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EVENT REPORT: TEXAS CHAINSAW Screening with William Friedkin & Tobe Hooper!

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Monday evening, July 21st, 2014 was a very special night for horror fanatics based in the Los Angeles area! The Vista Theater in association with the fine folks over at the Cinefamily  held a very special screening of the legendary horror classic ‘THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE‘ to celebrate it’s 40th (!) anniversary. This version boasts a brand new 4K scan of the original 16 mm film elements, coupled with a new impressive & monstrous 7.1 sound mix, seeing this DCP presentation was like experiencing CHAIN SAW for the first time all over again! The icing on the cake? CHAINSAW writer/director Tobe Hooper would be in attendance to take part in a pre-show Q & A moderated & hosted by acclaimed filmmaker William Friedkin! How’d this pairing happen?! We’ll explain momentarily.

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As lines of fans waited outside the theater, both for the doors to open and to get a glimpse of the famed director, we had a surprise appearance by the real star of the show; why it’s Leatherface himself!

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I’m not going to lie. There’s something strangely satisfying about seeing Leatherface out and about in full sunlight in front of countless driver-by’s on a busy Los Angeles intersection and in front of a VONS supermarket. In terms of what was going on in the lobby, The Vista had planned a pre-screening VIP party for black card Cinefamily members where we got to see the handprint ceremony in which both Hooper and Friedkin would have their handprints and signatures forever immortalized on the pavement leading up to the theater’s main entrance. The overall mood was festive. Hooper mingled with fans, signed autographs, stopped for a photo op with his creation and then we all made our way for the theater itself.

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It took a few minutes for everyone to get situated. It was after all a sold out packed house. There were a handful of lights and cameras set up to capture the evening’s Q & A, no doubt for the 40th anniversary Blu-Ray that is forthcoming, but once William Friedkin took the stage, he had the audience in the palm of his hand! And once he introduced his good friend Tobe Hooper, the entire audience was captivated by what felt like a casual chat among two old friends. Here are some highlights from the hour long chat!

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– William Friedkin was so taken aback upon first seeing THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE that he immediately called Tobe Hooper to discuss the film. He told him that if he ever came to Hollywood, he’d be more than happy to introduce him to people around town, which included the folks at Universal who set up a multi-picture deal with Hooper. Since his arrival in Hollywood, Friedkin has been a mentor to Tobe which explains their close connection.

– Hooper recalls being at a 7-11 not too long after ‘CHAIN SAW’ came out and seeing on the cover of People Magazine a photo of William Friedkin walking out of a theater with Dino De Laurentiis. He was shocked to discover that the caption said they were just coming out of a screening of ‘THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.’ Friedkin explained that after seeing the film, he felt it was his duty to share it with everyone and anyone he knew.

– When asked about his biggest influences on the film, Hooper surprisingly responded by saying “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth. It’s a 1948 painting by the American artist which currently resides in the Museum Of Modern Art in New York. Just one glimpse at the piece below totally shows how it encapsulates the movie.

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– Another one of Tobe’s biggest influences was the film SECONDS by John Frankenheimer.

– As is well documented on all the various DVD documentaries and in-depth books that chronicle the making of CHAINSAW, Tobe confirms that everyone on the set hated him during the shoot. The crew, the cast, etc. There were several examples he gave, but one in particular was when someone brought in the carcasses of dead animals on set for the now-infamous dinner sequence. What they couldn’t use (which was most of them) were all brought behind a shed for disposal and someone from the crew poured 5 gallons of gasoline on it and set it a blaze thinking that would get rid of it easily. Instead, they were plagued by black, rancid smoke which seeped into the house while they were shooting that grueling scene. (For 27 hours straight!!!)

– Hooper actually very much enjoyed the process of working on the new & improved sound mix for this new version of CHAINSAW.

– There was also this great exchange:

Friedkin: “Tobe, do you consider this film a work of art?”
Hooper: “Well… I think… a director is always supposed to be humble when it comes to talking about his own work.”
Friedkin: “Oh fuck that. You’re with us. Do you or what?”
Hooper: (Pause) “Well, yeah it’s a fucking work of art.”

Audience applauds. Rightfully so.

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– Lastly, Friedkin confessed that earlier in the day, him and Hooper ate at Umami Burger for the first time. And he said, “it’s like a burger, but it’s got Umami! That little extra something that makes it special. This movie? This movie has got Umami.”

All in all, it was an amazing conversation and truly special to be a part of it. So, I’m sure you’re all wondering… what’s the new version look like???

Well, as can be expected from a 4K scan, it’s absolutely the best the film has ever looked. Don’t worry, the overall gritty and grainy look that you remember is still in tact. In fact, it’s not that much different from the previous Blu-Ray release, but where the movie shines is in the darker moments; the scenes with Sally (Marilyn Burns) running through the woods while being chased by Leatherface in particular. A lot of the night or darker sequences are definitely more visible than they’ve ever been. BUT, the thing that sets this version miles apart from it’s predecessors is the new 7.1 sound mix. I’m sure you’re thinking, “well, how much better can it SOUND?” Trust me. A lot.

All the noises and squeals that Leatherface employs in order to get these kids to come a little bit closer are more prominent and it makes you, the viewer think “wait, what the hell IS that?” And hence, like the characters of the movie, we find ourselves drawn in and unintentionally leaning forward. Of course, there’s the buzzing of that saw. To me, the greatest “sound” in this version has to be the last 20 seconds of the picture. After everything we’ve just gone through with Sally, to cut to Leatherface doing his infamous chainsaw dance with that saw reeving at maximum volume (and it is LOUD) and then just sharp cutting to black is beyond powerful. It gives me chills just thinking about it! If you can, try to see this version in theaters. In fact, for Los Angeles readers, it’s currently playing at the Cinefamily through the rest of the month. Otherwise, when you pick up this new Blu-Ray, be sure to crank it!

*Special thanks to Scott Reynolds!

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