Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #257
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: 23 September 1983
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: Spain, USA, Puerto Rico, Italy
Running Time: 89 minutes
Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Producers: Stephen Minasian, Dick Randall
Screenplay: Dick Randall, Joe D’Amato, Juan Piquer Simón
Special Effects: Basilio Cortijo
Cinematography: Juan Mariné
Score: Stelvio Cipriani, Carlo Maria Cordio, Librado Pastor
Editing: Antonio Gimeno
Studios: Almena Films, Film Ventures International, Filmirage, Fort Films
Montoro Productions Ltd.
Distributors: Artists Releasing Corporation, Avid Video, Arrow Video, Grindhouse Releasing
Stars: Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Frank Braña, Edmund Purdom, Ian Sera, Paul L. Smith, Jack Taylor, Gérard Tichy, May Heatherly, Hilda Fuchs, Roxana Nieto, Cristina Cottrelli, Leticia Marfil, Silvia Gambino, Carmen Aguado, Paco Alvez
Suggested Audio Candy
“You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre”
Thank God for films like Pieces. In a world where folk often take themselves far too seriously, sometimes all you want is to sit back and marvel at something utterly preposterous. Not being particularly enamored with spoof, I far prefer a movie which plays it straight despite having no justification in doing so than something clearly played for laughs. Films like Juan Piquer Simón’s enigma don’t come along every day and, if they did, I would watch every last one of them, probably multiple times and with a piss-drinking grin on my face each time.
Right then, let’s get straight down to biscuits shall we? The best way of pigeon-holing Pieces is to describe it as Tenebrae with clown shoes. It is two parts Giallo and one part slasher, and all three parts are ridiculous in extremities. Here is a movie where a vulnerable woman stops the elevator for a faceless killer clad in black and thinks nothing of the fact that he smuggles a chainsaw in behind his back. This is the flick where a Bruce Lee impersonator breaks into Kung fu for no apparent reason before dropping to the dirt, doubled over with a chronic case of bad sushi.
It’s the one where a nubile beauty is sheared in half by chainsaw to the audio of a brass band’s marching theme on loop; while somebody walking into you in broad daylight is denoted by the clattering of the world’s largest cymbals. It thinks nothing of introducing you to a dead woman whose claws can effortlessly shred a man’s testicles to ribbons right through the crotch of his denims. Pieces has absolutely no right to be good and revels in upsetting the odds. When it’s on song, it operates in the upper echelons of eighties sleaze and, when it is off-key, provides hours of amusement and piles on the Camembert like a rodent at a deli counter.
Where Pieces succeeds from the jaws of its own failure is that it adheres to a checklist of sorts. Clearly this isn’t the height of thought-provoking cinema for the thinking man so, instead of pulling the fleece over anyone’s eyes, it utilizes a certain set of skills at its disposal. It features more than enough titillation to massage the peepers, enough grue and giblets to fill a butcher’s window and, during long drawn-out moments of meaningless plot, enough diabolical dialogue and hammy acting to set your teeth on edge. That, as it transpires, is all that a film like Pieces needs.
“BASTARD! BASTARD! BASTARD!!!”
It can hardly be branded as politically correct; the killer here is only interested in those with ovaries and the body count comprises of screaming belles, mostly in at least partial state of undress. While the female of the species are taking long, soapy showers and dying in the most heinous manners imaginable it is the men who are cracking the case. Shameful as it may be, and it is, there is something refreshing about a film which doesn’t pander. It knows exactly what it is and where its core audience lay. Besides, women scream better than men and are far more pleasurable on the eye when clothes are no longer necessitated. Call me biased but this is my appraisal after all.
For anyone looking to make sense of shenanigans, here is a brief outline of the plot. It’s the good old campus killer, synonymous with eighties slasher trash, and desperate to finish a jigsaw puzzle of a disrobed harlot. This entails him using real body parts and these are obtained by slaughtering any young co-eds above a certain cup size while the cops and campus staff scratch their heads and come up with precious little. That’s it in a nutshell although there are flaying plot strands aplenty and an abundance of red herrings to discombobulate the addressee further. Storyline is utterly superfluous to proceedings here as, ultimately, it all boils down to an increasingly graphic series of well orchestrated kills with gallons of pig’s cruor making up for any lack of suspense.
Your enjoyment will likely be dependent on your ability to switch off the grey matter and just roll with the punches. Those searching for logic or meaningful dialogue may as well watch Scooby Doo re-runs instead as they will find precious little here to sate their appetite. However, should you have a crate of cheap industrial strength lager close to hand and a small cluster of friends with similarly lowly expectations and a good sense of humor then there is a veritable goldmine for the pillaging here. Few slasher flicks from its era are as gory, misogynistic, barmy and downright lovable as Pieces. This is a film which is very much the sum of its parts.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: It’s a distinctly messy affair from stem to stern. Simón deserves credit for knowing his limitations and Pieces is certainly no slouch in the grue department. Expect beheading, disembowelment and dismemberment on water beds and in dormitory locker rooms. Also be mindful that those who are naked die best. When flesh isn’t being stripped from bones it is being lathered and shamelessly flaunted. Outside of Patrick Lussier’s ballsy remake of My Bloody Valentine, few modern day slashers have the shaggy spheres to wear their bloody heart on their bouncing breasts like Simón’s sleaze-fest. They just don’t make them like they used to.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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