Just yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing one of my all-time favorites, Carrie, projected to a packed house on 35mm. People were dressed up in corduroy tuxedos and the lobby was outfitted with silver cardboard stars in true Bates High School fashion. When the dance started, a disco ball was turned on up front to cast a glow on all the loving movie audiences. During the ďplug it upĒ scene, people even threw tampons at the screen. Thatís an experience you just canít replicate at home. Until now. The virtually inexplicable exercise in bad taste, Pieces, finally makes its way onto DVD courtesy of Grindhouse. A disc five years in the making, it offers a virtual first Ė the chance to watch the film as the public did when it was recently screened at the Vineyard theater. Of course the other audio options are there as well as a second disc filled with supplements, but that alternate audio track sounds like a gimmick too good to pass up. Itís been five years since I reviewed the shitty Diamond disc here on the site, so who better to watch it with than a bunch of likeminded fans. Iíve got some bad chop suey in handÖIím ready.
The film begins on a warm summer's day in 1942, where a young boy does what most others of his age do; he is building a jigsaw puzzle. But like with anything, the closer one looks the less perfect everything seems. Instead of scenic landscapes or cutesy designs, the little tot's puzzle consists of none other than a nude woman. Upon discovering this risque puzzle, the young boy's mom lectures and belittles him. Apparently lacking any sense of discipline whatsoever, the little boy promptly leaves the room, grabs and axe and hacks his mother to...well, pieces.
The film then jumps 40 years later to a Boston university, where a bunch of the co-eds are being systematically slaughtered. Nude swimming, disco glazed aerobics and late night walks are all interrupted by the menacing roar of the chainsaw. Each victim, all of which are female, are being cut into several segments. As the detectives pry into the case, they discover that for each murdered victim, one body part is missing. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the killer is constructing a puzzle of his own.
Just who might that killer be though, that is the question? Is it the gnarling, chainsaw wielding gardener, Willard (Paul L. Smith), or perhaps one of the inquisitive detectives? Then again, it could be one of the blatantly obvious professors. The secret is revealed in the end, as all the pieces come together.
Pieces is an interesting giallo/slasher hybrid. Made in the US during the heyday of the slasher film but by almost entire European influence, the end result is a confused mixture of two distinct film styles. Combined are the cheese of American 80's fare and the sleaze of European productions. A prime example of this campy combo is during the infamous aerobics sequence, where woman jazz it up to some horrible disco music. As the music fades out, a woman leaves for the washroom, quickly removing her top and letting her dirty pillows hang free. The gloved, Argento-ish killer, comes in and cuts her another hole as the scene ends with the flow of blood. Its cheesy, sleazy and campy all in one, and it ends up being good for some good chuckles.
Adding to the laugh factor is the atrociously dubbed soundtrack, wooden lead performances and terrible dialogue. Some of these line deliveries have to be seen to be believed, as some of the detectives react to the gruesome deaths as if they were ordering a pizza by phone. The performance by the "how the hell could they have hired him as a gardener", Paul L. Smith, is so over-the-top it is impossible to take this film seriously. A scene involving a kung fu Chinaman drunk with the taste of bad chop suey has to be seen to be believed.
The first half of the film is filled to the brim with all sorts of cheese, and the gore and nudity will keep viewers interested and entertained for most of the film. Although the film does trudge along through the third act, the conclusion is worth waiting for in all its horribleness. The killer does his traditional "why I did it speech", is stopped and then finally gets the last laugh, as is traditional with slasher films. The ending though, is so nonsensical and out of place that it hampers any chances this film had at being "good", making it merely a fun piece of dairy.
The tagline of the film reads, "It's Exactly What You Think It Is", and the title makes it that much easier to classify. It is a piece of shit, but fans of sleaze and cheese will have themselves a moderately good time.
Well, to call this an improvement over the old Diamond disc would be an understatement. The previous disc was cropped, interlaced, washed out and soft. Even a movie like Pieces deserves better than that! Grindhouse has delivered, though, with a beautiful 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, sharp as a nail in progressive scan. Colors incredibly solid, looking almost Technicolor in vivacity at times. There are still moments of shuttering at the top of the frame, and specs can be seen blipping at times throughout, but this is still a beautiful looking transfer. So sharp it is, that during the final close-ups you can see all of Linda Dayís veins as she clenches at the ground. If it looks this sharp already, I shutter for Linda Day when the day comes that this transfer makes it to Blu-ray. Awesome job.
Grindhouse doesnít do the full fledged 5.1 restoration here like they did with The Beyond, but the audio is certainly no slouch here. Three vastly different audio tracks are included Ė the first the most known here, in English mono with a synth-heavy score by Cam. It helps really bring out all the grime and sleaze in the film with its deteriorating half-life and harsh synth notes. The next is the Spanish mono track with a very melodramatic orchestral piece by Librado Pastor. It certainly is different, but just doesnít seem to fit at all with the imagery of a kid hacking up his mother because she objected to his porno puzzle. Still for contrastís sake, a wonderful inclusion. Both tracks sound good and clean and without any hiss that usually comes part and parcel with these films.
Lastly, the most interesting track is the live Dolby Digital 5.1 recording of the Vine Theater screening in Hollywood. In theory itís like you are sitting with the audience, hearing all their reactions first hand. Itís great fun hearing their take on the standout scenes, like the opening axing, the skateboarding mirror death and the unforgettable finale. There are some great bits too when people just yell ďLook out!Ē when the killer slowly slinks behind his next victim. Fun stuff like that. In execution itís not quite the immersive experience it could have been, the audio echoing around the 5.1 spectrum. Perhaps a mono track could have helped this, or some audio filtering? As it is, itís probably the most novel innovation in DVD supplements in a long time and I hope they include this feature in many more releases. It still has a few technical glitches to sort out before it becomes totally accessible, but even like this, itís a great time and a must listen experience.
Grindhouse Releasing may mold themselves after the cheap theaters with sub-par viewing conditions, but their treatment of their films is anything but. Pieces saws its way through hours of extras on DVD, and I can happily say it has been well worth the wait. Iíve already discussed the noteworthy alternate live theatrical track in the audio section, so letís piece together the remaining extras. Joining the alternate track on disc one is an easter egg featuring an introduction and after the screening thoughts with Hostel director Eli Roth. Pieces is one of his favorites, and the love he gushes for the film is funny and infectious. Clu Galager, of all people, is also interviewed briefly, as is Grindhouse employee David Szulkin, with a funny truth about the finale. The awesome grindhouse-era theatrical trailer is also included, with all the buzzwords and hype youíd expect from these kind of trailers. Lastly, thereís also the original Spanish opening sequence, with along with the Spanish audio track, also has different credits inserted at a different time in the film.
Now, before moving on to disc two, a note on the ďoriginal uncensored versionĒ presented here. Although this may suggest it was censored before, the Diamond DVD runs just as long (well, it is about 10 seconds shorter, but cuts off that much sooner to compensate) and all the gore scenes are the same in both versions. All the gore is definitely intact, but it always was, so those looking for even more grizzle may be disappointed. Considering all the gore already on display, those people should be few and far between, though.
Disc two features two lengthy interviews. The first is with director Juan Piquer, and speaking in Spanish, heís very up to task for talking about his hackterpiece. He is very articulate and thorough in talking about everything from his first introduction to films, his education in cinema, his non-horror projects and finally, Pieces. He talks about it a lot, offering history regarding all the different facets. Itís a great sitdown, and it ends on a high note, with Piquer very excited to do a sequel. If internet rumor is any indication, this might be one of those director hopefuls that finally becomes a reality. The piece runs 55-minutes long, and it is an hour well spent.
Iconic heavyweight, Paul L. Smith, so memorably the gardener in Pieces, also sits down for a 55-minute tell all. Smith is even more interesting, with a number of very personal anecdotes from all his pictures. He talks about how he fought with Alan Parker over his character in Midnight Express, and ultimately how he won out and was thanked for it. He also has a humorous story about how in the span of 24 hours he was doing Popeye in Hollywood and then in Rome acting with Anthony Quinn. He laughs a lot, and is very honest about all aspects of his varied career, including how he, as brutish a man as youíll ever see on screen, canít handle all the blood of horror on the big screen. Itís a lovable interview, and a must see.
The second disc is rounded out with an entourage of Grindhouse trailers that play like a nicely abridged version of 42nd St. Forever. Thereís also a few still galleries, the best of all being a video release gallery with all sorts of box art. Juan Piquer is right in saying this film has had dozens of titles over the world, with video boxes titling it everything from Maniac (with a painting virtually verbatim of the Madman cover) and La Sadique a la Tronconeuse, with a still shot of Leatherface holding a chainsaw. Howís that for false advertising? Lastly on the disc are nicely written cast and crew biographies for most of the principals. There is even short video clips for a few of the crew, with Piquer talking about his favorite films on his, and for his few minutes, Producer Steve Minasian talking about being a distributor.
Although these two discs donít sound entirely packed, Grindhouse has done a fine job of including diverse supplements over a number of different planes of entertainment. Audio extras, galleries, interviews, write-ups and introductions, itís nearly everything a fan could ask for outside of getting together the rest of the actors for a full fledged documentary. Well, a film historian commentary would have been nice, too. Thatís nitpicking, though. Oh, and that bloody backside of the insert and the nice fold out liner notes just seal the deal. Great job, Grindhouse.
Only in a movie like Pieces does a woman accidentally skateboard into a glass mirror as part of the killerís master plan. Apparently he controls fate, as well. Pieces is a movie so low brow even claiming it has a brow for anything is an overstatement. Wall to wall with gore, nudity, sleaze and complete implausible insanity, itís definitely one of those midnight movies you wonít soon forget. You wonít forget this DVD set soon either, with Grindhouse packing an exceptional two disc set with a wonderful new transfer, a creative mix of audio options and a number of interesting supplements. My favorite of the batch is the live recording of one of its recent theatrical exhibitions. Itís probably the only way to watch it, since itís so bad youíll hate yourself for watching it alone, but with a group of riotous fans it becomes the guiltiest of pleasures. You donít have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre, and with this DVD, you donít have to go to the theater for a Grindhouse experience. Bad movie lovers, this is a ticket to a great time.
While I do agree this is an AWFUL film, I still rate the bitch AT LEAST a 4/5 (of a B by HorrorDVD standards :p)...of course I add a little notation commenting on its crapiness, but when it comes to the bad movie scale, this is near the top. Can't wait to get ahold of this.
I remember hating this movie when I rented it back in the '80s but now I'm going to have to see it again. It sounds hilarious!
What's up with that section on Child's Play?
I drove with my friends by the Vine Theater tonight. Sure shit it's being torn down to Pieces. Now ain't it ironic when art imitates life. I also found this DVD brand new at a local record shop. Both of the DVDs were rattling around loose in the box. So needless to say I passed on this. I do plan on buying this eventually. I also agree this film is very much terrible. The C rating was very generous! I would have giving it a D+ easily.
Ahem I said Pieces............hahaha!
Yeah, with movies like this, trying to rate it is a pretty big fail. Just go with the words, since really, trying to pin something like this or TROLL 2 down to a single letter is impossible.
I was working from a CHILD'S PLAY template when I formatted, hence the missed paragraph. Fixed now though, thanks for the heads up!
Wow, wish I had this instead of my lame Diamond disc. Then again, double dipping can't be that since the Diamond disc costed me a few bucks. As if I'd pay a lot for that POS.
I have to get this disc!!
You know that The Sin City delux box set has a "live with the audience" alternate audio track as well, right? It's cool that Pieces has one too, but it's not the first of it's kind. Pieces is great though, nice to see I can finally trash my "3 dollar special" Diamond DVD, lol.
Wow this was really disappointing! I bought the DVD and just watched it - the claims of wall to wall nudity and gore are really overblown. Even the trailer for Cannibal Ferox (included on disc 2) seemed bloodier and sleazier.
It's fair to say that this is a bad movie, and so it may be entertaining to bad movie fans, but (in my opinion) it doesn't live up to the hype.
edit: After thinking about it a bit, the gore may live up to the hype. The chainsaw action pretty much delivered. Nudity, not so much though.
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