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Pieces (1982)

Grindhouse Releasing
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/1/2016

All Ratings out of

Movie:

Video:
1/2
Audio:
1/2
Extras:
1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/3/2016

Like many of you, I'm a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (although, I must admit that there is some jealousy there, as they took something which we all do and made an industry out of it). Following the end of the original series, I followed the guys through The Film Crew and Rifftrax and I look forward to the announced reincarnation of the series. And while the uninitiated think that they show only attacked "bad" movies, those in the know are aware the MST3K approach works best when the film in question is serious and earnest. One has to wonder why the people behind this phenomenon didn't pursue more R-rated movies. Perhaps MST3K After Dark? There are plenty of "mature" movies which would fit their profile and 1982's Pieces must be near the top of that list.

Pieces opens in what be an alternate time-line version of Boston in 1942 (more on this in a moment). Here, we find a boy putting together a nudie jigsaw puzzle. (Is that a thing?) His mother catches him and demands that he throw the puzzle away. So, he kills her with an ax. (That seems like the rational response.) The story then leaps ahead to the present, where someone has just beheaded a co-ed using a chainsaw on a college campus. Lieutenant Bracken (Christopher George) and Sergeant Holden (Frank Brana) visit with The Dean (Edmund Purdom) to discuss the killing. Here, Bracken meets a student named Kendall (Ian Sera), and he recruits the young man to aid in the investigation. As more female victims are found, Bracken enlists Mary Riggs (Linda Day) to go undercover to help find the killer. Which each grisly discovery, Bracken realizes that the killer is taking body parts with him. But why?

While most films like this from the early 80s were Italian, Pieces is from Spain. But, it still shares traits with its European neighbor. I've written before that it must have been incredibly liberating to be an Italian director in the 80s, as their movies apparently didn't have to make sense. The basic story in Pieces (what little that there is) makes sense -- killer suffers past trauma, relives it by killing in the present -- and the whole jigsaw puzzle thing is actually quite clever. It's not a terribly dense plot, but it would stand up under scrutiny.

But, that doesn't mean that logic and a sense of same made their way to the set, as Pieces is a decidedly loopy movie. Let's go back to that opening scene in 1942. The mother demands a plastic trash bag, which didn't exist at the time. We see a pennant for the New England Patriots, which didn't exist at the time. We see a touch-tone phone, which didn't exist at the time. We hear a mention of the Air Force, which didn't exist at the time. (Look it up.) So, it's clear that research wasn't the film's strong suit. As the story leaps to 1982, we lose the anachronisms, but Pieces doesn't get any less crazy. Although the film is set in Boston, we get things like very European-looking ambulance attendants and a conspicuously European tiny elevator. Said elevator becomes the home of one of the film's most mind-numbing moments, as the killer enters this small space with a woman, and attempts to hide his chainsaw behind his back. We also get the scene where a track-suit wearing man (Bruce Le), who only appears in this one scene, performs karate for no apparent reason. There's also the tennis match where we see the players hitting the ball to one another using fairly level shots, and yet they keep going high enough to be visible when they show the crowd watching from overhead.

So, Pieces is a ludicrous mess, right? Well, that's more of a personal judgment call. I can say that the movie must be admired for its audacity and drive. The American marketing of this film, which was originally called "1000 Cries Has the Night" (?), was ingenious, as the posted stated, "You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre." and "It's exactly what you think it is." Movies rarely fulfill these kinds of promises, but Pieces definitely delivers the goods. There is a murder every few moments, and while the movie doesn't have a breakneck pace, it doesn't contain the long, drawn-out stretches where nothing happens which hamper a lot of 80s slashers. It's interesting to note that this film was released unrated in 1982, as it comes across as somewhat tame today. Now, this isn't a Disney movie, but most of the murders, while bloody, are quite quick. (I can definitely think of gorier films from this period.) I would suppose that some could label Pieces are cruel and misogynistic, as the killer only targets females, but the overall movie is a little too goofy to be taken that seriously. Fans of over-the-top horror movies will find a lot to like in Pieces. Itís got murders, karate, lots of ladies, and a truly unforgettable ending. Pieces often gets overlooked, as itís sort of a giallo and sort of a slasher movie, but trust me, thereís nothing else like it.

(This set contains two cuts of the film. The U.S. Version has a running time of 1:25:32. The Spanish version runs 1:26:52 and has an entirely different musical score.)

Pieces must take place in America, as they are eating Wendyís on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Grindhouse Releasing. The film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the Disc contains a 1080p HD transfer, taken from the original negative, which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing just a hint of grain, and no truly notable defects from the source materials. The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is nicely balanced, as the depth is notable and the level of detail works well -- only a few shots look soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 1.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get very mild stereo effects here, mostly highlighting sounds which are coming from the edge of the screen. The music and sound effects never overpower the dialogue (which does sound canned in the dubbed English version).

The Pieces Blu-ray Disc set contains several extras. Disc 1 kicks off with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from actor Jack Taylor. The Disc includes a music only track with the original score by Umberto. "The Vine Theater 5.1 Experience" is another audio option in which the viewer can watch the film and listen to a recording made of the audience during a screening at The Vine Theater. The THEATRICAL TRAILER (which is more like a teaser) is included here, as are five STILL GALLERIES (Production Stills, Publicity Materials, Video Releases, Bits and Pieces, and Juan Piquer's Still Show). The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. We get "Interviews" with Producer Steve Minasian (3 minutes) (which is audio only), actor Paul Smith (58 minutes), and Director Juan Piquer. Simon (55 minutes). Minasian briefly talks about getting the film into theaters, while Smith and Simon give much more in-depth talks, as they talk about their lives and careers, while focusing on Pieces at times. There are text "Bios and Filmographies" for four actors, two producers and Simon. "42nd Street Memories" (82 minutes) is a feature-length documentary in which filmmakers like Frank Henenlotter, Larry Cohen, Lloyd Kaufman, and Joe Dante reminisce about the heyday of grindhouse cinema in New York. This includes many still photos of the area, some clips from movies, and many anecdotes. Finally, we 15 bonus trailers for other Grindhouse releases.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long