The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a harrowing horror classic that has no doubt been dissected (no pun intended) a million times since its release, but there’s one aspect that doesn’t seem to get discussed very much: A FREAKIN’ BLACK GUY SAVES THE DAY. For a black person to be the hero in any horror movie is rare enough, but in a revered, all-time great like this, it’s pretty much unheard of. (Granted, Scatman Crothers gave it his best shot in The Shining. RIP, Hallorann.)
Vintage horror classics are generally very Caucasian affairs, and until the final few minutes, TCM is no exception (the “black guy” archetype not becoming a standard until the ’80s). However, as “final girl” Sally (Marilyn Burns) flees the house of the cannibal clan that butchered her friends, running into the middle of a road as the crazed hitchhiker is swinging at her with a straight razor, out of nowhere comes the cattle truck Black Maria to run over the madman.
It screeches to a halt, and out jumps a pudgy, afro-wearing truck driver (Ed Guinn) in a yellow shirt, a roly poly black knight determined to save the white woman in distress (MISTAKE #1: DON’T SAVE WHITE WOMEN! IT’S A TRAP!). When he sees Leatherface chasing her, though, he turns tail and jumps back in the truck, not bothering to usher her in first (BONUS POINTS! WHAT HAS SHE DONE FOR YOU ANYWAY?).
He pulls her inside and manages to close the driver’s side door as Leatherface begins sawing away at it. The door is metal, so all the chainsaw does is scuff the paint job — and yet, for some reason, Sally and the truck driver hop out the passenger side and start running away on foot (MISTAKE #2: YOU’RE FAT! WHY ARE YOU RUNNING?), as if the truck is no longer a viable means of escape. (Maybe director Tobe Hooper couldn’t afford to have Leatherface shred the tires?)
Anyway, “running” is a generous word to describe the truck driver’s lumbering escape attempt, and when the not-exactly-fleet-of-foot Leatherface catches up to him WHILE CARRYING A CHAINSAW, he turns around and hurls a wrench at the masked killer, remarkably knocking him down and causing him to accidentally take a chunk out of his leg with the saw. (BONUS POINTS! CLEARLY A BLACK QUARTERBACK CANDIDATE — LORD KNOWS HE’S NO RUNNING BACK — FRUSTRATED BY THE RACIST ROLE LIMITATIONS IMPOSED IN SPORTS DURING THAT ERA.)
Inexplicably, even though Leatherface is now hobbled and Sally is jumping into the bed of a passing pickup truck (This is the busiest “backwoods” road I’ve ever seen in a horror movie.), the truck driver keeps hoofing it on foot rather than join her in the escaping pickup, which heads in the opposite direction. (MISTAKE #3: DIDN’T YOU SEE WHAT I SAID ABOUT MISTAKE #2???)
Thus, although he appears on screen for little more than a minute, this nameless trucker becomes the unsung hero of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (The white pickup driver no doubt got most of the credit.)
Whatever became of him is one of the great mysteries of horror. He probably died out there on one of those back roads, either on the business end of a chainsaw or, more likely, from a massive coronary. But I like to imagine he pulled some sort of magical, Shawshanky escape and is somewhere lying on a beach, sipping a Mai Tai and enjoying his resolution never to help another white woman again.