DirectorJuan Piquer Simon
Release Date(s)1983 (March 1, 2016)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
I’ve talked at lengths about gonzo 80’s slasher movies before, including the recent unearthing of both Blood Rage and The Mutilator. However, the all-time reigning king of bizarre, blood-soaked, Grindhouse extravaganzas doesn’t get any more nuts than 1983’s Pieces. Having had a recent resurgence thanks to revival screenings and Eli Roth, Pieces is a batshit piece of horror schlock that stays true to its tagline: “It’s exactly what you think it is.”
What makes Pieces so special is just how truly weird it is. It seems to be trying very hard to be an over-the-top horror movie, which it manages to do. It’s filled with bizarre scenes containing ridiculous dialogue exchanges, yet it’s exploding with enough gore and nudity to satisfy any hardcore slasher fan. It’s also a very sleazy movie at times, never shying away from popping out a pair of boobs just for the sake of it. The aerobics scene alone lets you know immediately that the folks who made this movie loved putting beautiful women on film.
The movie’s plot begins in the 1940’s as a young boy brutally murders his mother after she scolds him for putting together a jigsaw puzzle containing a picture of a nude woman. Years later on a college campus, students are being hacked up left and right, with various pieces of their bodies coming up missing with no clear purpose. However, the sexcapades and dorm shenanigans continue to run rampant while the killer picks off the student bodies one by one.
Story-wise, there’s nothing particularly special about Pieces, but its flaws show themselves at every opportunity. It’s actually about as straight-forward as a horror plot gets. There are red herrings thrown out at every turn as to exactly who the killer really is with all finally being revealed by the movie’s end... and what an ending it is. Like the rest of the movie, it will leave you both dumbfounded and laughing out loud, questioning what it was that you just saw. It’s not much of a surprise to learn that the movie was also a hit at the drive-in circuit when it was released. The gore effects, in particular, were so well done that you can almost picture a sea of women with their faces tucked away in their boyfriend’s shirts, trying desperately to get away from it.
There’s a whole lot wrong with Pieces logically, but there’s also a whole lot right with it too. It manages to be a good/bad movie in spite of itself. What other movie would feature Bluto (Paul L. Smith) as a potential killer? Both its mistakes and successes morph into this ridiculous, blood-soaked piece of cinema that, while far from perfect, is one of the most entertaining horror movies you’re ever likely to watch. While it continues to be a huge hit at film festivals and revival screenings, especially in Los Angeles at the famous New Beverly Cinema, it’s also a movie that horror fans have continued to embrace the world over, warts and all.
However, there’s no mistaking the A/V quality of Grindhouse Releasing’s Blu-ray set of Pieces. It features both the original English and Uncensored Spanish Director’s Cut versions of the movie, and they’ve both been scanned from the original camera negatives at 4K resolution. For what it is, it’s an amazing improvement in overall quality from its DVD counterpart in just about every category. Grain is minimal but unobtrusive, fine detail is thick, colors are robust and rich, skin tones are mostly accurate, blacks are very deep, shadow detail is abundant, and brightness and contrast levels are perfect. There are no signs of digital enhancement and there are next to no film artifacts left behind. The audio is presented in the original mono via 2.0 DTS-HD tracks, in both English and Spanish, depending on which version you’re watching. Each track manages to mix all of the various elements together appropriately. Dialogue, even the overdubbing, is clear and precise, while sound effects and score actually benefit from some surprising dynamic range. There are also some minor low frequency moments sprinkled in for good measure. Overall, it’s a stellar presentation of a movie that many might feel doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment (they’re wrong, of course). There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
This set also shines with its extras, of which there are plenty. It really harkens back to the heyday of special edition DVDs (which only seems like yesterday). On the first disc, you get an audio commentary with actor Jack Taylor; a newly-recorded isolated score track by Umberto; the 5.1 Vine Theater Experience audio track, which was recorded August 3, 2002 in Hollywood; the original theatrical trailer; a set of still galleries (production stills, publicity materials, video releases, bits and pieces, Juan Piquer’s still show); and two Easter eggs: footage from a showing of the movie at the New Beverly Cinema in 2008, and outtakes from the still show. On the second disc, there’s an audio-only interview with producer Steve Minasian; Paul Smith: The Reddest Herring interview; Pieces of Piquer, an interview with director Juan Piquer Simon; a set of cast & crew bios and filmographies; the feature-length 42nd Street Memories: The Rise and Fall of the America’s Most Notorious Block documentary; trailers for other Grindhouse Releasing releases (Corruption, I Drink Your Blood, The Beyond, Cat in the Brain, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Massacre Mafia Style, Gone with the Pope, The Tough Ones, The Swimmer, The Big Gundown, Ice House, Scum of the Earth, An American Hippie in Israel, the Pieces re-release); a set of Blu-ray production credits; an Easter egg, which is more interview outtake footage of Piquer; an 8-page insert booklet with essays on the film by Chas. Balun and Rick Sullivan; a CD soundtrack in a separate cardboard slipcase; and finally, if you were lucky enough to score one of the first 3,000 copies, a small replica of the nude woman jigsaw puzzle as seen in the movie. Most of this material has been carried over from Grindhouse Releasing’s previous DVD release, but if you own the Arrow Video Region B DVD release, you may want to hang on to it as it features almost entirely different extra material.
Pieces is a real party type of movie, the kind that you and your friends all get together and watch around Halloween for a good time. It’s so good at being hilariously bad and entertaining, and this Blu-ray release will be the definitive version of the movie to own for years to come. I can’t recommend it enough, especially to splatter fans.
- Tim Salmons