18 June 2024

Marilyn Burns' appearances in two Tobe Hooper films must make her one of the all-time masochists. Seriously, this stalwart actress is a real trooper.

As Sally Hardesty in 1974's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, she is covered with a sack and poked with a stick...and jumps twice (!) through glass windows.

Did we mention the endless taunting at the dinner table by "Leatherface" and his charming family...and that she's hit in the head with a hammer by Grandpa? And that is only some of the trauma she's forced to go through. Needless to say, the Sally character screams non-stop through all this.

Ed Neal, her co-star who played the crazy hitchhiker, has recalled what an ordeal the shooting was for everyone involved. But it was especially hellish for Ms. Burns, whose onscreen histrionics mirrored her experience making the film.

Despite this, she came along for the ride in Hooper's Eaten Alive (1976). It was pretty much more of the same. She played a vacationer who unwittingly stumbles upon a hotel - run by a madman who feeds his guests to his pet alligator. Although the film was not quite the success that Chainsaw had been, her performance was once again a standout.

That same year, she gave what is probably her best performance - in the TV-movie Helter Skelter. Her role as Linda Kasabian, the Charles Manson follower whose testimony helped lead to the convictions of the cult leader and many of his followers, is sensational.

Perhaps showing she can never quite shake the movie that embedded her into the minds of horror fans the world over, Burns had an uncredited cameo as a patient on a gurney in 1994's The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

With a quintessential face representative of the '70s, the talent of honest simplicity that Burns brought to her roles (usually as terrified victim) only serves to remind us of the at-ease, naturalism that permeated the horror films from our favored bygone era.

Eaten Alive 1976
Helter Skelter 1976
Future Kill 1985
Kiss Daddy Goodbye 1981
The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1994
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974
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