In 1974, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre premiered in Austin Texas. It starred a 6'4" 300 lb. poet and writer as the chainsaw-wielding killer who would go on to become the face of the movie and its many, many sequels. Everyone in the film was an unknown or new to acting. It was low budget, and there was no indication of the phenomenon the film would become. The film was touted as being "based on a true story" even though this was a complete lie. The Films director and co-writer Tobe Hooper said that this was in response to all the lies that were being told by the government and media about the Vietnam War, which was ongoing at the time. Whatever the reasons, this bit of fiction would add just enough of mystique to the film for it to become a hit. 44 years later, some people STILL believe that the events of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre occurred.
The production was a rough one. It was filmed in the summer in Round Rock, Texas, near Austin. Central Texas can get brutally hot in the summer, and the Summer of 1974 was no exception. Temperatures often shot past 100 degrees during the filming, and many of the cast members had to wear rubber masks during the shoot. Costumes could not be washed due to a fear of changing the colors of the fabric. By all accounts, it was a smelly uncomfortable mess every day that the cameras rolled.
But in the end, greatness was made. The film was a success, in its way. It was banned in several countries (The UK did not lift their ban on it until the 90s) on account of its gore and violence. The idea of a chainsaw-wielding masked killer has become so iconic that it is now really a bit of a cliche. The concept of a family of inbred cannibal killers luring people to their lair in some remote part of the countryside is also one that has been aped and imitated by so many movies that it lacks the punch that it once had. But in 1974, those ideas, those cliches were bright and shiny and new. They were the things of nightmares and so they have remained to this day.
I think the movie still holds up even in 2018. Sure some parts of it have become trite and commonplace, but TTCM was the originator of many of these familiar tropes. The film has a grainy look that somehow just WORKS for the kind of movie it is. It makes the film seem like a half-remembered nightmare. And that, I would propose, is the highest compliment one can give a horror film.