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Gunnar Hansen

Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface (1974).

I just read that Gunnar Hansen died at 68 years of age. Few people have ever been more iconic to Horror as Hansen’s incarnation of Leatherface in Tobe Hooper’s original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974).

It remains a deserved classic of the genre, a Horror movie that truly horrifies, but with a grimy, gritty elegance that is perhaps lost on people who aren’t fans of the genre. Hansen’s hulking portrayal of the ghastly Leatherface gave real life to a monster who terrified millions of moviegoers.

Hansen’s physicality and Hooper’s brilliant direction created a visceral, unforgettably harrowing experience:

Ending of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (if this is a spoiler for you, lordy)

Even if you never watch the movie (although you should: it’s a classic for a reason), the above scene communicates just how effective a monster Hansen created in his performance as Leatherface. Only Nick Castle (“the Shape” — aka, Michael Myers, the same age as Hansen) had that kind of 1970s Horror icon stature as Hansen’s Leatherface.

And I always have to give credit to the beautiful (yes, beautiful) “chainsaw ballet” Hansen did at the end of the original movie, the last, searing image of madness incarnate:

Leatherface Chainsaw Dance

It’s epic, almost operatic and beautiful, and we owe it to Gunnar Hansen’s physical interpretation of Tobe Hooper’s singular direction.

Hats off to Hansen, who occupied cinematic monstrosity in a way that will forever stand tall, is as iconic as any of the big characters of movie Horror.