NOVEMBER 25 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : PIECES (1982)
WARNING: SOME SPOILERS AHEAD
Pieces provides a problem for me as a reviewer. I’m not exactly sure how I should approach it. Is it a serious slasher film? A spoof? A comedy? A commentary on the objectification of women? A completely inept exploitation movie with tits, ass, and gore that reaches Ed Wood levels of hilarity? Yes, it’s all these things – but mostly the last thing. Pieces came out in 1982/83 and was directed by Spanish-born Juan Piquer (who added the “Sim�n” to his name so English-speaking investor types would warm up to him). Besides this movie, he has a few other infamous titles to his name, one of which is the icky gross-out Slugs and another, the MST3K-fan favorite/ET-like Pod People. For Pieces, Piquer managed to get some Americans on board like the late Christopher George and his wife, TV star Lynda Day (they did some other movies together in the horror genre, like Day of the Animals and Mortuary). Also on board is Spaghetti-Western alum Frank Bra�a, the late UK actor Edmund Purdom (no stranger to Euro-Trash cinema himself), the very large, strange-looking Paul Smith (dubbed over by Edward Mannix), and various other ladies whose purpose is to get naked and then get chopped up with a chainsaw. The taglines for the movie probably didn’t take long to come up with – “You don’t have to go to Texas for a Chainsaw Massacre” and “Pieces: It’s exactly what you think it is” – hell, this movie practically sells itself. It plays just like a bad Italian exploitation shocker – the reveal that Joe D’Amato was one of the screenwriters comes as no surprise, as does the Goblin-influenced score by Carlo Maria Cordio (think Dawn of the Dead-lite).
The beginning sequence takes place in “Boston 1942″ where little Timmy is putting together a jigsaw puzzle of a naked woman. His mom bursts in, furious, and starts to abuse him and destroy his things. The kid then chops her up into little pieces and goes back to his puzzle. Forty years later, we are on a Boston university campus (not necessarily the Boston University, or UMass – my guess is it’s probably in Spain somewhere), and a girl studying on the lawn gets chopped up by a chainsaw-welding psycho. Yes, the kid from the beginning has returned to his murdering ways, and the trick here is to guess who it is. Our list of suspects include campus stud Kendall (Ian Sera), totally weird anatomy professor Brown (Jack Taylor), creepy groundskeeper Willard (Paul L. Smith), and the even creepier campus Dean (Edmund Purdom). The investigation is headed by Lt. Bracken (Christopher George), his assistant Holden (Frank Bra�a), tennis star-turned-undercover-officer Mary Riggs (Lynda Day George), and, um, campus stud Kendall, who for some reason is made an honorary deputy despite the fact that he is a suspect. Yes, Kendall’s involvement with the police force, which includes putting him on the case, showing him all evidence, and giving him the task of watching over Mary Riggs’ safety, is only one of the absolutely baffling and hilarious turns this film will take.
That the dialogue, dubbing, and acting are awful is a given. That doesn’t kill the entertainment value of this picture, it just enhances it. I am quite amused when a European production tries to pass itself off as American: A co-ed says out loud “There’s nothing like smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed!” (seriously, who says that?), all the cops have weird-looking uniforms and huge mustaches, the head detective tells a suspect “I don’t want to wait for the coroner’s opinion. Can you give me yours? Do you think that chainsaw could be the murder weapon?” A victim, swimming naked in a pool by herself (naturally) is reeled in by the killer using a net. She doesn’t appear to fight back (you know, like perhaps using her hands to remove the net from her head) and just lies there, looking sexy, while the killer revs up the chainsaw. Our heroine is attacked in the dark by an Asian guy doing kung-fu. She kicks him in the nuts and he goes down. The guy is later revealed to be Kendall’s kung-fu instructor, who gets up, says he ate bad chop suey, and runs off, never to be heard from again. (Contrast this scene with the immortal random-jogger-knows-kung-fu scene from the infamous Disco Godfather). There are lots of little oddities like this in Pieces – for example, a sequence at the beginning of the film has a girl on skates crashing through a plate of glass – a classic prank, right? Well, does the madman see this event, which triggers his murderous habits? Or is it just random? Who knows?
At other times, there are murders that are played serious. One girl pisses herself before being sawed in half, another is attacked viciously on a waterbed, which is almost artistic and stylish in its bloodletting. This is very much a chauvinistic film, except for the very end, which seems like Sim�n was throwing a bone to feminists. All the women are treated as pieces of meat, whether subject to a leering camera, a sex scene, a leotard-dominated dance recital, or the killings themselves, which are quite gruesome but not nearly as pornographic as a Fulci film (Fulci loved to keep the camera fixated on blood-spurting wounds, Sim�n would rather keep the camera on naked breasts). Lynda Day George’s character is drugged and thus reduced to a virtual mannequin at the end, who must be saved by the three male leads; she doesn’t even get to talk. The best joke, though, if I can call it that, is that the murderer is trying to recreate a Frankensteinian female from the body parts of his victims, and the finale (WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD) involves said creation emasculating the lead campus womanizer. Ah, so the female victims get their ultimate revenge by destroying the symbol of the male libido…then again, maybe Juan thought it would be a funny way to end the movie.
I haven’t even begun to touch on all the best “parts” of this flick, but I think you’ll get a good laugh at the infamous scene of Lynda Day’s overacting, where upon discovery of another body screams “BASTARD” at the top of her lungs, not once but three times! In light of all this goofiness, nudity, and gore, it seems useless to comment on the illogical aspects of the plot (chainsaw killings on campus and nobody seems to notice or care), unrealistic police procedures (and non-existent police manpower – this is Boston, right?), and the nonsensical ability of the killer to casually hide a chainsaw behind his back. Hey, don’t forget Kendall’s dweeby friend or the bizarre tennis sequences! Pieces is a bad movie, right down to the bone, but it’s also one of the most hilarious examples of exploitation trash I have ever seen. That’s definitely an achievement.
- Bill Gordon
NOVEMBER 25 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : PIECES (1982)
Ha ha! You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!
Pieces is not a film that I've heard that much about, but apparently it's kind of a big deal. In terms of pretty much ANYONE'S standards for technical achievement, this is a really bad movie in almost every aspect. But we horror fans are well-known for overlooking that sort of thing and appreciating a movie for what it does and what it is. I realized about 2 minutes into this flick that I was going to be doing just that.
This is the part where I tell you the plot: In 1942, a young boy brutally hacked up his mother with an ax after she chastised him for doing a puzzle with a nekkid lady on it. Cut to the present - well, 1982 - and some freako with a chainsaw is cutting up girls on a Boston college campus, only taking certain pieces (ha ha, get it? Pieces?) with him. A sweater-wearing nerd named Kendall, who also happens to somehow get hot blondes to proposition him for sex in the pool, gets involved in the investigation with Sergeant Dumb and Lieutenant Dumber. There's also a tennis player girl named Mary Riggs who's also a cop that goes "undercover" at the school to help catch the killer. This black glove wearing killer still has his favorite puzzle from childhood and is using its image to assemble a real lady puzzle. Why? Who cares.
Like I said, this movie is really bad. If I actually took the time to come up with a ratings system, Pieces would get something shitty like a 2 out of 5 or a 4 out of 10. But then I also kinda liked it. The casual movie-watcher who sees this film would probably dismiss it right away. Ah, but not weirdos like we horror fans. Bad dialogue, bad scripting, bad acting, and lots of tits and blood means that Pieces is not a bad movie - it is a CULT CLASSIC. It's "so bad it's good." It is cheese-tastic sleaze at its bloody best, and gosh darn it, we can love a movie like this AND think it's shit at the same time.
But exactly which crappy part of Pieces makes it crap (but good crap)?
I fear I would only permanently damage my brain by thinking too hard about all the things that don't make sense in this movie. Like, I'm not even going to ask for an explanation for the random appearance of an Asian dude throwing kung-fu kicks and punches at Mary when she's out "investigating" one night. There's just no point in trying to figure out where in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks that came from or what it has to do with the rest of the movie. Just watch it and laugh. That's what it's there for.
In the same fashion, at the beginning of the film we have a scene of the killer opening up his box of mementos from his murder of his mother. This is interspersed with another out of place action scene of a girl skateboarding down the sidewalk and running into a large mirror being carried by delivery men. I don't get it, and I don't want to.
The gore effects are actually not all that bad in Pieces, aside from the opening scene. In that instance, the ax the boy uses on his mother's head very obviously bounces off of her instead of actually sinking into her skull like it should, but it's all good later on. The part where the boy continues to do his puzzle whilst covered head to toe in blood makes up for that little bit. All the other kills are quite fun and wonderfully bloody. It's hard to pick a favorite. From the girl getting pulled out of the swimming pool by that bug and leaf scooper thing, to the waterbed attack where the killer shoves a knife into the back of the girl's skull and it comes out her mouth, to probably the best one where a topless girl is split in half in the bathroom, there is plenty of gore goodness for any horror fan to enjoy.
I always hate movies that portray police officers as morons but this was just ridiculous. Tennis pro/cop Mary never once says or does anything to make us believe that she is a cop. In fact, she doesn't even make us believe that she's a tennis pro, either, because in the one scene where's she's playing tennis, she kind of sucks. Lieutenant Dumber actually asks Kendall to keep an eye on Mary while on campus, and basically deputizes him when he should be one of their main suspects. I also love how they storm the dean's apartment when they know he's the killer. They bring no backup and Lieutenant Dumber shoots the lock on the door three, count 'em, THREE times to quietly announce that they've come to arrest him. Then when they find drugged Mary on the couch, they both leave Kendall alone with her to call the ambulance without even searching for the dean in the apartment. He's hiding behind the curtain, eejits.
I've never cared about giving away the ending to a film and I don't see why I should start now. After the killer dean is himself killed by police, Sergeant Dumb casually leans against a bookshelf revealing a freaky revolving door. Hanging up there is the real lady puzzle that the dean has been building from his pieces of girls and we get a great slo-mo shot of her falling on top of poor Kendall! Oh, but that isn't the end. After a random establishing shot, we're back in the apartment and as Kendall is walking out past the real lady puzzle corpse, she suddenly reaches up and grabs his crotch, managing to rip through his jeans with only her fingers and pull his balls off. Whuhhhhhh? Ah, we're back to the brain-hurting thing again. Best to just leave it alone like the rest of this movie and skip the wine for the cheese. The cheese is the best part.
Greatest line from Pieces: "Bastard! BASTARD! BASTARD!!!!!" Oh, this amazing dialogue was ingeniously delivered. Where is that girl's Oscar nod???
NOVEMBER 25 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : PIECES (1982)
Runtime: 89 minutes
Countries: USA and Spain Cast and Crew
Directed by Juan Piquer Simon
Written by Dick Randall and Joe D’Amato
Starring Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Ian Sera, Edmund Purdom, Frank Brana, Jack Taylor, and Paul L. Smith
Makeup: Pedro Camacho
Never before have I read a tagline for a movie that is so honest and close to the truth. Right under the jagged letters that announce the film’s title it reads: It’s exactly what you think it is! And brother, this movie most certainly is.
The cast and crew list of the film reads almost like a “Who’s Who” in exploitation films. We have Juan Piquer Simon heading the picture, the director who gave the world cinematic masterpieces such as Slugs and Cthulhu Mansion. Producer Dick Randall writes the script along with Anthropophagus and Buio Omega gore boy Joe D’Amato (working under the mysterious pseudonym of “John Shadow.” Ooooooh!). And everyone’s favorite gritty, raspy-voiced Christopher George (City of the Living Dead) starring as the intrepid but pretty much useless detective trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. Oh, and the guy who played Bluto in Robert Altman’s Popeye.
The mystery in question is a series of awesomely gory murders that are taking place on a Boston college campus. The heavy-breathing sicko has a nasty habit of stalking nubile young babes and then cutting them to smithereens with his handy dandy chainsaw.
A young student gets entangled in the mess when a potential bed buddy (HOW does this guy get laid?!) meets her end when she is netted out of the school pool and made into bite-size hors d’oeuvres. Lieutenant Bracken is on the case and has a whole gallery of unsavory personalities from the suspicious anatomy professor to the hulking gardener to choose from. But will he be able to intervene in time before the deranged maniac strikes again and completes his unholy puzzle of beautiful human flesh?! We sure hope not.
Something I’ve noticed with increasing amounts of distress (especially amongst the racks of your local video store) is that there are many, many movies that highlight certain aspects of a film only for the actual movie to fall short of what it was advertising. I would look at the movie Insane Cannibal Biker Maniacs from Hell, for instance, expecting to get what that movie was promising me. A lot of times these movies induce feelings of suicide before the opening credits are finished and let’s face it, most of the stuff you find there and the $5 dollar bin at Wal-Mart are pure trash. But not Pieces.
Although it is for movie lovers on a steady diet of sleaze and cheese, Pieces is such an incredibly fun-filled good time compared to most of the filth released these days that were edited in the director’s TV Production class. Pieces gives you exactly what you want. In FULL. And then pays you a nice tip.
I would go so far as to dare anyone to sit through a viewing of this movie and not crack a smile at least once. By all appearances the filmmakers look as if they were taking themselves at least somewhat seriously (the stalking scenes are especially effective with the killer’s shadow chasing the women down), but there are so many comedic elements in the movie that they give you the impression that Simon was laughing to himself behind the camera the whole time. The movie remains infamous amongst horror fans, a truly nasty nugget from the darkest corners of the grindhouse.
Some of the best moments include the historic “Bad Chop Suey” scene (if I described it anymore I would spoil it for the rest of you; suffice it to say that Dick Randall was producing a kung fu film at the time and decided to stick a Bruce Lee impersonator from that film into this movie. Scratching your head? Just watch and enjoy). Not to mention Lynda Day George’s Oscar-nominated scene where she angrily ejaculates “Bastard! Baaaastard! BAAAAAASSSSSTAAAAAARD!”
The music score fits the movie perfectly as well. And of course when I say it’s perfect I mean it’s hilariously cheesy. Not to mention a wide variety! In the opening credits and during the murder scenes we get a delicious taste of 80’s synthesizers and some rip-offs of Goblin. If slow and mellow is more your speed, then you’ll certainly enjoy the “sexy” scenes of females undressing set to softcore jazz music reminiscent of the porno you caught your dad watching. But don’t worry. All this is brightened up by the introduction of heart-pumping aerobics music, leg-warmers and all!
The print that I watched was from St. Clair Entertainment in a box set called “Cult Horror Collection.” You know, one of those packages that gather a bunch of horror films in the public domain and strings ‘em together for the price of $13.99? The picture and sound quality were just fine, giving it the proper grainy look that fits it so nicely.
Grindhouse Releasing/Box Office Spectaculars released an uncut and uncensored version in 2008, complete with interviews with Juan Piquer Simon and so many more goodies to name. If you haven’t been convinced already, I highly encourage you to go out and purchase this ditty. You’ll be doing yourself a GREAT favor.
This movie truly is a horror gem, a blood bath filled with just as much belly laughs as it is with intestines. Eli Roth is known to preview this film during his film festivals, much to the amusement of the horror-crazed (and probably slightly drunk) crowd. Pieces is made for that exact type of viewing. Call up a few friends, fill up the fridge with alcohol, and let the demented charm of this psycho slasher take hold of you by the cajones and give you the ride of your life. If there’s anything you should take into your heart from this movie, it should be this: “The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed at the same time.”
NOVEMBER 25 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : PIECES (1982)
LABEL: Arrow Video
REGION CODE: Region 0 PAL
RATING: 18 Certificate
DURATION: 82 mins
VIDEO: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.66:1)
AUDIOo: Optional English and Spanish original mono audio
DIRCETOR: Juan Piquer Simón
CAST: Christopher George, Jack Taylor, Paul L. Smith, Edmund Purdom, Lynda Day George
TAGLINE: PIECES. It's Exactly What You Think It Is
Spanish filmmaker Juan Piquer Simón's PIECES opens in 1942 as an adolescent boy assembles a nudie jigsaw puzzle on his bedroom floor when his mother bursts in putting an end to his healthy sexual curiosity. Overreacting she chastises the boy with taunts that he's a louse just like his father then smashing a picture of dear old dad against a mirror which shatters. While searching the boy's room for other naughty contraband she sends the boy to fetch a garbage bag whom returns instead with an axe which he thrusts repeatedly into her cranium, it's a blood fest and pretty damn graphic. With mother properly dead he sets aside the axe in favor of a handsaw which he uses to discombobulate her head which he places inside a closet and then sets about finishing-up the lewd jigsaw puzzle until the police, alerted by a worrisome nanny, arrive on scene. The boy slips into the closet where he is discovered by the police whom assume he's the survivor of an attack and not the fiendish culprit.
Some forty years later the adolescent murderer now a disturbed adult keeps mementos from the massacre hidden away in a box, inside are his mother's blood spattered flower print dress and shoes, plus the naughty jigsaw puzzle now stained with mother's blood. When the killer witnesses a young girl bizarrely skateboard into a pane of mirrored glass the death reawakens his blood lust and fascination with kinky jigsaw puzzles. Soon he sets about terrorizing a Boston area college slaughtering young ladies with a chainsaw, collecting body parts and assembling them into a perverse human jigsaw puzzle.
The first piece of the puzzle is a cute co-ed sprawled out on the campus lawn whose head severed is with a chainsaw, it's an artfully shot kill as her head spins through the air followed by a crimson wave of blood. The shocking murder is investigated by Lt. Bracken (Christopher George, THE EXTERMINATOR) and Sgt. Holden (Frank Brana, SLUGS) who arrive on campus to inform the Dean of Students (Robert Purdom, DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS) if their odd plan to place police woman Mary Riggs (Linda Day George, DAY OF THE ANIMALS) undercover as a tennis coach in an effort to suss out the maniac's identity. The list of suspects is pretty great, we have the suspicious, cock-eyed gardener Willard (Paul L. Smith, CRIMEWAVE) who is in pretty much every other scene with chainsaw in hand, the odd Prof. Brown (Jack Taylor, THE NINTH GATE), and young college student Kendall (Ian Sera, THE POD PEOPLE) who's one of the more likely suspects, so of course they deputize. With this brilliant dragnet in place what could possibly go wrong?
The investigation does little to deter our maniacal chainsaw slasher who stalks and dismembers several more young women in quick succession. The killer decked in the latest Giallo fashions sports a black trench coat, black leather gloves and a black fedora. His next victim he nets while she skinny dips in a pool and then dismembers her leaving a neat pile of severed limbs right next to the instrument of her death. When the body is discovered the Lt. calls Prof. Brown to the scene and asks if he thinks that perhaps the chainsaw next to the corpse, it's teeth covered in chunks of meat and gore, might possibly be the murder weapon, well duh. Our third victim is a dancer caught in an elevator by our stealthy sicko who somehow sneaks a running, yellow chainsaw onto a 5'x5' elevator. The woman recognizes the killer's identity but doesn't seem to notice the gas-powered chainsaw until it's too late. The effects in the film are surprisingly gruesome, there's plenty of disembowelment, dismemberment, chainsaw savaged flesh and stabbings perpetrated against mostly nude women. Two of the best kills are left for last, we get an artful Argento worthy slow-mo stabbing on a water bed and a gruesome locker room evisceration featuring the saw tearing flesh to bits, it's super gory. It may be a bit surprising just how much great gore is crammed into the silly film, particularly considering how goofy some of the film's more dramatic elements are. Let's not forget a nutty kung-fu professor which is perhaps the most random chop-suey fueled nonsensical moments in film history that will definitely leave you scratching your head.
One of my favorite scenes comes immediately following a the elevator death when all of the film's red-herrings are gathered together in a hallway looking suspicious beyond belief as lightning dramatically illuminates their faces, it's a completely hilarious moment straight outta an episode of Scooby-Doo. The film's finale is just outta this world with one shocking reveal careening preposterously into a shocking, ball-shredding ending that will leave you speechless or in stitches, maybe a bit of both. There's nothing else like it out there, not sure if the inherent camp is intended but I don't see how it possibly could be, this is the kind of stuff you just can't plan for and is most likely a happy accident of schlocky cinema. While there's no other film quite like it I would make a comparison toe Lucio Fulci's THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY which is equally gore-tastic while also uniquely absurd.
Working for the film are some great gore-sequences, it's impressive stuff. Also some funky English dubbing might actually enhance the film's charm not to mention some great appearances from Euro-sleaze all-stars, Jack Taylor, Christopher George, Edmund Purdom and the greatest red-herring of all time Paul L. Smith. The cinematography is above average for an early 80's slasher, too. Perhaps not on par with the works of Argento or Fulci but not too shabby either. Perhaps the most memorable quote from the film is Linda Day George's blood curdling shrieks of "BASTARD!" in a bizarre, oddly paced succession, it's weird and wonderful and par for the course.
DVD: Arrow Video presents PIECES fully uncut in anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1) and while I can't say for sure the transfer looks to be the same restored master as Grindhouse Releasing special edition. The PQ is quite good with some decent grain, saturated colors and acceptable black levels but it's not a film that's gonna blow you way when upscaled 1080p on your HDTV but it's quite watchable and from a clean print.
Audio options include both a English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and it's what you might expect from a mono presentation, not overly dynamic but clean sounding and the dialogue is clear and audible. Toggling back and forth between the English and Spanish options I see that the Spanish version has an alternate score from Librado Pastor (THE POD PEOPLE) which I didn't care for at all. On the other hand the CAM sourced library tracks from the English version were fitting if not spectacular.
Arrow Video would have been hard-pressed to compete with Grindhouse Releasing's supplements but I must say that High Rising Productions have risen to the occasion with some UK exclusives well worth owning. First we have a short intro from actor Jack Taylor, plus Pieces of Jack: An Actors Experience of Spanish Splatter (17:55) an interview with the euro-sleaze star of such film as THE GHOST GALLEON whom speaks of his introduction to acting at the age of six, moving from NYC to Mexico to pursue his craft, meeting Jesus Franco and working FEMALE VAMPIRE (1973), SUCCUBUS and THE GHOST GALLEON among others. He also recollects working with Juan Piquer Simon on THE FABULOUS JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, comparing the workings styles of Franco vs. Simon and his experiences on-set with co-stars Christopher George, Linda Day George , Edmund Purdom and Paul L. Smith. Taylor also speaks about the film's controversy, not realizing the satirical nature of the film and revealing that he's never watched PIECES.
The second featurette is Pieces of Deconstruction: Looking Back at a Grindhouse Gorefest (22:14) which features fond remembrances of this crazy slasher from filmmakers Scott Spiegel (INTRUDER) and Howard S. Berger, Fangoria editor Michael Gringold and film historian Santos Ellin Jr. all of whom lovingly recount their first experiences watching the film and their continued enjoyment of it.
The audio commentary with Arrow regular Calum Waddell and Fangoria's Tony Timpone is not so much a scene by scene deconstruction of the film as a fun conversation that occasionally highlight the film's greatest moments and some of it's history, distribution and reception, very entertaining and informative. My screener check disc arrived sans artwork, poster or booklet but they're detailed below in the special features summary.
- Introduction by star Jack Taylor(0:25) 16:9
- Pieces of Jack: An Actors Experience of Spanish Splatter – Actor Jack Taylor recollects his experiences of performing in Pieces (17:55) 16:9
- Pieces of Deconstruction: Looking Back at a Grindhouse Gorefest – Hostel producer Scott Spiegel, filmmaker Howard S. Berger, Fangoria's Michael Gingold and horror historian Santos Ellin Jr. reflect on the lasting legacy, and lacerations, of Pieces! (22:14) 16:9
- Audio Commentary with Fangoria magazine’s Tony Timpone, sharing first hand recollections of the golden age of slasher cinema, moderated by Calum Waddell
- Artwork by Jeff Zornow Must be Destroyed
- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
- Double-sided fold-out artwork poster
- Collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Stephen Thrower, author of ‘Nightmare USA’.
VERDICT: PIECES is an awful film that beyond reason is simply one of my favorite slashers of all time. It's a none too subtle demented chainsaw slasher that's utterly ridiculous and steeped in sleazy excess and for that it gets a high recommend from me. Arrow's DVD with exclusive content is worth a purchase even if you own the Grindhouse Releasing special edition. PIECES. It's exactly what you think it is ...a must own schlockfest!
NOVEMBER 25 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : PIECES (1982)
Pieces is one of those movies that's been on my to-watch list for years now. I've heard some horribly phenomenal things about it and could not wait to get my hands on a copy. The DVD goes for a hefty chunk of change on line so imagine my excitement when a friend let me borrow their copy. Excitement filled my brain like it does every time I watch an 80s horror film that has somehow eluded me over the years. Was this the second coming of The House on Sorority Row that knocked my socks off years ago? Or would it be more like my first viewing of Don’t Go in the Woods that left me wanting to bitch slap the shit out of everyone who recommended it. In the end I felt indifferent.
The prologue of the movie is astoundingly absurd and hysterical in the best way possible with a naughty little perverted boy playing with a naked lady puzzle. His curvy mother catches him and forces him to discard all of the contents of his spank bank. He instead discards of her with an axe in an anti Oedipus twist. Now I just have one question about this scene. Where the hell can I get one of those puzzles?!
We cut to about 40 years later or so and the supposed same little boy has now grown up and is dismembering sexy women on a New England college campus. The killer takes different pieces of each girl in a sick live action version of his childhood puzzle. Now he targets the young erection educing new teacher (who's really an undercover cop) of the college and it's up to some police detectives and the pimp mack daddy of the campus to find out who the killer is before he chops off her feet.
I totally dig the concept of the film, but the execution was less than stellar. For one thing, most of the characters that get butchered are introduced merely minutes before their gruesome demises. We have no victims who even remotely care about or identify with. There's no clear lead of the film either as the new teacher isn't really introduced until almost the midpoint. We spend WAY too much screen time with Pimp Mack Daddy. He's not interesting in the least bit and I don't understand how he's able to smash out all these smoke shows because by all accounts he's the definition of an uber goober.
The identity of the killer will come as no shock to anyone who's been paying the least bit attention to the movie. And the direction by Juan Piquer Simón is rather mediocre at best. Although he has set up some interesting shots, there's not enough to find it visually interesting. The movie was made for probably next to nothing and it definitely shows. Let's not even mention the ridiculous ending shot that exists solely to give the audience a last minute Carrie scare.
And can we talk about the script for a second? Sometimes brilliant and sometimes atrocious, it features some of the funniest effing lines which are enhanced to side splitting humor with the delivery by the bad actors. Such doozies include "the most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed at the same time" and "what if you gag me, huh, I wouldn't make any noises then" and of course my absolute favorite "YOU BASTARD!"...you have to see this one yourself to believe it. I also love how the killer gets into an elevator with an intended victim and hides the massive yellow chainsaw behind his back so she can't see it. Genius! If Pieces did anything right it was making the death scenes extremely brutally over the top (for the time).
When you're making a low budget horror movie with bad acting and a laughable script, you have to give the audience some reason to watch. We get a good amount of gore and quite a few tit shots. And for the women and the men of the same sex persuasion there's a blink and you'll miss it side view of Pimp Mack Daddy's magic stick. I also get a good chuckle out of the tagline for the movie "Pieces...it's exactly what you think it is". Yup...it was about pieces. I was tempted to give the movie a lower rating, but despite its failures, I still rather enjoyed it for it due in most part to the unintentional humor.
Even with a great concept, Pieces ended up being just an average low budget early 80s slasher. Worth a watch for its saving graces of ample nudity, great gore moments, and unintentionally hilarious script. It's not a good movie by any means, but it was entertaining and you could do a lot worse.
NOVEMBER 25 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : PIECES (1982)
Inside you'll find David Harley's review of Grindhouse Releasing's two-disc Deluxe Edition of PIECES. In the film a psychopathic killer stalks a Boston campus, brutally slaughtering nubile young college co-eds, collecting body parts from each victim to create the likeness of his mother who he savagely murdered with an axe when he was ten years old! PIECES is a wild, unrated gorefest, with enough splatter and sleaze to shock the most jaded horror fan.
PIECES is a film that I've wanted to see for a really long time. “You've got to see it to believe it” is what I kept hearing from fellow genre fans over and over again. On my initial quest for a copy, I found out that the only way I could see it would be by choosing between two really awful DVD versions. I heard that Grindhouse Releasing was going to put out a special edition and considering that the better of the two releases was OOP (and a little pricey at the time), I decided to hold out. I saw what an incredible job Grindhouse did with putting together the 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and I knew that if anyone was willing to do something really special for PIECES, it would be those guys.
Time went by and I completely forgot about PIECES until Eli Roth showed it at The New Beverly earlier this year on a double bill with TORSO. Then it all came flooding back to me: what ever happened to that Grindhouse edition? After a few emails, I was assured it would be coming later in the year, along with THE BEYOND. Long story short(er), a little over 10 minutes into my virginal viewing of PIECES, I decided that if I ever wrote a book about it, it would be called “Horror Junk Food for the Gorehound Soul.” The film is completely incomprehensible, filled to the brim with terrible dialogue, continuity errors, bad dubbing and random, over-the-top scenes of violence. But that's the charm of PIECES: its a horribly made film that manages to offer first-class entertainment.
PIECES was a script given to director Juan Piquer Simon by producers Dick Randall and Steve Minasian after he turned down LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT 2. Originally titled Jigsaw and conceived as a two-part TV miniseries, Piquer was given the task of “mak[ing] it even moderately believable.” Well, he completely failed on his end of the bargain!
The film opens in Boston, 1942, with little Timmy putting together a puzzle of a naked woman on his bedroom floor. His mother walks in and goes berserk, slapping him around, breaking a mirror and threatening to kill him. If threatening her son's life for porn doesn't strike you as odd, her asking for a plastic trash bag should, since they weren't invented until 1950. Timmy comes back in the room with an axe, gives his mother less than 40 whacks and then pulls a hacksaw out of thin air, dismembering her corpse. He finishes putting together his puzzle, amidst the distraction of a ringing touch-tone phone (which wasn't introduced to the public until 1963), before a random woman and two police officers break in, finding him in a closet telling tall tales about a brutish man murdering his mother. But what's that in the background? Is that a New England Patriots pennant flag? They weren't even founded until 1959!
And that's just the first 4 ½ minutes.
What follows is a true journey of awfulness, one where a scene with a skateboarding co-ed crashing into a large mirror being carried down the street by two delivery men (déjà vu for those of us who played BACK TO THE FUTURE on NES) can transition into a flashback sequence where a woman breaks a mirror out of anger. Women get topless more than they should (which we can assuredly thank John Shadow aka Joe D'Amato for), a “kung fu professor” randomly fights a woman because he ate “bad chop suey” and the killer hides a chainsaw behind his back without anyone noticing. As for the ending, it doesn't make a lick of sense but neither does anything else during the 85 minute runtime! Without ruining any more of the completely inept (but hilarious) moments of filmmaking that occur within, I'll just say that PIECES isn't a film for anyone looking for logic or a compelling story but rather a good time, preferably late at night with a couple of friends and a lot of alcohol.
The Vine Theater Hollywood Experience – Definitely the most unique extra on the two-disc set, “it's exactly what you think it is.” Similar to the audience reaction track on PLANET TERROR, this audio recording features theatre patrons hootin' and hollerin' at the screen during PIECES' more infamous moments. Unlike the one on PLANET TERROR, the PIECES track wasn't recorded with people at an advanced screening; these folks are die-hard fans of the film who have seen the film dozens of times. Challenge yourself when watching PIECES for the first time: see if you can pick out all the unintentionally funny moments and then turn this audio track on to see if you missed anything.
Optional Spanish Soundtrack with Librado Pastor Score – The original score is a mix of light, melodic piano pieces and segments that sound like something I'd hear while floating down the Mississippi River on Mark Twain's steamboat. Some of the dialogue changes on the Spanish audio track, including Mrs. Weldon's request for a plastic bag changing to a trash can. Sure, it makes more sense, but do you really want PIECES to make sense? Ever?
Pieces of Piquer (55:21) – Directed, shot and produced by fellow Spanish genre superstar Nacho Cerdá, Juan Piquer briefly touches on his other films, like SLUGS and CTHULHU MANSION (a segment during which he forgets who H.P. Lovecraft is), but mainly sticks to discussing the production history of PIECES. From stories on how he fought the government to shoot in another language to giving actor Ian Sera a bag of ice to calm his erection during a nude scene, Piquer ends the interview by stating that he hopes to direct a sequel sometime soon. Only if you can bring back the kung fu professor, Juan.
Paul Smith: The Reddest Herring (57:41) – Not about PIECES in particular but an overview of his entire career, Paul Smith talks about his work on big-studio films like POPEYE and smaller, independent films like the criminally underrated CRIMEWAVE. Smith requested to not be on set for the grislier scenes in PIECES, yet didn't mind eating a cooked tongue from a dead cow in DUNE. Oh, what actors do for their art!
Galleries, featuring the jigsaw puzzle photo sessions and cover art that rips off THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and SLAUGHTERHOUSE, and cast/crew biographies are also included on the second disc.
Finally, there are a total of eight easter eggs featured in this two disc set (most are on the second disc). They include Eli Roth introducing the film at The New Beverly, an interview with genre favorite Clu Gulager, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT book author David Szulkin talking about the legendary ending and a candid moment with Paul Smith.
Film score: 8/10
DVD score: 8/10
NOVEMBER 25 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : PIECES (1982)
Pieces...the title alone gives you a look into what this movie is. But, I'm not here to bash this movie to a pulp. No, that's too easy. You see, I like to review films that I've seen to let others know how it is. If it's crap, I'll delicately tell you so. If it's good, then I will rave about it. Okay, so let's get started. A few spare bucks in my pocket and a hankering for a old slasher, I came across this in a 4 pack called 'Blood Bath'. I heard RIP talking about this film not to long ago and though, 'Eh, seven bucks. No loss.'
The film starts with a young boy putting together a nude puzzle. His mother sees this and flips out! For no reason, the boy then butchers her with an axe and then cuts her into pieces with a saw. Years later, young co-eds are being cut up by a chainsaw killer on a college campus. The killer is attempting to put together a human jigsaw puzzle made from body parts.
Fans of City of the Living Dead will recognize Christopher George as Lt. Bracken, who duty it is to solve the case. I didn't for one second believe he was a cop. Saying that they were low on help, he recruits the help of Kendall James (Ian Sera). That's right, he just asks some nosy kid to help him. This film was filled with bad actors whose voices were dubbed even worse.
The special effects were fairly well done. Aside from someone just throwing a bucket of blood at something, you see some body pieces and guts that look pretty decent. I know at the time this was made, other films doing the same thing made blood and guts look better, but giving the budget of the film it's good.
I suppose I should've waited to review this film when Grindhouse Releasing put it out on video. But I couldn't wait. Depending on what extras it has to offer, I would pass on Pieces. Although, it is good enough for one viewing (what would you expect from the director from Slugs?). Borrow it from a friend or rent it...or buy it if you want.