Released by: Grindhouse Releasing
Released on: February 16th, 2016.
Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Cast: Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Edmund Purdom, Paul Smith, Jack Taylor, Ian Sera
Purchase From Diabolik DVD
Pieces… where do we start? This is one of those ‘you just have to see it’ horror films that has managed to find a rabid cult following despite the fact that, really, when it gets right down to it, it’s a pretty terrible film. Note that I didn’t say it wasn’t a helluva lot of fun or that it isn’t completely entertaining, but honestly, from both artistic and technical stand points, Pieces sort of exists on its own planet. That said, grab yourself a six pack and a room full of like-minded trash film buffs and it’ll go over like gangbusters any time – it’s absolutely a crowd pleaser.
The film begins in Boston in the 1940s where a teenage boy who loves naked lady jigsaw puzzles snaps and kills his repressive mother in cold blood using a nice, sharp axe. Fast forward forty years and Beantown is now the site of a rash of murders being conducted by a serial killer with a penchant for tender, young college co-eds. His technique has the local cops in a tizzy – he chops up his victims into tiny little pieces and tends to take souvenirs with him, using them in a jigsaw puzzle, just to keep things interesting.
Enter police Lt. Bracken (Christopher George), a top cop who hopes to crack the case by making a bargain with the college dean to let an undercover policewoman (Lynda Day George) work on the campus as a tennis teacher. The hope is that she’ll be able to lure the murderer out into the open where they’ll bag their killer and save the day. They enlist the aid of a student named Kendall (Ian Sera) and work together in hopes of catching the killer before he strikes again, but it isn’t necessarily going to be that easy. Before it’s all over and done with, someone may very well yell ‘BASTARD’ a lot, run into a random Bruce Lee clone, and get his or her genitals torn off. It’s that kind of a movie, and you can’t help but love it.
Filled with a splendid amount of gratuitous sex and violence with little regard given to coherence or common sense, Pieces works on the same level that films like Mad Foxes and New Barbarians do – they’re not really very good in the way that something like The Godfather is good, but they are very good fun. Pieces, in particular, has some seriously nasty murder set pieces scattered throughout the film that bookend the talkier parts of the picture quite effectively. The dialogue contains all manner of odd bits and, well, pieces of nonsensical man to man discourse that really just perfectly sets the stage for the next scene of ludicrous carnage. Plenty of bare flesh ensures that the picture has plenty of quirky sex appeal while the presence of the Bruce Lee/kung-fu instructor guy (one of a few of the film’s more noteworthy scenes) turns the ‘huh???’ factor up to 11.
And then there’s the cast. Christopher George struts about like the man of the hour in a performance that is more than just a little quirky, while Lynda Day George, quite fetching here, takes things appropriately over the top. Bruce Le shows up briefly for reasons that never really matter, while one time A-lister Edward Purdom clearly had bills to pay. Spanish genre movie stalwart Jack Taylor shows up here, he of countless Franco films, but perhaps the biggest surprise of all is a substantial role for one Paul L. Smith, the same Paul L. Smith that played Bluto in Popeye and that appeared in Midnight Express. It’s not a surprise to see the George’s pop up in a movie like this, and fine, Smith appeared in some trash here and there, but seeing he and Purdom puttering about in something as gory and sleazy as this film is, well, it’s delightfully weird.
Juan Piquer Simón (the director also responsible for the notorious Slugs) paces the picture well and in its uncut form (as it is rightly presented here) it will definitely appeal to gore-hounds. Tag lines like ‘It’s exactly what you think it is!’ and ‘You Don’t Have To Go To Texas For A Chainsaw Massacre’ will grab your attention and once you start with it, you just know that no matter how nuts things are going to get that you won’t be able to turn away. These types of films come around so rarely that it’s up to the cult movie connoisseur to cherish pictures like this. And that’s where this Grindhouse Releasing comes into play, providing a serious Blu-ray upgrade to an already impressive DVD that was released some years back.
That aforementioned DVD release looked really good, but this new AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen and taken from a new 4k scan of the original camera negative? Well, it leaves past editions in the dust. The image is clean and rich in fine detail, close up shots in particular really showing off every pore on the cast members’ faces and ever gooey drop of pig guts used in the gore effects scenes. Colors are reproduced with lifelike tones and hues, the garish reds of the murder set pieces really popping here. Skin tones look nice and natural, never too pink or too warm, and the image is free of any compression artifacts, edge enhancement or obvious noise reduction. Grain is present, natural looking but never distracting, and the picture shows consistently strong depth throughout.
Pieces has a few different audio options. First up is the English soundtrack in DTS-HD Mono featuring a library music score from CAM, but also included is the Spanish soundtrack, also in DTS-HD Mono, which features an original score from composer Librado Pastor. Optional English subtitles are available should you want to watch the film with the Spanish language option enabled and not speak the language. Again, we get a substantial upgrade over what we’ve had in the past. The English track sounds great, the levels are balanced perfectly and everything is crystal clear. The score has good bounce and range, the effects carry the right amount of punch, and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion.
Now as far as the extras go for this two Blu-ray set, things get interesting here as it’s a mix of old and new. The first disc in the set contains the eighty-three minute unrated US theatrical cut of Pieces but, as mentioned, so too does it include the original uncensored director’s cut in Spanish under the title Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche, which runs eighty-six minutes and which features that completely different score courtesy of Pastor. It also features a different opening sequence. You can choose which option you want to watch from the main menu.
New to this Blu-ray release is an audio commentary with actor Jack Taylor moderated by Calum Waddell. It’s a nicely paced track with Taylor not afraid to share his honest thoughts on the quality of the film or some of the performances therein. He’s got a lot of stories about working with Juan Piquer Simón here and on other projects and also gives a pretty interesting dissertation of sorts on his experiences in the Spanish film industry of the era. He covers quite a bit of ground here, talking about what it was like on set, his interactions with various cast members, taking direction from Simón and lots more.
There’s also an option to watch the movie with a newly composed isolated score credited to Umberto. This music covers pretty much the whole movie and it’s an interesting alternative. The first disc also carries over the alternate audio track entitled The Vine Theater Experience that was included on the previous DVD release. Basically this is a recorded document of the film’s August 2002 theatrical screening at the Vine Theater in Hollywood, California presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. If you’ve seen the movie a few times, this is a fun way to revisit the picture as the audience gets increasingly into it as the picture plays out, hooting and hollering and cheering at the screen.
The first disc also features a gallery of production stills (fans of bonus nudity take note) as well as fairly massive still galleries containing publicity materials, video releases and ‘bits and pieces’ (basically stuff that doesn’t fit in the other collections) alongside a brief video of the director digging through a collection of original lobby cards. Also look out for an easy to find Easter Egg on disc one that’ll let you watch Eli Roth introduce a screening of the movie.
Disc Two contains the carries over the two extensive interviews from the DVD set, the first of which is fifty-five minute Pieces Of Piquer. Here the director of Pieces and Slugs sits down in front of the camera to discuss his illustrious career. Shot on location in Spain in 2005 and directed by none other than Nacho Cerde, this is a pretty interesting look at Piquer Simón’s involvement with Spanish horror cinema with a heavy emphasis put on Pieces, a film he describes as best enjoyed in the right mood with friends. Piquer Simón tells some interesting stories about the film and its rather unusual legacy and this is a pretty revealing interview that sheds some very welcome light on this unsung trash classic. The second interview is the almost hour long Paul Smith: The Reddest Herring and it gives the actor a chance to discuss his work in cinema while wearing some freakishly inappropriate short-shorts. Shot in 2007, the gracious and amiable actor talks about how he got his start doing plays in university which eventually lead to him working in feature films. He never intended to be an actor but he wound up taking a part and he caught the bug. From there he talks about Bud Spencer and the pros and cons of being able to speak Turkish! About twenty-five minutes in he starts to talk about Pieces and he tells some pretty interesting and amusing stories about his work on the picture but this is really more of a career overview than anything else – this guy has been in way more than most people probably realize and this turns out to be a genuinely enjoyable talk with someone who has certainly paid his dues. A quick, but new three minute interview with producer Steve Minasian focuses on the movie’s original theatrical run in the U.S. and the success that it enjoyed (how could it not with such a great marketing campaign behind it!) and Minasian’s dealings with Ed Montoro, the picture’s distributor.
Further, cast and crew biographies are provided (in text format) for Juan Piquer, Dick Randall, Steve Minasian, Christopher George, Lynda Day, Edmund Purdom, and Paul Smith. It pays to dig around in this section because if you do you’ll find trailers and promos relating to each subject’s respective filmographries. As such, be on the lookout for promos and trailers for Don’t Open Till Christmas, City Of The Living Dead, Day of the Animals Primitive Love, Ecco, Don't Look in the Basement, Mark of the Devil, Last House on the Left and Maverick. Additionally here you can find a pair of videos with Juan Piquer Simón talking about horror films that he likes and his cult status as a filmmaker, a quick interview where Minasian talks about getting Mark Of The Devil out to a horror hungry audience and a great piece where writer Michael Worth discusses the completely gonzo cameo from none other than Bruce Le in our feature attraction. Don’t rush through this section - there’s a lot to sift through and it’s pretty much all gold!
The main attraction on the second disc, however, is probably going to be the inclusion of the ninety minute feature length documentary 42nd Street Memories: The Rise And Fall Of America’s Most Notorious Street. Less a feature about the historical timeline of the block in question, it’s more a series of recollections from those who were there. Interviewed on camera are filmmaker Matt Cimber, Piranha director Joe Dante, Street Trash writer Roy Frumkes, Combat Shock director Buddy G., Splatter University director and technicolor expert Richard W. Haines, fan favorite adult film actress Jane Hamilton (better known as Veronica Hart), Basket Case main man and Something Weird Video associate Frank Hennenlotter, Fright Night director Tom Holland, Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman, Aquarius Releasing owner Terry Levene, Squirm director Jeff Lieberman, the lovely star of I Drink Your Blood Lynn Lowry, eternally beautiful scream queen Debbie Rochon, Vigilante/Maniac director William Lustig and his frequent collaborator Larry Cohen, I Spit On Your Grave director Meir Zarchi, writer John Skipp, Black Shampoo director Greydon Clark and, of course, exploitation/porn guru 42nd Street Pete.
There are a lot of fun stories here, and it’s also interesting to get the different takes on the legacy of the strip. Some say they felt like they were in danger there, with Pete even talking about getting stabbed in the leg by a crackhead with a screwdriver, while others felt they were fairly safe. There’s lots of talk about the theaters themselves, the general consensus being that despite the fact that a lot of them were once quite regal, they were generally filthy, rat infested and smelled like piss. What most of the interviewees come back to, however, is that here was a small stretch of land in the middle of Manhattan where, before the advent of home video, you could see movies from all eras and all areas pretty much twenty-four seven – and it was really the only game in town. So yeah, some of the memories here do romanticize things, others are pretty point blank about the good and the bad of the area, but it’s interesting stuff illustrated with lots of clips from various movies shot on location in the area, lots of archival stills and posters, stuff like that.
Rounding out the extras on the first disc is Pieces’ original theatrical trailer (0:31). This is the original North American trailer from 1983, the one with the great tag lines – short but sweet. This is included in a Grindhouse Releasing Trailers section that also contains familiar previews for Cat In The Brain, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Massacre Mafia Style, Gone With Pope, The Beyond, Corruption, The Swimmer, The Big Gundown, An American Hippie In Israel, Scum Of The Earth, The Tough Ones, The Ice House and last but not least, I Drink Your Blood. Animated menus are included for both discs in the set.
If that weren’t enough, Grindhouse have also included a CD tucked away inside a cardboard sleeve that contains the film’s score. The track listing on the disc is as follows:
A Strange Symbol / Un’Ombra Nell’Ombra / Death Watch / Up Country / Death Watch (Alternate 1) / Cocktail Molotov / Rosso Sangue (M29) / I Love Blondes / Rosso Sangue (M21) / Carlotta And The Professor / Rosso Sangue (M13) / Rosso Sangue (M31) / Rosso Sangue (M15) / Rosso Sangue (M20) / Death Watch (Alternate 2) / Un’Ombra Nell’Ombra (Alternate)
Inside the slick keepcase is an insert containing some vintage artwork and the original set of liner notes from the DVD release written by the late, great Chas Balun of Deep Red fame. Additionally, Rick Sullivan of The Gore Gazzette contributes two pages of new material here, detailing his experiences with the film. If that weren’t enough, also included with the first three thousand copies of the release is a pretty fantastic replica of the naked lady puzzle that we see our killer assembling in the opening scene! This all fits inside a clear Blu-ray case that in turn is housed inside a nice embossed slipcover – the attention to detail in the packaging and presentation of this release is top notch.
The Final Word:
Cult movie fans and trashy horror movie junkies, consider this one the definitive release of Juan Piquer Simón’s crowning achievement in cinematic insanity. The presentation is top notch, the extras as extensive as they are interesting, and the movie itself…. Well, it’s exactly what you think it is.