the horror genre, and as a fan of filmmaking. It told me everything I wanted to know about the production, and was an excellent blend of perspectives and vignettes to paint a wonderful picture of this movie's behind-the-scenes shenanigans. I now feel like I know this movie rather well inside and out, and I'm all the happier for it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    M

    Whenever someone asks me what my favorite horror film all time is, I always reply with "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." Not because I've consulted various articles on horror forums or top horror film lists, or even word of mouth. That's my answer because it is literally the scariest thing I've ever experienced. It was strange; the atmosphere, the sound, the fact that nothing is explained, it plays out like a phantasmagorical nightmare. And it's absolutely real. No ghosts, vampires, or supernatura Whenever someone asks me what my favorite horror film all time is, I always reply with "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." Not because I've consulted various articles on horror forums or top horror film lists, or even word of mouth. That's my answer because it is literally the scariest thing I've ever experienced. It was strange; the atmosphere, the sound, the fact that nothing is explained, it plays out like a phantasmagorical nightmare. And it's absolutely real. No ghosts, vampires, or supernatural elements at all. I can't believe I didn't know about this book. I saw it at the 42nd St public library in NYC propped up alongside other very cool looking film books (The Architecture of David Lynch's Films, for one). Well, I'm so glad that I saw it there and I'm so glad that I've now read it. The book itself is great, it looks great without a dustjacket, it's the perfect size, has photos from the sets, and it's short enough to make you wonder how what you read isn't a 500 pager - it goes from before the movie, to shooting the movie, to the movie's release, to its legacy, and then dives down to what horror really is all about: horror, terror, fear, and our relationship with it ever since humans came into being. I was worried that if I read it I'd spoil the movie for myself. Like, when I see a scene, "oh, that's where Tobe Hooper lets out a fart right after to loosen the tension and then everyone laughs." haha. Weird example, sorry. But yeah, it totally wasn't like that AT ALL. And I'm so GLAD that I know the behind the scenes stuff! In a way making the movie was it's own horror story (they were shooting with a REAL chainsaw!!! With teeth in some scenes! absolutely CRAZY stuff!). Gunnar writes a really fine story. It's just... so exciting... how it all unfolded, the aftermath, the reviews (MoMA added it to their collection! I love MoMA but never new that fact), etc. And what I love the absolute most (mentioned above), is that he explains what horror is and its relationship to us. That was an extra special treat that never gets old for me (Guillermo del Toro does something like this in his Penguin Horror introductions. But I think Gunnar just did it so much better - he mentions Jung's Shadow, for instance). I was absolutely shocked to see that this book isn't even available for purchase! It's going for over A HUNDRED dollars on eBay! Which is just so strange... but I guess I can kind of see that? It's like this book is almost notorious as the movie itself was. Anyways, I'm so happy to experience one of my all-time favorite horror movies in book format. I definitely plan to reread this again in the future. PS I was very, very sad to learn after reading this book that Gunnar has passed away from cancer a few years ago. This book was so fresh that I couldn't believe that I'll never get to meet him or see him at a horror convention. Rest in peace, thanks for all the hard work.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Combs

    One of the first “adult” horror films I watched was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was 9 years old and my dad took me to our local video store. In this store was a separate room that was dark, loud, and had red lights coming from under the door. Cobwebs covered the interior. It was all fake but to me it was a nightmare. It took three times to walk in there and see what laid beyond the door. It was horror films. My dad let me pick one. He wanted to see if I could handle it, I remember asking whic One of the first “adult” horror films I watched was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was 9 years old and my dad took me to our local video store. In this store was a separate room that was dark, loud, and had red lights coming from under the door. Cobwebs covered the interior. It was all fake but to me it was a nightmare. It took three times to walk in there and see what laid beyond the door. It was horror films. My dad let me pick one. He wanted to see if I could handle it, I remember asking which one he liked. He chose The Haunting. I didn’t like the VHS cover and looked around. I stumbled upon the most frightening cover i had ever seen and it wasn’t just that the cover, depicting Leatherface, that caught my eye it was that it was called The TEXAS Chainsaw Massacre! I lived in Texas! I remember grabbing and proclaiming this as the one. My dad raised his eyebrows and shrugged. I watched it and had never been so scared, I really thought that there was a family on the hill country of Texas eating people. I was terrified of Leatherface, this big monster of a man that dismembered people and chased people. It made me cower behind my blanket. I loved it. Reading this book put the movie in a historical prospective. You see how it was funded, who made it and who passed on it. You get to learn about the critical acclaim and vitriol that the film received. The book is also a glimpse into the film making world as a whole and all the bullshit some have to deal with. Overall a really informative book on a classic horror film. Read it!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Devin

    Gunnar Hansen, the man who played Leatherface, gives us a very well written account of how the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie was filmed back in the 1970s. There are many parts that are recalled differently by various staff members and he gives us all the perspectives. He goes into detail about all the major scenes, what went into them technically, artistically, how it affects the movie's story, and how the actors went about performing their roles. Many incidences happen on their set like minor i Gunnar Hansen, the man who played Leatherface, gives us a very well written account of how the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie was filmed back in the 1970s. There are many parts that are recalled differently by various staff members and he gives us all the perspectives. He goes into detail about all the major scenes, what went into them technically, artistically, how it affects the movie's story, and how the actors went about performing their roles. Many incidences happen on their set like minor injuries, financial problems, technical issues, etc. Gunnar Hansen just feeds us more and more fun facts about this film that started out as a bunch of aspiring filmmakers with almost no movie experience working hard on a motion picture that they thought might make a few viewings locally, if not scrapped entirely, to a national success and a pivotal point in the horror movie genre. Hansen also lets us into the subtle parts of the story, about the psychotic family and their psychology, about the gas shortage and food shortage happening in the 1970s and how that is represented in the film, about the slaughterhouses and why it's important to the film's story. Hansen has a great literary voice and gives us all this information in an organized and engaging way. This is a must read for Texas Chainsaw Massacre fans and horror movie fans, and may even give insight to aspiring filmmakers on how to (or even not to) make a movie on a really low budget.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brit McGinnis

    (This review is an excerpt. For the full version, head to fangirlsreaditfirst.wordpress.com) In the eyes of many horror fans, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the greatest movies within the genre. It was released in 1974 and was quickly renowned for its craftsmanship and surprisingly bloodless violence. It was hated as much as it was loved. And in the form of Chain Saw Confidential, the one taking on the telling of the film’s origin story (and the reckoning of its legacy) is Gunnar Hansen. (This review is an excerpt. For the full version, head to fangirlsreaditfirst.wordpress.com) In the eyes of many horror fans, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the greatest movies within the genre. It was released in 1974 and was quickly renowned for its craftsmanship and surprisingly bloodless violence. It was hated as much as it was loved. And in the form of Chain Saw Confidential, the one taking on the telling of the film’s origin story (and the reckoning of its legacy) is Gunnar Hansen. Who better than Leatherface himself to take on this muddy tale of dead chickens, melted film prints and runaway eight hour makeup chair sessions? This book is largely an oral history of the making of Massacre, from the origins in the head of cigar-chomping director Tobe Hooper to the placement of the film in the Museum of Modern Art (and the scathing reviews that choice inspired). Helpfully, the story is also organized in the order of the actual movie’s plot. Hansen’s perspective is somewhat limited due to his starring role in the film. But he interviews cast and crew members extensively, openly admitting when details are inconsistent or if something has been completely forgotten. Add in thoughts about the movie from figures like John Landis (director of An American Werewolf in London) and it’s a very fun ride.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Arika Roach

    Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is my favorite horror movie. For such a low budget, it is genuinely terrifying. Not to mention new actors and a new director. This book is written by (the late) Gunnar Hansen who is the actor for the villain Leatherface. He talks about how the movie was produced and what they did to after filming for the day. One of my favorites things Gunnar talked about was how nobody saw his mask until they filmed with him. Every reaction everybody had was real, they were genuin Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is my favorite horror movie. For such a low budget, it is genuinely terrifying. Not to mention new actors and a new director. This book is written by (the late) Gunnar Hansen who is the actor for the villain Leatherface. He talks about how the movie was produced and what they did to after filming for the day. One of my favorites things Gunnar talked about was how nobody saw his mask until they filmed with him. Every reaction everybody had was real, they were genuinely scared. One interesting part was when Gunnar said he had to practice how to squeal like a pig. When I first saw the movie I thought they used sound effects. One thing I questioned was why Toby Hooper (the director) thought he could get away with a PG rating because PG-13 did not exist in the 70's. It is a horror movie so there was already gruesome death and gore. When they were filming the movie they took they chain of the chainsaw so nobody would get hurt, but the last scene of the movie Gunnar was instructed to swing the chainsaw around him. They took close shots so the chain was the chainsaw while it was running. When I found that out I thought they were crazy. Overall, there is a still a ton of stories he shares, I just picked the most interesting to me.

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