It’s been about 43 years since the release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. During of which, the monument film spawned 8 installments and lost 6 cast members (Marilyn Burns-Sally, Gunnar Hansen-Leatherface, Jim Siedow-Drayton, Paul A. Partain-Franklin, John Henry Faulk-Narrator and sadly as well the recently deceased Master Of Horror Tobe Hooper). The film gained famed for, pretty much, grossing us out while also setting way for slasher classics like John Carpenter’s Halloween and then some. The sheer terror of the buzz saw, ignited with Hooper’s classic , to this day shrives to continue, yet from the look of the most current prequel, it looks like the gas might have just run out. In other words: Reviews sucked on Leatherface’. Which lead me back to the original territory, The original, Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Your fearless reporter (whom also has his *Cough, Cough, shameless promotion, Cough* own horror update page) tracked down, Chainsaw’ star Teri McMinn, whom set aside time to sit and answer ALL my questions rose from revisiting the OG, in great detail. Check it out!
Tom Holland’s Terror Time: In Texas Chainsaw’ as Pam, you’re an animal activist, or at least seem to be one and have an interest in astrology. Is that true for yourself out of character? In other words: What parts of your character in Chainsaw’ reined true to yourself?
Teri McMinn: At the time I filmed Chainsaw, I wasn’t yet a vegetarian. About 4 years ago, I went vegetarian. I’m now 99% vegetarian. As far as my interest in astrology, I’d been reading my daily horoscope since my early teens. I was 21 when we started filming and turned 22 on August 18th, around the time the picture taken of me sitting on the steps of the Sawyer house, (the picture of me that is on Wikipedia). I wouldn’t say I was as interested in astrology as Pam was. She was truly studying it, which I’d never done. I learned a lot from her!
THTT: [In Chainsaw] Did you ever question all the low angle shots? I.e the shorts scene
TM: Yes, [and I was] very troubled [by them]. The day we filmed the scene of me walking up to the house, Dotty Pearl (make-up artist), was touching up my make-up near the steps and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Daniel Pearl, our DP/cinematographer was lying down under the swing with his camera. I asked Dotty why Daniel was under the swing. She mumbled “I don’t know…” I asked the director and he told me Daniel was going to follow me up to the house from the swing. That was when I realized if I was sitting in the swing and Daniel and his camera were under it, the camera was [at] 14 inches from my rear-end. I told him there was no way I was going to film it. We argued and and argued. Finally, Tobe [Hooper] was exasperated with me and said, “Awww, goddamnit, Teri… we’re gonna shoot around it!!” I wasn’t happy at all, but I unwillingly agreed. “OK…” He was so right. They did shoot around IT… all around IT!! I was horrified when I went to a matinee showing of the film in Tomball, Texas, a tiny town right outside Houston, where I was born and raised. A friend and I’d driven down from Dallas to see the film. I was nervous to see myself, my work on film, and especially worried about THAT particular scene. I literally hid my face in my hands and sunk low in my seat, as I watched myself get up from the swing. It was agony. It seemed like it took forever as I watched [myself] slowly walking toward the steps, calling, “Kirk” over and over and over. I thought I sounded like a parrot. And, There IT Was, in cinemascope and vivid technicolor. I was mortified for 35 years! The truth is I was actually worried about my mother and my Aunt Gerri seeing IT. I didn’t realize they’d never go to see the film… ever. So you see, all my worrying was really a total waste of time and energy.
When I first came”out” as ‘Pam’, in 2008, and joined the cast at my first horror convention, after three decades in anonymity, I was shocked and delighted to learn that fans loved the scene and that it’s actually used in directing classes around the world for young filmmakers. Of course, it’s hard to remember, or especially for young folks to realize how different things were in the early 70’s. What was shocking, or even borderline in 1974, was nothing even five to ten years down the road. Things began to change in social mores and in film pretty quickly in the 70’s. Everything was changing, the music, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war, the peace movement, drugs, the oil prices skyrocketed. As you see in the film, at that time even getting gas was tough. It was often hard to find and many times there were long lines. I go into all that, the history of that time, in my stories, particularly in “Pam Lives! Part II”
THTT: Did you have any flames on set? To put it more clearly, were you involved with any of your cast-mates on the film?
TM: No, I was dating someone at that time, but no-one connected to the film. Bill (Vail) and I hung out on the set together a lot between our scenes. We discussed our characters, came up with Pam and Kirk’s history, our background and relationship together. Marilyn [Burns], Allen [Danziger], Bill, and I spent many hours together, talking, waiting for clouds to pass, or for the crew to set up the next shot. Paul (Partain) ‘Franklin’, liked to stay in character, so he kind of stayed apart from us.
THTT: I heard at one point the chickens in the Sawyer home were real chickens, as well as, it was quite hot on set. I gotta’ ask… the smell had to be sickening. No?
TM: There was that one poor little chicken in the cage in the room Pam trips over the bucket and falls in all the feathers, the bone room. I don’t recall any other chickens. The only scenes where there was a smell, were the dinner scenes that went on for way, way too long, and the food was beginning to go bad with all the heat and the hot lights they had to use. Fortunately, I wasn’t in any of those scenes.
If you Google the temperature in Austin, TX for July/August 1973, you see it was between 95-100 degrees every day. We were outside in the heat all day, always trying to stay in the shade when we weren’t filming. We had no air-conditioned trailers. We did get a few lawn chairs after the first week as I recall, but the first week we sat on the porch, or the steps. The swing was still up on the porch the first two weeks of filming, so we took turns in that, and there was also a hammock. We took turns in that, too. Filming is a LOT of sitting and waiting.
When we filmed the scenes inside the van we had the director, cinematographer, and sound guy in the back, and the five of us (the actors) inside together, so eight people sweating. The last two days we filmed with the hitchhiker, so that made nine people sweating together.
What most people watching the film don’t realize is, the windows had to be closed to block road noise, and if the van had AC, we couldn’t have turned it on, because of the noise. I don’t think it had AC anyway. That was brutal for all of us. If you notice, the sun is high and it’s already very hot, but trapped inside a van all day with eight people [IS] HOT. When we’d stop between scenes, the doors of the van would open and we’d all pile out and breathe.
THTT: If you were to rewrite The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, would you change anything? I mean obviously the answer would be “yes and save Pam” but other than your character’s demise, would you change ANYTHING?
TM: [Actually I already have] Here are Pam’s three stories that might interest you. They can be found in the Notes on both my personal page, where you messaged me, and later I posted them in Pam’s notes. If you read them on my personal page, where they were first posted, you’ll see the many reviews from fans were unanimously raves. —-I posted the links to Ms. McMinn’s stories below; CHECK EM’ OUT!—-
THTT: What are your thoughts on the Chainsaw’ franchise’s course of direction? Or more specifically the Texas Chainsaw’ prequel, Leatherface?
TM: You should know, I have nothing whatsoever to do with any of the other TCSM films, or the TCSM franchise, other than the fact that I played ‘Pam’ in the first film of the franchise.
The first TCSM ’74 obviously has little to do with the all the other TCSM films that followed, both in storylines, timelines, or the main characters, Pam, Sally, Jerry, Kirk, and Franklin.
The killers, later called the “Sawyer” family varied from one film to the next, including Leatherface. In my opinion the follow up films in the franchise are each, one separate entities.
I have no opinion on any of them, including the new one you ask me about, ‘Leatherface’, the prequel.
Teri McMinn’s stories you’ll find below. This is your fearless reporter signing off.
Teri McMinn Facebook.
Terri McMinn’s “Pam Lives” saga
The Hardesty’s -1951-1962
A School of Delight – The Early Years