Thursday, October 10, 2013

The family that slays together: Chain Saw Confidential

My birthday is coming up and my wife surprised me with an early gift: Chain Saw Confidential by Gunnar Hansen. Yes, that Gunnar Hansen, the original Leatherface. He's written a book about the making of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and it's a great ride with the perfect host.

Hansen gives us enough autobiography to tells us where he was at the time and how he got hooked up in the madness of this eventual masterpiece. His discussion of the film is not necessarily the actual chronological order things happened in but rather as events coincided with the final chronology of the film. By this point, we should all know that 99 percent of movies are not filmed in the order in which they appear. Under Hansen's guidance, this point becomes moot. We are easily caught up in the moments, just as we are when watching the film.

And it isn't just Hansen doing the talking. He speaks with many of the living primary cast and crew to help shape his narrative and discuss the legends and rumors that have built up around the film.

While Hansen does use an unpublished interview of Tobe Hooper provided by another writer, there is no interaction between the two biggest personalities of the film. Some may say this is a horrible omission and might blame the battle over Texas Chain Saw profits which Hansen devotes almost an entire chapter to. For me, however, this works. Hooper has had and used his own venues to talk about the movie; this book becomes the voice not just of Hansen/Leatherface but many other members of the cast and crew who may not have had a chance to eloquently expound on their experience near Austin, Texas, in the heat of 1973.

Hansen also brings in some outside voices, including directors Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) and John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), and fellow horror icon Doug Bradley (Pinhead in the Hellraiser series). These other opinions help Hansen place Chain Saw in its proper spot in the genre and the culture. Hansen also refers to various critical works about horror films in general and Chain Saw in particular, including two of my favorites: Robin Wood and Carol Clover.

At 240 pages, including a great selection of glossy photos, Chain Saw Confidential  won't break your time bank but is definitely worth your time.

I learned a lot from this book, but one thing I did not know is that Hansen holds a Master's degree (completed around the time of his Chain Saw involvement) and has published poetry. You can count on me to find some of his poetry and let you know how it is.

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