Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sally Go 'Round the Chainsaw: Marilyn Burns (1949 - 2014)

Whenever I hear actors talk about how hard their job can be, I usually roll my eyes. Yes, it may be challenging, but at the end of the day you're still just pretending. But when Marilyn Burns discussed the trials she faced while shooting The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I took her at her word. No one could watch that film or Ms. Burns' performance in it, and not walk away in awe.

Burns died on Aug. 5, and although she appeared in other horror films, the hour-plus of sustained hysteria she delivered in TCM remains her crowning achievement in film. Sweaty, bug-eyed and screaming for most of the last half of the movie, Burns added an emotional edge to a film packed with lunatics, serving as a terrified audience surrogate trapped in a living nightmare.

It was a physical performance in hot, often fetid conditions, and Burns sustained a number of injuries during filming -- that black eye, she said, was real. In one of her last interviews (posted on ScreenCrush), Burns remembered the shoot this way: "Everyone wanted to forget about it after the misery of the whole shoot, listening to that agonizing chainsaw, smelling all of the smells, watching the decay of rotting chicken on the set. It was disgusting. It was miserable."

This year marks the 40th anniversary of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Burns, who lived in Texas for most of her life, was 65.

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