What an absolute “buzz” getting to see Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) in 35mm again at The Astor last night, especially with a huge and respectful turn-out. The print screened was apparently one of the original prints that did the rounds in Australia thirty years ago, after the ban on the film was finally lifted in this country in 1983. So chances are that it was the same print I saw at the Astor several times in the mid-80s, when it would play regularly on ...a popular double-bill with EVIL DEAD (this was back at a time when, after the screening, you could go to the Astor’s ticket booth and purchase the original daybill posters for that evening’s screening for only $5.00!).
For its age and roadwear, the 35mm print was in surprisingly good shape. It was a little washed-out and scratchy in parts, and the overexposure during the first gas station sequence was present, but it certainly didn’t detract from the experience and in fact it only added to the authentic grindhouse feel of the screening. You can feel the Texas heat and dust and smell the dried blood coming from the old slaughterhouse. I have watched this film dozens of times since 1983, and it still stands as an absolute peak of modern horror cinema for me, the perfect illustration of a waking nightmare and being caught in the middle of complete random madness. The scene where Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) grabs Pam (Teri McMinn) and drags the poor young women through his house to her doom - while she is squealing and flailing about like a terrified animal - still sends shivers up my spine and delivers an almighty punch to my stomach.
Was also nice to see the Astor put up a tribute slide to Hooper before the screening, as well playing as a few trailers for some of Hooper’s other movies (mostly his mid-80s Cannon titles like LIFEFORCE, INVADERS FROM MARS and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2).
Well done to Zak Hepburn and the Astor for putting on a fitting tribute screening to the late filmmaker. And cool to see Cooper and Dougie from TWIN PEAKS guarding the old ticket booth in the downstairs lobby (in the shape of life-sized cardboard standees).