Release Date(s)1990 (February 13, 2018)
Studio(s)New Line Cinema (Warner Archive)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
Long before New Line Cinema attempted to remake their long dormant horror franchise in 2003, a successful venture that proved that there was still life left in those severed limbs, they enlisted David J. Schow to write and Jeff Burr to direct Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. One would have been hard-pressed at the time to find a more excitable horror teaser trailer, with an Excalibur type moment of the mythical Lady of the Lake tossing the masked maniac what Schow describes as “the Cadillac of chainsaws.” The hulking, skin-cloaked menace catches it, starts it, and turns toward the camera with full intent to kill. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to bring fans into theaters, but over thirty years’ time, it was rediscovered and re-evaluated.
Many hardships befell this third entry in the series during both production and post-production, including director Jeff Burr not getting along with the folks at New Line Cinema. At one point, he was even fired, only to be re-hired a couple of days later. But the real trouble began when the film was submitted to the MPAA for a rating. Its biggest obstacle to overcome (besides its bloody content) was the fact that it mixed dark humor with violence, which was not unlike its predecessors, but was something that the MPAA had a big problem with. Receiving an X with little to no chance of achieving anything else, the film went through many drastic re-edits, eventually receiving an R-rating. Judging from the deleted scenes that didn’t make the final cut, it’s fairly tame by comparison and could have potentially been a much gorier film.
However, the chief reason that Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III was so poorly received by fans at the time was because it was made without the participation of Tobe Hooper, something that they felt was a travesty before even seeing it. Opening at number 11 at the box office, the film tanked almost immediately, not to mention that it was also (unsurprisingly) dismissed by critics. In the interim, the first two films saw several VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD re-releases, building up an audience for the series with all pondering the fate of the third. Then in 2005, New Line Home Entertainment finally released the film on DVD in its unrated version with a set of quality extras. At long last, it was finally time for Leatherface to receive its due.
In need of a Blu-ray release for some time, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III finally debuts in high definition courtesy of the folks at Warner Archive. This new transfer (thankfully) utilizes the unrated version of the film. It’s about 5 minutes longer than the R-rated version, but those extra 5 minutes make a significant difference, making the final film feel a little less choppy (no pun intended). The transfer itself is natural and film-like with well-resolved grain levels and higher amounts of fine detail. Due to the film’s low budget nature, some sequences appear a bit softer than others, not to mention that great portions of it take place at night or in darkened environments. That said, black levels in these areas are deep with good delineation. Daytime sequences are also potent with well-rendered environments and objects. The color palette isn’t overly lush, but strong hues with good skin tones are on display. Contrast and brightness levels are well-adjusted and the presentation as a whole is stable with little to no film damage leftover. There’s also no evidence of excessive DNR or edge enhancement. The audio is presented via an English 5.1 DTS-HD audio track with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s an effective surround sound track without being exceedingly enveloping. Ambient activity is frequent and sound effects have excellent bite to them while dialogue is clean and well-prioritized. The score and music selection doesn’t offer grand amounts of fidelity, but the track has plenty of lift in the right places.
All of the extras on this release are carried over from the film’s aforementioned DVD release. They include an audio commentary with director Jeff Burr, writer David J. Schow, special makeup effects supervisor Greg Nicotero, actors R.A. Mihailoff and William Butler, and New Line Cinema executive Mark Ordesky. It’s a fine track which covers much of the film’s production in a lively manner. Next is the excellent The Saw is Family: Making Leatherface documentary, which speaks to many of the main players and goes into detail about how difficult the film was to make. Following that is the We Knows What to Do with Them Parts deleted scenes documentary, which features many of the same participants from the previous documentary and much of the footage that was ultimately cut out of all versions of the film. Next is the film’s alternate ending, which I believe is much more satisfying, not to mention makes more sense. Last, but not least, is the film’s theatrical trailer, presented in HD.
Despite Tobe Hooper’s absence from the production, there’s still plenty to enjoy in Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, particularly in its unrated version. It’s more of the same in regards to people being kidnapped with the possibility of being barbequed and Leatherface running amuck with a chainsaw, but it’s a wild ride that was unfairly maligned in its initial release. Warner Archive’s efforts to finally get a nice Blu-ray release of the film on the market are quite commendable. It’s a great release with an excellent A/V presentation and entertaining extras, making it one that you’ll definitely want to pick up if you’re a fan.
- Tim Salmons