PictureThis 1.66:1 non-anamorphic image is a fairly unattractive affair. Although touted as being “painstakingly restored from the original 16mm ECO negatives”, one must assume that these “original negatives” must be in pretty poor order. Obvious improvements in stability aside this looks very much like VHS. The print shows plenty of damage with continuous marks and scratches. The level of detail is poor, being almost non-existent in dark scenes. The colour palette was found to muted and unnatural in appearance. Colours were also found to be poorly contained, with obvious signs of bleeding, and the level of contrast was never more than low. Compression related artefacts were also present throughout many scenes, both light and dark! On the upside, edge enhancements were not overly apparent.
In it's defence this is as good as I have seen this film, but it cannot in fairness be considered as anything other than poor.
SoundOffered in both its original mono-aural (2 channel) form and a new 2 channel stereo
mix, the latter is hugely preferable and a massive improvement. The original track (Dolby Digital 2.0 @ 192kbs) is thin, harsh sounding and a fair match to the general image quality; it is the epitome of lo-fi and a perfect example of the budget nature of the movie. The best that can be said of this is that the dialogue is reasonably intelligible! The new mix (Dolby Digital 2.0 PL flagged @ 192kbs) however is almost pleasing by comparison. There is mild width to the soundstage, and indeed depth, the rears whilst not overly busy do from time to time chirp in. Neither a showcase of dynamic or LFE prowess, the limited frequency range at least is more even handed, giving a less grating and more comfortable listen.
No doubt if you have watched The Phantom Menace or LOTR the night before, you may well be forgiven for thinking something has “gone wrong”, even when selecting the new mix! However comfort yourselves by giving the original mix 5 minutes of your time and then switching back to the newer track. Small mercy's etc.
ExtrasThis single disc release offers us a full-length commentary by Director Tobe Hooper, Director of Photography Daniel Pearl and Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen. This is an enjoyable listen indeed, being informative, well grounded and humorous. The 6 deleted scenes and 3 alternate scenes, all with individual text based introductions/explanations (although no audio) were a worthy watch. A Study in Filming is a 2 minutes short that shows how many angles, and how much footage is required for a 20-second shot. 7 trailers, 4 for this film and 3 for the sequel are included. A 2-minute Blooper reel is next - and you thought the image quality of the feature was bad! Props and Sets is a 6 minute, dialogue free, look at Leatherface's house. 56 Film and Production Stills and 25 Poster and Lobby Cards make up the extra's list.
VerdictThose who buy this are unlikely to be expecting an A1 audio/visual experience. You will buy this for the film, in all its nastily visceral glory, and the worthy supplemental material. I particularly enjoyed the commentary, which was as down to earth as the film itself (in production terms that is!).If the horror genre is your bag then this should probably be considered as essential, I myself will live the odd Channel 4 screening!
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