Texas Monthly Reporter


Austin movie makers Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel have made what they hope is the classic horror thriller. Truly terrifying movies are rare indeed. The trick is not merely to shock by using music, gore, or weird beings, but to create an atmosphere of fear, a much harder and more sophisticated task.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was made last summer around Taylor, and concerns a family who have been laid off from their jobs at the local slaughterhouse. They set up their own abattoir, lure hitchhikers and unsuspecting visitors to the old mansion, and continue practicing their trade until the meat shortage is over.

Leatherface, played by 6’ 4”, 300-pound Gunnar Hansen, a U.T. student from Iceland, operates the fastest chain saw in Williamson County and is the real meanie in the film. Most intriguing, however, is the grandfather, a paternal old ghoul who appears in drag as, yes, a grand-mummy.

The interior decoration of the classic house of horrors is slightly bizarre. Human bone mobiles hang from the ceiling. There’s a skin sofa and lampshades. Incisors and molars cover the floor like pecan shells.

It’s the real thing. Two human skeletons were shipped from India for interior props. A friendly dentist from Los Angeles supplied two shoeboxes filled with human teeth for the family’s carpet.

The realism caused unsuspected problems as the arc lights increased the room temperature (unnecessary in August) and the bones began to emit noxious odors causing cast members to bolt frequently for windows and doors.

Both men are veteran film makers. Hooper has shot and directed well over a million feet of commercials, documentaries, shorts, and features, including “The Heisters” and “Eggshells,” both of which won prestigious awards at New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta film festivals. Henkel wrote the script for Massacre and has worked with Hooper since “Eggshell” days. This is their first 90-minute, color, big-budget (under $300,000) feature-length movie. It premiers in Texas in April.

“The true monster itself is death. All the classic horror flicks —Dracula. Frankenstein, Psycho—have this in common. They have a unique way of getting inside you by setting up symbols that represent death; a graveyard, bones, flowers,” said Hooper.

“If you put them in the proper order then you create the most important aura known as the creeps.”

The most effective horror movie of the past ten years? “The Night of the Living Dead,” says Hooper. “It was a crudely made film but very effective. I doubt seriously if you’ll be seeing it on late night television any time soon.” Other nominees mentioned were Repulsion, Psycho, Legend of Hell House, and Rosemary’s Baby. Neither man had seen this season’s shocker, The Exorcist.

Their next project was predictable. “We want to do a broad comedy. Something very looney tunes and merry melodies,” said Henkel.

What about the ending, that bloodcurdling denouement, of Chain Saw Massacre, I asked. Both grimaced, refused to answer, and stared blankly at the floor.


The Judiciary Committee of the Dallas Bar Association recently took a poll of the Association membership on Dallas judges. Is he a man of good character? Does he act fairly towards litigants and attorneys? Is he punctual in opening court and keeping appointments? Questions of this nature culminate in the overall sum up: “Do you approve in general of the manner in which he has conducted the affairs of his court?”

To the last question, U.S. District Judge Robert Hill and Juvenile Court Judge Ted Robertson (98 percent) and Clarence Guittaro, Court of Appeals, John Vance, 194th District Court, and R. T. Scales, 195th District Court (97 percent) ranked highest in their fellow lawyers’ esteem. Fred “Red” Harris, County Court at Law Number Three, fared poorest with 72 percent replying no, we don’t approve. Snowden Leftwich, Jr., 192nd District Court (61 percent), F. W. Bartlett, Jr., Probate Court, (56 percent); and Ed Gossett, Criminal District Court No. 5, (44 percent) followed Harris. Eight hundred and eighty six of the 2352 members responded to the questionnaire.


Later this month two faculty members of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will report to a World Health Organization meeting in Geneva on their progress in developing a new type of contraceptive. Professor of obstetrics-gynecology Dr. Carl Pauerstein and Dr. Horacio Croxatto of the Catholic University in Santiago, Chile, are co-ordinating a seven-nation task force charged with developing a means of altering the travel time of the egg through the Fallopian tube, and thus avoiding implantation in the uterus and pregnancy.

The new contraceptive will be designed for a woman to take after her first sexual encounter following the end of a menstrual period. Protection will be extended until the next period.

“It will differ from the still controversial ‘morning after’ pill and will probably not have the hormone content of today’s widely used contraceptive pill,” said Dr. Pauerstein. Commenting on the texture of the future birth control device, Dr. Pauerstein said that it may not be swallowed, but could be an intravaginal or intrauterine device that would release appropriate chemicals. The World Health Organization, partial funder of research, has set a deadline of 1976 for completion of the team’s work.


Beginning in May, the CBS Tennis Classic will unfold for 16 weeks on Sunday afternoon television. Each week such players as Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, Rod Laver, Cliff Richey, Marty Riessen and Cliff Drysdale will eliminate each other until sometime in September when the winner will collect $12,000.

As with most things on TV , it is not as it seems. The whole thing was filmed in one furious week of tennis at the Lakeway World of Tennis resort west of Austin on Lake Travis.

The Texas social tennis set gathered together in mid-January to watch 16 of the world’s best players lob and serve ana cuss and dink (a soft shot without pronounced spin which drops just as it comes over the net) until San Angelo finally triumphed over Australia. During these “summer”

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