Among the horror directors of legend sits one who is known for bringing the story of the Sawyer family to life with the smell of two-stroke oil and rotten flesh: Tobe Hooper. While he's also fondly remembered for gracing #horror fans with #Poltergeist and Salem's Lot, the director's true claim to fame cut through cinema screens with reckless abandon in 1974 with his seminal work: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Everything about Hooper's depiction of a cannibalistic family of ruthless Texans is razor sharp — even to this day — influencing horror fanatics from Hideo Nakata to Alexandre Aja and Ridley Scott, who cites Hooper's TCM as the single biggest influence on Alien than any other B-level genre film.
So, in celebration of Tobe Hooper's birthday on January 25th, here are five facts about the original #TexasChainsawMassacre that you likely didn't know. Start your engines:
5. Hooper's Hatred Of Crowds Gave Birth To The Idea Of 'TCM'
Hooper admits that the inspiration for TCM came from an all-too-familiar feeling that we've likely experienced during our own frenzied attempts to complete our holiday shopping without erupting into a murderous rampage:
"So, I was Christmas shopping and I was in the hardware department — it was something like a Sears store. And God, I hate crowds. I hate them closing in on you, and so they were closing in and I was kinda freaking; I just wanted to get out of there, get out of the crowd."
"So I found myself in front of a chainsaw display in the hardware department and that's where the idea came from: Well, if I pick this damn thing up and start it, you know, they'll part like the Red Sea and I can get out of here."
4. Leatherface Was Partially Inspired By A Cartoon Duck
While #Leatherface is most often associated with serial killer Ed Gein — who famously skinned women to fashion various trophies, decorations, clothing and other bric-a-brac from their remains — Hooper revealed that he always saw the character as being a child trapped in a man's body, like Baby Huey — a huge cartoon duck who wore diapers and possessed a childlike demeanor despite his formidable stature.
This paired well with Gunnar Hansen's (RIP) portrayal of the Leatherface, who thought it best to retain Leatherface's childlike qualities by having him shout indiscernible dialogue (often fearful), also possibly suggesting the character may have suffered from some mental illness.
3. The Set Was A Veritable, Burning Hell
Stories about the TCM set being plagued with countless injuries, caked in real actors' blood, and a grueling shoot schedule in the unforgivable Texas summer heat are all remembered with disdain by the cast and crew. However, there was one instance during the filming that pushed everyone on set over the edge.
Hooper recalled the stomach-churning incident in a SXSW interview conducted by Bloody Disgusting in 2014:
"This family was into death art, it was a hobby. And we needed animals. The city pound had done their due for the month and they came out with a dump truck, I was in the house I didn’t even know it has happening. Anyway they pulled up about 20 meters from the house and dumped about 500 lbs of dead animals out front. I came out and looked at it and realized it was over the line, that a domestic animal is like a child so seeing all those dead cats and dogs would ruin the movie. So I said, 'get rid of these.' And then I went back inside and I was shooting."
"The house was tinted because we were shooting the dinner table scene, which takes place at night but we were shooting part of it in the day. But when I told them to get rid of it, someone got 5 gallons of gasoline and poured it over all of those dead animals and set fire to them. I guess they were thinking that they were going to disappear or go up into ashes. The house was bad enough with the bones cooking and everyone throwing up, but then all of this smoke [from burning fur and flesh] started coming in through the house. That’s when everyone really started losing it."
2. The Props Were Very Real
Whether it was an attempt to keep the cast and crew as miserable as possible, or a way to achieve the most authentic environment for the film, Hooper used actual skeletons — shipped from an Indian pharmaceutical company — because they were cheaper than the plastic replicas normally used for shooting.
Although, looking at jaw-dropping price tags for complete skeletons available today seems a tall order, considering how little the cast and crew were paid for filming. Sorry, residents of Georgia, Tennessee and New York — most companies won't ship to your home address.
1. The Original 'TCM' Gas Station Is Now A 'Horror BBQ Resort,' Open For Business
After a riotous grand opening on October 8, 2016, The Gas Station is now serving up rib-sticking slabs of brisket and sausages alongside a healthy serving of horror merchandise. The Gas Station also has several overnight cabins packed to the casings with horror relics and other memorabilia. They also host several events, including meet-and-greets with the cast members of the original TCM — check out what's on the grill right here.
Hungry? We didn't think so.
There's a reason why the numerous remakes and attempts to recreate the same level of horror that Tobe Hooper brought to celluoid back in 1974 have tasted a little lean: Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a grade-A cut of film — one that doesn't need sides or a salad.