The Texas Chain Saw Massacre | 1974
Like Rob Zombie’s 2007 update of Halloween, this revisiting (is that the right word?) of the 70s classic diminishes the strangeness of the original with too much explanation (so Leatherface was just a kid with a skin condition who got bullied at school?)
Set in ‘August 1973’, the film stays true to the period of the original, though chainsaw aficionados maintain the particular model used is anachronistic and Lynyrd Skynyrd fans point out that Sweet Home Alabama wasn’t released until 1974.
It remains faithful, too, to the setting, being filmed in the area of Round Rock, north of Austin, Texas, but despite an impressive cast, is little more than an exercise in unrelenting nastiness.
When a disturbed young hitchhiker blows her brains out in the back of their van, five kids on their way to a Skynyrd gig find themselves in all kinds of trouble when they stop to report the death at the world’s most spectacularly insanitary gas station.
‘Cele’ is the real name of the stop, but of course it’s nothing like the disgusting hellhole seen in the film. It’s the Cele Store, 18726 Cameron Road at the junction with Cele Road, Manor, in northeast Travis County about seven miles east of Pflugerville.
The Cele Store was built as the Richland Saloon in 1891. And bought by Marilyn and Marvin Weiss in 1951. The couple ran it for 56 years and it’s now run by their grandson.
The truckstop’s not-terribly-helpful owner tells the kids to meet the local sheriff at the ‘Old Crawford Mill’ which, even for 1973 Texas, doesn’t seem to be strictly following police procedure.
The Mill is at 4590 Farm to Market Road 1105, just south of the junction with FM 972, Walburg, about ten miles northeast of Georgetown, north of Round Rock.
The homestead they come across is that of the Hewitt family. This house has the oddly flat appearance of a purpose-built set but it’s a genuine old plantation home, although originally built in the 1850s in in the centre of Austin, on what is now part of the campus of the University of Texas.
In the 1930s it was moved to its present location at 901 County Road 336, Granger, and restored. It’s at the end of a long and private driveway, so not easy to see from the road. The house is featured again in 2006 prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.
Even if you’ve been living on Mars and you’ve not heard of the original film, there’s a clue in the title that the kids are not going to get a warm country welcome complete with lashings of home-made apple pie. Even when Sheriff Hoyt (R Lee Ermey) finally turns up at the Mill, it’s not the welcome arrival of the forces of good the kids were hoping for.
The sole survivor of the five manages to escape the Hewitt house but – wouldn’t you know it? – the nearest shelter turns out to be the ‘Blair Meat Co’ – a slaughterhouse.
Again, this is real. It’s the Taylor Meat Company, 2211 West 2nd Street, Taylor, east of Round Rock – and far less isolated than it’s made to appear in the film.
• Many thanks to Peter Paulsen for help with this section.