The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 3 Disc Seriously Ultimate Edition (1974)

Shockingly good DVD package for one of the true legends of the horror genre

Tobe Hooper's seminal 1974 shocker ranks up there with Army of Darkness and Dawn of the Dead when it comes to the number of times it has been released on DVD. Previous Special Edition discs on both sides of the Atlantic appeared to have done a damn fine job with the movie, so why should anybody care about this new (and rather ridiculously titled) three-disc set?

The film itself is still an outright masterpiece. A slice of brilliantly conceived and realised horror that constantly convinces despite its outlandish characters and story. Forget the sequels and remakes (even Hooper's own endearingly broad and bonkers Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2) this is a pure distillation of terror that gets under the skin and stays with you for life.

The big deal this time around is the restored transfer (evidently the same as the one that appeared on Dark Sky's excellent two-disc R1 Ultimate Edition). Quite simply, the film has never looked this good before. Now, given its ultra-low budget origins, you shouldn't be expecting anything truly revelatory. But compared to previous UK DVD releases, it's a major step up in quality. The anamorphic 1.78:1 picture stills looks every bit as grainy and gritty as you'd expect, but there a clarity and sharpness in the image that previous versions lacked. 

Even more importantly, black levels are much deeper and more consistent this time around, losing the washed-out look that affected the film in the past. We're sure that the new hi-def master it was taken from holds even more treats that remains hidden in standard definition, but until the Blu-ray release makes it to these shores next year, this is a damn fine stand-in.

On the audio front there are three choices. In addition to the original mono soundtrack Second Sight also offers up stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes. The mono track is the most natural of the three and the choice for purists, but if you absolutely have to watch films with surround sound, then you can at least be happy with the fact that the 5.1 remix fares reasonably well, with good LFE and atmospheric surround effects.

Given its '3 Disc Seriously Ultimate Edition' title, you'd be right to expect The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to arrive with a copious collection of supplementary material. Joining the film on Disc One are a pair of audio commentaries. The first is a reasonably interesting chat with actors Marilyn Burns, Paul Partain and Allen Danziger, plus designer Robert A Burns and compere David Gregory. Even better is the second track featuring Tobe Hooper, Gunnar (Leatherface) Hansen and cinematographer Daniel Pearl. The trio of old friends chat fondly about the making of the film in a very relaxed mode that puts this reviewer in mind of the best of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell's commentary tracks.

Leading the way on Disc Two is the 73min documentary The Shocking Truth. Fans of the film will no doubt have caught this doc before (it was originally released as a separate feature on VHS and DVD back in 1999), but it remains a detailed and informative account of the film's production that is well worth watching.  Tying in with this are some outtakes from the documentary. Also included on the disc are a tour of the house used in the The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and interviews with production manager Ron Bozman and actress Terri McMinn (who has previously been reluctant to discuss the film).

Disc Three kicks off with the 72min Flesh Wounds, a seven-part retrospective documentary that manages to avoid simply regurgitating the same info as The Shocking Truth by looking at the film from more of a fan's perspective. There's still plenty of fresh interview material with people involved with the film, but you also get to see some of the TCM fan-culture courtesy of convention footage. After this there are new interview with Tobe Hooper and producer Kim Henkel, trailers, TV and radio spots, a collection of deleted scenes, outtakes and bloopers, and a pair of extensive photo galleries. Whew!

As it stands, without a UK Blu-ray release, this impressive three-disc DVD release is easily the most complete and comprehensive version of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ever released on these shores. While much of he bonus content has been seen before, it's great to get all of the above content collected together in one package. But, even if you aren't fussed about extra features, the significant upgrade in image quality alone is enough to justify splashing out twenty-quid for this Seriously Ultimate Edition.

Second Sight, R2 DVD, £20, On sale now