The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2-Disc Ultimate Edition—MPI

From the opening credits, to that crazy hitchhiker, to the ceremonial bones and feathers outside the old house, to the tooth (with filling) lying on the front porch, to the sudden, ugly killing of the first victim, we know that something ain’t quite right in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. You can even feel a knot forming in your stomach during John Larroquette’s restrained narration that sets the stage for this road trip that’s about to take a tragic turn. I can’t even imagine how savagely this smart, brutal masterpiece of modern horror must have rocked moviegoers’ worlds back in a more innocent 1974. Dark Sky Films’ Ultimate Edition now transports us to those backwoods of the Lone Star State where it all began.

The disc carries a dual-mono presentation of the original soundtrack, plus Dolby 2.0 and a new Dolby 5.1 remix that most certainly favors fidelity over pizzazz. The subtle surround-channel usage is evident in instances when cars pass by, as well as with atmospheric, environmental, and incidental effects. The fly buzzing around the dinner table displays some believable directionality, as does the wildly brandished chain saw; its motor always carries a chilling whine.

Working from a new high-definition master created from the original camera negative, grain is nicely minimized in the 1.78:1 anamorphic image. The blacks display excellent detail, and the underbrush has a rich, fine texture. Colors are true and often striking, particularly the sunset scenes and the frequent blue tones at night. Sally’s green eyes stand out in close-up, and the blood is always a bold crimson. Artifacting is infrequent, even on expansive, gradated skies. There is a weird and somewhat distracting digital effect in a scene where two characters argue in front of a pair of blinding headlights, but such moments are rare. And the indelible vision of a suited-and-tied Leatherface swinging his chain saw in the rising sun is perfectly preserved.

The bonus materials in this two-disc set are expansive. There’s an easygoing new commentary by some of the actors and the art director, plus another commentary that’s been carried over from previous editions, with Hooper, actor Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface), and the director of photography. Trailers and commercials round out disc one, and additional archived supplements include bloopers, deleted/alternate scenes, and a still-photo gallery. Two feature-length documentaries look at the movie’s production and aftermath with decidedly different tones. “Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth” is the more traditional and serious one, in contrast to the quirkier and more varied “Flesh Wounds.” There’s also an interesting little featurette in which Hansen gives viewers a tour of the house featured in the film, renovated to a second life as a restaurant. It’s no doubt a popular tourist attraction, although I’d think twice before ordering the barbecue.

Restored to a more worthy audio/video standard and generously complemented with both fresh and recycled extras, this set celebrates a genuine landmark horror film. It’s a refreshing change from the watered-down, ultraslick, clichd efforts Hollywood has been giving us lately.