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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre happened exactly 50 years ago today

The seminal 1974 horror movie The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was released in October, but set in August 1973, at the height of a sultry, stinking Texas summer.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was released in October 1974, meaning that the tradition of releasing the best horror movies for Halloween goes back decades. However, it was set in the summer a year earlier – August 18, 1973 – in fact. So that means that the battle between Sally Hardesty and Leatherface’s creepy cannibal family was raging on this day exactly 50 years ago.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was filmed during the height of the real summer of 1973 in Texas, meaning that it was usually 100 degrees every day, and at one stage, it was 115. Director Tobe Hooper had the farmhouse where most of the film takes place littered with real animal bones and blood. The farmhouse did not have air-conditioning or good ventilation.

In The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Companion by Stefan Jaworzyn, Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) recalled; “It was 95, 100 degrees every day during filming. They wouldn’t wash my costume because they were worried that the laundry might lose it, or that it would change color. They didn’t have enough money for a second costume. So I wore that [mask] 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for a month.”

In the same book, Marilyn Burns (Sally Hardesty) said that her costume was so drenched with stage blood that it was “virtually solid” by the last day of shooting. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre being filmed and set during a Texas summer definitely adds to the visceral horror, you can almost pick up on the stench and stifling atmosphere via the screen.

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The summer also helped create some of the most magical and memorable shots in the film, which are beautiful, despite the horror they are depicting. The famous final shots of Leatherface whipping his chainsaw around in frustration in a kind of demented dance just wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t have that golden hour glow.

Check out our guide to the best slasher movies, as Texas Chain Saw Massacre was a foundational text in the genre, helping to establish tropes such as The Final Girl. If you prefer horror of a different flavor, check out our guide to the best ghost movies and the best monster movies.