The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Opening Was A Pure Ridiculous Accident

One thing about the late, great Tobe Hooper: He left the ding-dang-diddly dog alone, whether it was intentional or not. Of all the things in "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," the 1973 horror picture contains a lovely deception not unlike the shower scene in "Psycho," in that you think you saw more bloodshed than you really saw. One common horror trope that escapes the spinning Poulan 306A blades is that of the slaughtered domesticated pet.

There are plenty of memorable, notorious images from Hooper's influential take on the dysfunctional American family, mostly from its Large Adult Son Leatherface, who has sliced and diced his way to icon status through its eight sequels and prequels. The latest entry in the franchise has racked up a hefty human body count, but thankfully — a spoiler surely no one would complain about — no dogs perish in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." One of the '74 film's tone-setting shots involved a dead armadillo lying roadside, plunging viewers into the unforgiving world from which the Sawyer family comes. The "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" making-of documentary reveals the shot was purely an accident. Hooper explains that the script was supposed to begin with a shot of the burning sun, with a dissolve into the glassy eye of a dead dog in the road. But the horror gods intervened with other options.

How it happened

As "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" art director Robert Burns explains:

"But they got out to shoot that, and God had given them the most wonderful gift in the world. There was this dead horse by the side of the road. This never happens, you never see a dead horse lying on the side of the road. This was the perfect thing, this giant dead horse covered with flies, the perfect thing to shoot and pull up to this thing. But they didn't want to shoot that because their delicate sensibilities meant that they'd have to get close enough to shoot it and it would stink. I was out driving around the countryside and saw a freshly killed armadillo that had just been hit by a car. So I took it home, and got a book about how to do taxidermy and I taxidermied this armadillo, just for the hell of it."

On top of the sudden bit of luck — for production more than for the armadillo — Tobe Hooper was uneasy about using a dog or a horse in any case, calling the depiction of any domesticated dead animal "horrible" in the making-of documentary.

As a bonus: Other horror movies wherein the dog survives to the end include "The Lost Boys," "Poltergeist," "The Invisible Man" (2020), and "Mama." Happy viewing!