On this edition of Parallax Views, it’s a Halloween hangover episode where politics and horror movies collide! Martin Harris, author of Leatherface vs. Tricky Dick: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as Political Satire, joins me to examine filmmaker Tobe Hooper’s 1974 cult classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in the context of the turbulent political scandal it was made in the midst of: Watergate and the fall of President Richard Milhouse Nixon. Believe it or not, Hooper himself made references to how his infamous film was influenced by the political climate of the 1970s. Much was going on when the film was being made. U.S. economic woes were increasing while gas shortages impacted the nation. The leftovers of the psychedelic 60s counterculture were wondering about in the aftermath of the Manson Family killings and Altamont. The Vietnam War was winding down but its effect on the American psyche was looming large. The rural/urban divide was growing. And Richard Nixon, with the help of his cronies like G. Gordon Liddy, plotted to break-in to the Democratic National Convention in what would become of the biggest scandal in American political history. Harris and I discuss all this and much more in this fascinating conversation that also delves into the parallels between Leatherface and Richard Nixon, the character of “The Old Man” (played by Jim Siedow) in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Richard Nixon, Irving Kristol’s “The Nightmare of Watergate” and the irrationality of Watergate, the dark comedy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a historical overview of the Watergate scandal and the way it was experienced by Americans at the time, Gerald Ford’s comments about Watergate as “our long national nightmare”, Hunter S. Thompson’s commentaries on Watergate and his invocation of the horrific and grotesque when writing about it, “Saturn in Retrograde” and the implications of the cosmic in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, satires of the Nixon era as it was happening, the infamous White House “Saturday Night Massacre” under Nixon, the valence of Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel’s production company being called Vortex Inc., the circularity of both The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Watergate wherein the “horror folds in on itself”, the chilling opening of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the narration by John Larroquette, criminal discovery in Watergate and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the villains of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as conspirators engaged in cover-ups of crimes, the character of “The Hitchhiker” (played by Edwin Neal), the Leatherface mask and the Nixon mask, Leatherface’s formality of dress (ie: tie and suit), tensions between “old ways” and “new ways” and tradition vs. youth in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Nixon and the Southern Strategy, Tobe Hooper’s experimental film Eggshells and its relationship to the 1960s counterculture, the power of the Presidency and draconian measures in the Nixon era, the rise of astrology and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, political lies and the lie that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was “based on a true story”, the popularity of astrology in times of uncertainty and Nixon’s relationship with astrologer Jeane Dixon, political allegory vs. political satire, satire as a means to comment on real life matters in indirect ways, and much, more!
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