Juan Piquer Simon’s classic 1982 slasher Pieces has finally landed on Blu-ray, and the result is well worth the wait. Grindhouse Releasing has packed their release with all kinds of love and affection from the beautiful picture presentation to a bevy of special features and extras. I was too slow to order and missed being one of the lucky 3000 to nab a copy that comes with a replica of the infamous nudie puzzle featured in the film’s opening, but even without that extra this is still one of the best home video releases of the year so far.
Keep reading for a look at the movie (from my earlier review) and at the new Blu-ray release below.
It’s 1942, and a young boy sits on the floor of his bedroom innocently putting together a puzzle featuring a picture of a fully nude woman. He’s assembling it with the detached focus of someone whose sole interest is the challenge of the puzzle itself and not the naked woman smiling up at him, but his mother comes in and instead of appreciating his handiwork she tears him a new ass for playing with filth. She swats him around, tosses the puzzle pieces, and demands he go get a plastic bag so she can burn it all to prevent him from becoming like his deadbeat father.
So the kid comes back with an ax and chops his mother into little pieces.
What follows are eighty minutes of blood, gore, violence, nudity, and… hilarious dialogue, fun performances, and a ridiculously entertaining script. Is it intentionally one of the most absurdly funny slashers ever made? No clue. But does it matter?
Forty years after the mom-meets-ax-blade opening, a rash of killings has begun on a college campus in Boston. A girl reading in the park in broad daylight has her head cut off by a dude with a chainsaw, and the attacks continue in swimming pools, bathrooms, and elevators across campus. Who could be doing these terrible things?!? Certainly not the big guy (Paul Smith) who’s always fondling chainsaws and giving disapproving looks to young lovers. Lt. Bracken (Christopher George) is brought in to investigate, but even with the help of a horn-dog student named Kendall (Ian Sera) the bodies continue to hit the floor.
Back in 1982 the advertising campaign for Pieces included the tag line “It’s exactly what you think it is.” It was a fairly genius line, but it’s also not really accurate. The title, trailer, and synopsis make the movie sound like any run of the mill slasher pic filled with blood, boobs, and misogynistic tendencies, but while those elements are present it’s also filled with dialogue, scenes, and moments of accidental brilliance.
I say “accidental” because nothing else in Simon’s career hints at this degree of intentional entertainment value. No, not even Slugs. The same goes for writers Dick Randall and John Shadow whose career highlights include films like The Erotic Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and Microscopic Liquid Subway to Oblivion, respectively.
Pieces walks a fine line between two halves. The first is the expected slasher with all the usual trappings which Simon has crafted with exuberant competence. There’s a solid cast of suspects, attractive women disrobing frequently, and a gushing torrent of blood and gore in the form of dismembered body parts and effective prosthetic work. Two highlights include a beautifully shot waterbed murder featuring a knife that enters the back of a head and exits out the woman’s mouth and a chainsaw attack that sees the tool saw into a coed’s bare waist. The film definitely doesn’t shy away from the grue, and it earns its misogynistic badge with a shot of the chainsaw cutting through a stall door with in/out motions (penetration!) to highlight the link between the girl’s supposed whore-ishness and her impending demise.
But even as these gore-filled murders are happening the movie weaves an unexpected tone throughout that entertains on a completely different level ‐ an often hilarious, absurd, and WTF-filled level.
After the first murder Lt. Bracken arrives and immediately suspects an inside job of some sort. He sends a tennis pro turned undercover cop named Mary (Linda Day) to campus as a new tennis coach, and we’re subjected to a solid two minutes of a match complete with audience reaction shots showing their heads moving back and forth in unison. The two players have clearly never touched a tennis racket before in their lives. And the number one suspect may or may not be the funniest red herring in film history as he glares, squints, and mimes violence towards everyone around him.
A handful of non sequiturs populate the film including scenes of a female skateboarder meeting the wrong end of a giant mirror being carried by workmen and a random karate attack ‐ a scene that feels very much like an inspiration for “Pancakes!” boy in Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever. Bracken asks a professor if a chainsaw could have been the weapon used in a brutal murder as the camera pans down to display a blood and flesh-encrusted chainsaw sitting beside the dismembered body. Add in the nuttiest final shot in slasher history, and you have an absurdly delightful and wet classic.
Pieces is not a comedy, per se, but it is laugh out loud funny at times. It’s not a deconstruction of the genre like Scream or a pure attempt at making a slasher comedy like Student Bodies, but instead it’s a rare hybrid that finds humor everywhere but the central conceit. To be clear, it is the graphic, bloody, flesh-filled horror film implied in the film’s title and marketing, but it’s also so much more. If you haven’t seen it before and can handle the skin and blood, give it a chance. It just may surprise you.
Grindhouse Releasing’s Pieces package includes three discs ‐ two Blu-rays and a compact disc. The cd includes 16 tracks from the original soundtrack featuring Stelvio Cipriani, Carlo Maria Cordio, and Fabio Frizzi. The tracks are a mix of recycled material from other films and used under the CAM collective.
Disc one features both the uncut American (1:25:32) version and barely longer Spanish (1:26:52) cut, and both look absolutely gorgeous. Grindhouse has given the film a 4k restoration causing the details and colors to pop, and we’re given five audio options ‐ English with the CAM score, Spanish with Librado Pastor’s somewhat redundant piano score, a new commentary track with co-star Jack Taylor and moderator Calum Waddell, an entirely new isolated score by Umberto, and The Vine Theater Experience which drops you in the middle of a rowdy crowd recorded in Hollywood in 2002. The first disc’s special features include a photo gallery, trailer, and brief video of Simon and friends looking through Pieces-related memorabilia. There are a few Easter eggs hidden throughout the menus too featuring more of Simon and an appearance by Eli Roth at Los Angeles’ Beverly Cinema.
The second disc collects a mix of special features new and old. The latter includes two hour-long interviews, one with Simon and one with Smith. They were recorded for the 2008 DVD release and serve as fitting send-offs for the director and actor who both passed away in the past few years. At the other end of the spectrum is a brand new documentary exploring the appeal and fond memories people have of the film mecca that was 42nd Street before it was cleaned up for families and tourists. The extras include:
- Producer Steve Minasian [2:59] ‐ a brief audio interview about the film’s release and mishandling by the distributor
- “The Reddest Herring” Paul Smith [57:46] ‐ great 2007 interview from Smith’s home in Israel where he talks about his career in cinema, violence onscreen, and fun anecdotes about his work on Popeye, Dune, Crimewave, Haunted Honeymoon, and of course Pieces
- “Pieces of Juan” An Interview with Director Juan Piquer Simon [55:25] ‐ another fantastic interview featuring the director’s thoughts on casting, the score, the gory bits and how they were accomplished, and talk of a possible sequel
- Bios and Filmographies of several players including a handful of trailers
- 42nd Street Memories: The Rise and Fall of America’s Most Notorious Block [1:21:47] ‐ a thoroughly entertaining interview-based documentary with directors, writers, actors, and others charting the appeal of New York City’s 42nd St including the neighborhood, clientele, bathrooms, crime, sticky floors, sex, and the utterly fantastic film variety. My favorite bit sees actress/filmmaker Debbie Rochon describe the atmosphere as featuring “the jizz of a thousand ghosts.”
- Trailers for other Grindhouse Releasing titles
Pieces is a terrifically entertaining slice of ’80s slasher cinema, and fans couldn’t hope for a better Blu-ray presentation.
Related Topics: Home Video