Actors Gunnar Hansen (front left) as Leatherface, Jim Siedow (front right) as Old Man, John Dugan (back right) as Grandfather and Edwin Neal (back left) as Hitchhiker in a publicity shot for the slasher film 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, 1974.  (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's Bare-Bones Budget Meant Bringing Real Skeletons
To Set
1974’s "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" hails from the era of practical effects and has since become a multi-million dollar franchise. The original film operated on a measly budget of $60,000 and, as the art department could not rely on today’s digital effects and intricate prosthetics, they made some tough, crazy creative decisions, including using animal cadavers and real human bones.
The crew decided against poor-quality plastic replicas that would read as false on screen and went the non-traditional route when sourcing their materials. The choice wasn’t only practical, but according to director Tobe Hooper, “it was less expensive to get real human skeletons from India than to buy plastic reproductions,” and while the props looked terrifying, they smelled even worse.
"You needed a lot more light back then to shoot a film. So the lights would cook the [bones]," Hooper recalled. As though the mix of cremated animal corpses and cooked human bones wasn’t enough to upset stomachs, an art department experiment involving a chicken head and the improper use of formaldehyde worsened the foul on-set stench.