SEAT AT THE BACK - SCRIBBLES! ~ It's that time of year again: THE RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL in London! On now.. See you there!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014


Some spoilers tied to the dinner table below - if you haven't seen it, watch 'TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE' before reading!
Remembering the life and career of screen horror scream queen, Marilyn Burns, who has died way too young - at 64, I discovered a film in pre-production and in which she would have starred. The film is called MINDFLIP (directed by Ken Rowe). A description (on IMDb) couldn't be more poignant: 'Marilyn Hardesty, an aging horror film icon is determined to live on in the body of an unwitting host. In order to cheat death and revitalize her film career, she enlists the aid of Dr. Laurence Fine, a brilliantly twisted neurobiologist, and Norman Baetz, her boyfriend/man-servant.'
Ironically, Marilyn's career was pretty much on the rise. Another film - IN A MADMAN'S WORLD, is in post-production, and released last month is one that sounds suspiciously like another of those Bible-Belt cannibal shockers (that Marilyn's been there and done, quite often) called SACRAMENT (2014). Other cult films (from some time back) include Tobe (Texas Chainsaw/ Poltergeist) Hooper's cult croc nightmare DEATH TRAP (1977) and the low budget oddity that H.R. Giger, Alien's designer, came up with the poster for (though quite why - nobody really knows) - the futuristic toxic slime gangfest (and early VHS tape cult movie beyond all rational belief) FUTURE-KILL (1985).

Marilyn Burns returned to Chainsaw territory, having first come to prominence in the outlandish, once banned, rural cannibal horror THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (way back in 1974), in the terrific TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (2013) - a perhaps surprisingly nostalgic, youthful, stylish reboot in which Burns returns as the grandmother of Heather Miller who has *SPOILER ALERT* the Leatherface (chainsaw wielding lunatic of the whole franchise) bloodline within her. That bloodline has manifested itself in the shapely, kick-ass frame of Alexandra Daddario. It was a fine return to franchise, and revved up the chainsaw that still lurked within Marilyn's blood.



There was a time, in the UK, when the original chainsaw nightmare was banned. Isn't it stupid? It seems crazy now, but this was how it used to be in the UK in the 80s and 90s, post-'video nasty' panic attacks. The movie tells the story of a group of friends travelling across rural redneck country and breaking down somewhere in the middle of 'You're Dead - USA'. They encounter a family of cannibals with a real bad seed among other pretty bad seeds - that man is Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) who has a penchant for chainsaws and meat hooks and chasing nubile young girls, like Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns). The film is shot initially in bright sunshine and throughout with a loving indulgence in the beauty of the natural landscape - the film's finale a dance to the death where the reflections of the sun's rays are as important as the adrenaline-fuelled final chase between Leatherface and Sally.

Well known and remembered as a big screen screamer (and boy does she scream in the middle slice and beyond of Texas Chainsaw), Burns is probably better remembered as the girl who got away and - to an extent - kicked ass; inspired modern day (worthy) pretenders like Alexandra Daddario who was equally adept as kicking Leatherface where it hurt and whose powerful role clearly owed Sally Hardesty a real debt.


The original Chainsaw was - by many accounts - a brutal nightmare at times to film (in a good way - in a 'they don't make 'em like that anymore', kind of way); more real blood accidently flowing from cast through tough, demanding filming than anything ever seen on screen (a remarkably bloodless affair for a film with such a horrific reputation).

Marilyn Burns is an actress truly rooted in the golden era of proper rough and elegantly realised horror movies. She will, to so many fans who all speak of how generous, affectionate and friendly she was in person to everyone she met - be truly missed. And remembered - as the girl that Leatherface couldn't quite catch.

I first saw THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in London in the late 90s, the week the ban was lifted. Maybe the same day even, I can't quite remember. But I remember the fear I felt walking in to the cinema; I remember the seat I sat down in - I remember the terrible screaming (of Leatherface and Sally especially). This was a film where sound was the main artery of horror and the two leads of Leatherface and Sally Hardesty danced a bizarre ritual across a rural landscape; like a spider and a fly. And nobody once guessed that Marilyn Burns was the spider. 

Marilyn Burns (1950-2014)

words: mark gordon palmer

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