Earlier this year, when Christopher Lee passed away, he was really the last of the great horror icons from my generation. Along with Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, playing updated versions of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and a variety of other different monsters, these were the famous actors known for their horror roles that I grew up on. The next generation grew up on the likes of Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, and of course, Leatherface.
Gunnar Hansen was the first one to wear the human skin mask, chase dumb kids who wandered on his property, and dance with the chain saw. And no one did with such style as Hansen. He showed us fans, that Leatherface was much more than a huge brute with a deadly saw, but a disturbed and troubled young man, with some obvious social issues. But this came out in Hansen’s performance, which is even more incredible when you know what these poor actors went through to get this film actually made.
My very first trip to New York City was for the Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors convention in 1990. From what I’m told this was also Hansen’s first movie convention, and I was honored to be able to meet him, get an autograph, and even get a photo with him. Since that show, Hansen had attended many, many cons, getting to meet thousands of his fans, and he always left an impression with them. One would think that after seeing him appear at so many shows in the last 25 years, that one would get tired of hearing about TCM, or that there wouldn’t be anything new we could learn about it or the making of it. But then in last year, Hansen published The Chain Saw Confidential, about the making of this notorious film, and it just blew my mind. (You can read our review of the book HERE). This book showed just what Hansen, and the rest of the crew went through, and that this film wasn’t just a fluke, but made by some very talented kids who were trying their best to make a good film. And now 40 years later, we all know that they did. And Hansen was a big part of that.
This morning, the news of his passing yesterday was splattered over my Facebook page like blood on Marilyn Burn’s face. To me, that shows how many people that he had connected with over the years. He was only 68 years old, taken from us due to pancreatic cancer. This really is some saddening news. The genre really has lost a modern icon. He will be missed, but never, never forgotten. But buzz of the saw maybe be silent today, but the resonating sound it made 40 years ago, will always be heard. And with each new generation of horror fans, that sound will increase its power.
In TCM3, the tagline reads “The Saw is Family”. And today, us horror fans have lost one of our’s.