Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990)
Director: Jeff Burr
There's roadkill all over Texas. After the dinner-gone-bad in part 1 (part 2 is ignored here), Leatherface seems to have found a new home with a new cannibal family. When feuding couple Michelle and Ryan (Butler & Hodge), who are driving across Texas, stop at the wrong gas station (the Last Chance gas station), they encounter the deadly flesh eaters and are invited for brunch. Lucky for them, weekend warrior Benny (Foree) gets mixed up in all of it and he’s got an automatic rifle to back up his tough talk. Let's see...gun versus chainsaw? My money is on the power tool!
Much like my love-life, my relationship with "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 3" has always been a rocky one. I first saw it on the big screen upon its theatrical release. I was younger and more impressionable at the time and loved it. I then saw it again on tape, I was older and wound up hating it. Now, upon receiving this DVD of the "Uncut" (term used loosely) print, I decided to give the film another shot and write a whole new review.
This is a first for me; the extras found on the DVDs actually helped me appreciate the movie more! Who knew? I totally grasped the uphill battle the writer and director had to fight to get their visions across. Not only did they have to combat the Nazi regime known as the MPAA, who were in a pretty HARSH mood with the genre at the time, but they also had to deal with dumb ass studio execs who thanks to "test screenings", had some shite changed around at the film's expense. How about having faith in your product and the team you hired to deliver it, you mooks!!!! That awful ending with the miraculous twist is THEIR fault! TCM 3 had the canons aimed against it from day one of production and being reminded of that beforehand, made me look for the positive while watching the movie. Guess what compadres...I found it.
The film itself started off on the right limb with a kickarse opening credit montage of Leatherface having some "fun" with a couple of broads. It then went on to weave its narrative web into a familiar, yet still engrossing, pattern. Let's face it, much like "Halloween 4" was to "Halloween", TCM3 is almost a pumped up, polished up variation of Part 1. They were starting over with this one, ignoring part 2, avoiding its slapstick and going for a straight-up, no bull, shockfest with the hopes of giving birth to a healthy franchise. If all the morons who stood in their way would've dropped dead in one snap of the fingers before the shoot, I feel as though the film might've accomplished that goal. Why?
Well, for one, Leatherface the man behind the dead skin mask is back with a vengeance and he's in scary mode! He wasn't the pussy he was in part 2 and looked like a psychotic heavy metal head-banger with a leg brace. I dug the new digs! I wouldn't want to meet this bad boy in the woods while taking a leak, that's for damn sure. The look of the film also swayed me to its side. Although far removed from the gritty feel of the first, it still had some spooky impact to it. The night scenes, in particular, were extremely well shot with an axis towards bleak atmosphere. Another plus was that there was some great ideas here when it came to the physical action. We get a badass truck causing havoc, a brand new chainsaw the size of John Holmes' schlong entering the ring and some booby traps in the woods. Sure, all of those neato devices were never milked to their fullest either due to the restraint that was applied by outside parties (some booby trap stuff was cut out of the film), budget or mishandling, but their inclusions were groovy to witness nevertheless. The flick was also laced with dark humor that had me smirking and sported a mean machine heavy metal soundtrack to boot.
Character-wise, although I was disappointed not to see the old family return for this third outing (I missed The Cook!), the new family assembled here was quite likeable in their own right. The unit genuinely cared about each other and that vibe was a pleasant contrast when taking into account what they do (kill and eat people). That made for a captivating watch. I also boogied to the taboo themes that were randomly tossed into the chunky soup, with the inclusion of the little girl (played by Jennifer Banko) being my favorite. It's actually hinted that she's Leatherface's daughter (he raped one of his victims). I adored that spin and seeing her be a psycho kiddie was quite a treat. At least, this "Uncut" gave her more sicko things to do. Pull that string darling! Pull it for daddy! What a cutey. Lastly, the fine acting in the house really upped the overall quality of the film. Viggo Mortensen was simply a delight as Tex the charismatic Cowboy, the pervert gas attendant (played by Tom Everett) who likes to pull a "Norman Bates" was an entertaining, foul-mouthed backwoods loony and metal handed Ticker (Unger) was such a down-to-earth fiend that I couldn't help but love him. Top that off with "Dawn of the Dead" veteran Ken Foree (Benny) doing his thang and you've got a cast that just won't quit.
Which brings me to the film's boo-boos. Yes, the script was flawed with bad lines being spat out here and there. For example, why the hell did Ryan keep verbalizing the obvious? Shat up already! To screenwriter David Schow's defense, it's widely known that his screenplay was considerably re-written. The gore and the suspense levels were also way too low, watering down the whole affair. Where the hell was the tension? Not here. But its worst snag of all was that it took all of this time to construct a situation with mucho carnage potential and then blew its load too fast. It disposed of its baddies too easily, was not clear on some of their fates (what happened to Tinker or the little girl?) and to make matters worse, capped it all off with an ending that insulted my minimal intellect. Basically, I was pleasantly jerked off for an hour and the horror orgasm that was supposed to follow for the last block was a half baked, sloppy one. I get that in bed way too often...now I gotta get that from genre films too!?! COME ON MAN! CUT ME SOME SLACK!
Somebody simply didn't let this one fully blossom, didn't let it be what it was supposed to be...a fucking "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movie! A film that was supposed to grab you by the nuts, kiss you on the forehead, pat you on the ass and bash your head in with a sledgehammer. Too many spineless twats in the kitchen spoiled the meat! Having said that, even with its shortcomings, "Leatherface" was still an enjoyable sit-down. Even though, all wasn't capitalized on, it still had a lot going for it and semi-came through. Now rev up your chainsaw and let's hunt the MPAA down once and for all! ENOUGH!
This "uncut" version gives us a bit more than the theatrical cut, but still far from enough. We get a crushed armadillo, more blood splashes, a shot off ear, shot off fingers and bullet wounds.
Kate Hodge (Michelle) aced most of her scenes, but when she had to play the "I am now a bit nuts" vibe, she somewhat overacted. William Butler (Ryan) was on the ball, sadly he was given the worst lines and they made him look bad in moments - not his fault. Viggo Mortensen (Tex) came out of this one a big winner, his sly, charming, murderous persona was dead-on and the man has such great hair. Ken Foree (Benny) gave a sympathetic performance as per usual with the occasional putrid lines (I swear the lousy dialogue hurts all of these performances). Joe Hunger (Tinker) was great as the more mature brother, his deadpan showing hit the bull's eye. R.A Mihailoff (Leatherface) had no lines, so he already had an advantage, while his aggressive demeanor and the new rock 'n roll get-up did the rest.
T & A
Except for pictures in some nudie magazines…ZILCH!
Burr makes it all look good, backed by solid cinematography. We also get some kool camera angles, creepy lighting, tight editing and a gripping dark mood.
We get a bad ass heavy metal score that so hit the spot!
Distributed by: New Line Home Video
IMAGE: The anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 image was sharp with the colors being solid.
SOUND: We get a Dolby 5.1 Surround, DTS 6.1 ES Matrixed and a 2.0 Surround option. I hit up the Dolby Surround and yes, it came through, especially when it came to the music.
Filmmaker Commentary: Director Jeff Burr, David J. Schow, Greg Nicotero, R.A. Mihailoff, William Butler, and New Line exec Mark Odesky all come in to talk about the film, little details (like the Caroline Williams cameo), the process of getting the sequel off the ground, the many cuts, the many conflicts and the many disappointments. This was an insightful commentary that gives you a strong sense of what went on behind the scenes.
The Saw is Family- The Making of Leatherface (28 minutes): This fascinating documentary has Jeff Burr, Greg Nicotero, R.A. Mihailoff, David J. Schow, William Butler, and New Line exec Mark Odesky all coming in to reminisce about the project, the experience, the constant battles with the MPAA, the disappointments and the drama that went down during the shoot. Watching this feature gave me a strong idea as to why this flick didn't come out as well as it should have. Solid and highly interesting.
We know what to do with them parts- deleted scenes (10 minutes): Here we get a slew of deleted scenes, some of them being staged and shot before our eyes. We get visual commentary by director Jeff Burr and effect guru Greg Nicotero. The scenes themselves ranged from silly, as to why they got cut out, to upsetting, at just how much gore the MPAA had them remove (all about that Viggo and thebooby trap scene).
Alternate Ending (5 minute): This alternate ending actually doesn't make much sense either. A car drives by Michelle, parks afar and the little girl in the back pops up from the back seat and starts giggling at Michelle, Michelle proceeds to yelp. Ooooooooookay....
Theatrical Trailers: Here we get the very money "Lady in the Lake-Excalibur-like teaser for the film. Funny shite!
DVD ROM Content: If you have DVD Rom software on your computer, you'll be able to get the entire screenplay, a script-to-screen option, production notes, and a some storyboards.
This DVD made my whole Leatherface experience such a more fulfilling one. Thank you New Line Cinema!
The lesson of the day is: producers STOP thinking you're artists and TRUST the talent you hired! They have a better grasp of the genre than you do. Lesson number two is: MPAA...FUCK OFF! Yeah, you heard me...FUCK OFF and leave horror filmmakers alone! They should have the right to have their films released intact and WE should have the right to fully view what they wanted to communicate to us. What ever happened to freedom of speech in this country?
"Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 3" has had a bad rep all these years and yes, I contributed to it too. But this experience is proof that opinions change. Maybe it's all the crappy movies that I've seen since then or maybe the behind-the-scenes on the DVD had a more profound effect on me than I thought, but on this run, I dug the movie a whole lot more. Maybe if you go in there again, looking for the positive, you'll dig it more too. Who knows? With the likes of "Wrong Turn" and the TCM remake getting away with so much nastiness today, I'm sure that "Leatherface: TCM 3" could've come through hardcore if made now. If we could only turn back time.
This was the only Texas Chainsaw Massacre flick that wasn't shot in Texas. It was shot in California.
Miriam Byrd-Nethery who played "Mama" passed away in January 2003.
Jennifer Banko (little girl) also played the young Tina in "Friday the 13th: Part 7- The New Blood".