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Tabula Rasa

The Yattering

Tabula Rasa#3, July 1994

Q: What's the difference between Casablanca and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
A: In Casablanca they didn't know who was going to win the war.

It's easy to watch Michael Curtiz's 1942 flick and forget that our comfortable view of the Nazi menace soundly spanked wasn't shared by those on the other side of the camera, easy to be interested in more aesthetic concerns (mainly consisting of Peter Lorre). Which is not to say the production doesn't have its ambiguities, far from it.

Not as easy, for some, to watch Tobe Hooper's 1973 flick, a great little film whose ambiguities are on a different level. This is post-Vietnam we're talking about here, long before the personal pain of the attendees and witnesses of the conflict would give way to more political and then more objective concerns.

I don't know about this, really. The Gulf War seemed more of a nuisance than anything, and nobody really died. At least not on television, which was more concerned with logistics and hardware and being lied to by the US military.

But there is a lot of pain in Texas, certainly more outrage than viscera, and if the good guys are good home-grown Americans, then so are the bad guys, and they are both full of their little morbid fantasies and shrines to strange gods.

(Long before the teenage slasher, Texas has perhaps the best defined group of teenage 'victims' we've ever seen, and its success is no accident of time.)

Texas II is another great little film, more of a black comedy than anything, more fun, really. But we're not supposed to fun at such things (or so somebody has decreed). Not supposed to have black comedies or parodies in the extreme, or ambiguous moral stances or saying to hell with the world for an hour or two or more.

Not supposed to have a personal response to all that surrounds us, including the pain, because the wars are long past. Aren't they?


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