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Leatherface Lives: How the Original Texas Chainsaw Is Still Buzzing 50 Years Later

The 1974 cult classic will screen as the centerpiece of the inaugural It Came from Texas Film Festival this weekend in Garland.
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The 1974 cult classic will screen as the centerpiece of the inaugural It Came from Texas Film Festival this weekend in Garland. Ron Bozman

Co-writer Kim Henkel still remembers one of the earliest reviews he read of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre upon its release in 1974, paraphrasing that it was a “vile piece of crap.”

But these days, the cast and crew who have remained close since that sweltering summer of minimal resources, roaring power tools, and faux true-life claims share another viewpoint: “Who would have thunk it?”

The influential slasher film will screen with Henkel and production manager Ron Bozman in attendance as part of the inaugural It Came from Texas Film Festival on Saturday at the renovated Plaza Theatre in Garland.

“We were pretty much vilified right and left. And then things abruptly took a turn, and we got a different level of attention when we were invited to the Director’s Fortnight [at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival],” Henkel said. “It’s evolved over the years.”

Bozman is a Garland native who later found success in the industry as a producer, winning an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs in 1991.

He recalled some of the more notorious aspects of the production on a shoestring budget, including 28-hour shoots in a blacked-out house with no air conditioning, which wreaked havoc on some of the makeshift masks, costumes, and practical effects.

“We didn’t have a lot of money, but we tried to provide the basic necessities. No one got hurt, at least not physically,” Bozman said. “I don’t remember any ego issues. Everybody was there just to make the movie. Camaraderie prevailed.”

Henkel admits the filmmakers, all of who were relatively new to the business, were too naïve at the time to plan for the future of the film beyond its initial release or manage its legacy.

“It’s tapped into something primordial. What other film of this sort has endured for this long and captivated people in quite this way? Its influence was outside of our imagination and beyond our expectations,” said Henkel, who wrote the screenplay with director Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist). “I can’t believe we did it. It’s been quite a ride.”

The two-day festival is the brainchild of longtime Dallas film publicist Kelly Kitchens, whose 11-film lineup includes a few double features of rare genre films from the 1960s.

  • There’s a matinee double-bill of Beyond the Time Barrier and The Amazing Transparent Man, which were shot back-to-back mostly at Fair Park by director Edgar Ulmer.
  • Two shlock titles from Dallas native Larry Buchanan also are on the docket — Attack of the Eye Creatures and Zontar: The Thing from Venus. Both were filmed locally.
  • The event will close with a screening of the Dallas-made 1959 camp classic The Giant Gila Monster hosted by the comedy troupe Mocky Horror Picture Show.

Author

Todd Jorgenson

Todd Jorgenson

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