CHICAGO — NOLO Digital Film (http://nolodigitalfilm.com), here, provided restoration services for the 1974 horror classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Directed by Tobe Hooper, the film was shot by a crew of Austin film students and recent graduates, who headed to Round Rock, TX, in the summer of 1973, along with a cast of unknown actors. The team spent 32 days working in 100-degree heat to make the film, which eventually grossed $30 million. It went on to become a permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
MPI/Dark Sky Films is re-releasing a restored version in celebration of the film’s 40th anniversary, beginning with an unveiling at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX. The new version of the film will be released in theaters this summer with a brand new 4K transfer. This is the only transfer of the film to go back to the original 16mm A/B rolls.
The restoration was overseen by Todd Wieneke of Dark Sky Films. NOLO Digital Film used an ArriScan system to scan the film, and spent five months performing color grading and the restoration.
“This film probably needed the most restoration of any project we’ve done,” says NOLO engineer, Boris Seagraves. Shot on less expensive 16mm film stock and cheaper, tougher “reversal” stock, (which means there is no negative), the restoration started by taking the original 16mm film and transferring 120,960 frames to 4K scan. Scratches, film stains, chemical stains, dirt, torn perforations, rips in the film image and glue splices had to go through a pain-staking correction process frame by frame.
“There were hundreds, if not thousands, of instances where you’d find a splice mark cooked into the middle of a frame,” Seagraves recalls. “Some frames would have close to two hundred dirt events on them. We also spent a lot of time stabilizing the image. When doing a digital scan of a conformed 16mm print with a splice at every cut, it can be tough to achieve the high standards we all aspire to in the era of digital cinema. What might have passed as acceptable in the ‘70s looks jarring now. So we worked hard to smooth out the tremors that almost inevitably occur when scanning this type of film element. There were tears in the film that we had to digitally rebuild from adjacent frames. There were tens of thousands of things we were dealing with.”
NOLO colorist Michael Matusek estimates he spent about 50 hours on the color correction alone. He used a previous transfer of the film that had been supervised by Hooper as his guide to a rough color correction. Hooper then gave notes on this roughly-timed version, and the process of adjusting the color began.
Hooper, who helped score the film and did the sound design, was also deeply involved with the audio restoration.
“I’ve seen the film literally frame-by-frame and I’m still hearing and seeing things I never noticed before…it just adds a whole different level,” says Todd Wieneke.
“This 4K scan delivers such an intense reality that it feels like you’re really seeing through the film to the actual world behind it, “ adds Matusek.
"I haven't seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the big screen for many, many years,” notes Hooper. “This 40th anniversary restoration is absolutely the best the film has ever looked. The color and clarity is spectacular, displaying visual details in the film that were never before perceptible. The newly remastered 7.1 soundtrack breathes new life and energy into the film. I am very much looking forward to audiences experiencing this film as they never have before."