Chain Saw Confidential by Gunnar Hansen - SIGNED!
Hardcover edition. Book is now out-of-print. Signed by Gunnar Hansen during the Coast City Comicon in early November 2013.
Sadly, Gunnar passed away almost exactly two years after this event, on November 7, 2015. He was a great guy, and a darn good author to boot. Here's to Gunnar!
As a longtime horror movie fan, this is one of those books that I never thought to ask for, but when they announced its publication, I could hardly wait for it to come out. After devouring it in three sittings, I can say I was not disappointed. Quite the opposite. This book is a horror fan's delight.
There are certain horror films whose position in the pantheon of the genre are as solid as the stone pedestals we horror fans place them on. These are the films whose effect and mastery of that effect are undeniable. Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of them.
This book wholly does the film justice. Gunnar Hansen is not just a pretty face who starred as the original Leatherface in the 1974 film Texas Chain Saw Massacre. He is also a published author who has written page after page of non-fiction and poetry over the intervening years. In other words, when you read this book, you are reading Gunnar's writing, not that of a ghostwriter -- which is not to say he did this all alone.
One of the tremendously interesting features of this book is the input from the other cast and crew members that worked on the movie. Not content to simply rely on his own recollections, Gunnar smartly contacted everyone he could, and interviewed them in-depth about their recollections, in effect generating a panoramic view of their group's experiences that hot summer in Texas. Because of his hard work putting all of this together, all these little details metamorphose into a real story that is surprisingly pleasant to read (in spite of all the incoherent and horrific details). Without his labor of love, such an account might never exist. For that we thank him.
The book is filled chronologically with page after page of Gunnar's individual recollections, which parry back and forth with those of the rest of the cast and crew. Everyone has their own take on strange and favorite details from the experience. Everyone also has their own blanks spots where they rely on the others to fill in the gaps, because the filming was excruciating and exhausting, and very little of it made sense at the time. But after all the chaos and agony, the important thing about the movie (which thankfully came out through the editing in the final version), was this: not only was all that suffering palpable in the film, but also, more importantly, it was transmuted into something that shines its dark and brilliant light from the screen even today.
The book as a whole continues this tradition of craftsmanship. Gunnar is an excellent writer, adeptly weaving his own memories in with the others', working from a solid foundation based on thorough research into the historic facts and figures. This volume, published by the folks at Chronicle Books, is beautifully designed and bound (yes, it has an honest-for-real sewn binding). For the uber-geek, it has a bibliography and a serious index. Even its chapter titles are entertaining and hearken to the dark heart of the film.
The one last fascinating element of the book is Gunnar's attempt to assimilate what Chain Saw means now. Leatherface pops up everywhere in memes and tropes. The chainsaw has come to embody a singular type of horror in movies and at haunt attractions all over the world. But most fascinating of all is the fact that despite the film's deeply traumatic effect on people, the fans still respond in the end with an outpouring of love for the people who were involved in it to an extent that boggles the mind.
I highly recommend this book to anyone fascinated by movie-making, to anyone who wonders what the heck all the fuss over the Texas Chain Saw Massacre was about, and to those who shake their head at that question, because they just know.
I am lucky enough to have this signed copy because I had the pleasure of being Gunnar's local retail representative during the weekend of November 9th and 10th at the Coast City Comicon. For two days, I got to hang out with Gunnar and his wife Betty, selling his book and chatting with them about all sorts of things. They came down to Portland from their home up the coast near Bar Harbor, Maine, where they live full-time, and have for some years now.
Gunnar was selling signed photos from his movie appearances, and on Saturday he participated in the Chainsaw Chili Cookoff at the Comicon with a number of other contestants. His chili was the only chili that was traditional Texas style, without any real bean quotient. I heard it was DELICIOUS!!!
Thanks for writing this book Gunnar! May you live on in its pages and out there in the cosmos for all time.