Pieces (1982) is an incredibly fun and extremely trashy film, soaked in gore and teaming with sleaze. It's the very definition of a crowd pleaser and I absolutely love it. Sure, it doesn't make sense half the time, it has awkward overdubbing and weird dialogue, but when it rips and roars, it never fails to entertain.
Flash-forward 40 years later and a deranged psycho is slicing up co-eds with a chainsaw on a college campus. The lead detectives on the case, Lt. Bracken (Christopher George) and Sgt. Holden (Frank Braña), have their work cut out for them, as almost everybody seems to be a suspect, and bodies keep piling up all over campus (minus a few parts).
They decide to bring in a young policewoman (and former tennis pro), Mary Riggs (Lynda Day George), to go undercover on campus, posing as (naturally) the new tennis instructor. There are plenty of suspects and red herrings alike, including brutish groundsman Willard (Paul L. Smith), fey and wormy Professor Brown (Jack Taylor), the fastidious Dean (Edmund Purdom), and Kendall (Ian Sera), a student at the school who is also quite the ladies man.
|Ladies and gentlemen...your suspects!|
The most (in)famous WTF-scene in Pieces is later in the movie, when tennis prolicewoman Mary is out walking around by herself at night and is suddenly attacked by a Bruce Lee impersonator (actual Bruce Lee impersonator, Bruce Le) doing all these kung fu moves on her. It's of course a misunderstanding, as Kendall shows up on his motorbike, explaining "it's my kung-fu professor. What's the story, Chow?" Chow's response is both amazing and confusing: "I am out jogging and next thing I know, I am on ground. ...Something I eat, bad chop suey. So long!"
The most memorable and best line delivered in the movie is actually a single word screamed three times by Mary in a moment of ultimate frustration, after discovering yet another of the killer's victims. I'll just let Mrs. Lynda Day George speak her mind:
The original Spanish language title of the film is Mil Gritos Tiene la Noche (translates as "One Thousand Cries has the Night"), which, while being a cool title, doesn't really describe the film very well. As is, Pieces definitely lives up to its name and reputation and it's easy to allow the film's technical issues to be forgiven, as the pace and sheer intensity of the film never let up and doesn't give you time to consider some of the absurdities (how did he get that chainsaw on the elevator unnoticed?).
The stalking and chase scenes are fairly well done, with excellent cat-and-mouse pacing. The stalking that leads to the murder on the waterbed is one of the best in the movie, taking some obvious visual cues from the Italian giallos, such as the high contrast and colored lighting and by using slo-mo. Also, the violence is more operatic in this scene than, say, in the elevator or bathroom stall murders, which, while shockingly violent and gory, don't approach any sort of aesthetic artfulness in their execution.
The killer's outfit is also very giallo inspired, with black gloves, long trench coat, and a brimmed hat that obscures the face. It's quite the stylish look, one that invokes mystery and menace, and can be directly traced to back to the killers in Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace (1964) and Dario Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) and Deep Red (1975).
The moody synth score adds a lot to the enjoyment of Pieces as well. It was included for the US and Italian release of the film and was performed by Carlo Maria Cordio, who also scored Aenigma (1987), Touch of Death (1988), Sonny Boy (1989), and cult-classic Troll 2 (1990). The original score (which is available on the Grindhouse Releasing DVD) was taken from the Italian CAM (Creazoni Artistiche Musicali) music library (credited to Librado Pastor). Comparatively, it is a fairly boring score, with a repetitious piano melody. It's a good thing they switched it up for the international release. (There's also this disco gem used during a very '80s aerobics scene).
One of the writers of the film, Joe D'Amato (going under the alias John W. Shadow), was a prolific Italian filmmaker who directed 200 films, many of those explotiation-stlyle pornography (soft and hardcore). His non-porno credits include Beyond the Darkness (1979) and Anthropophagous (1980).
Lynda Day George was married to Christopher George for 14 years. She would star alongside him in Day of the Animals and Mortuary (amongst others) and would also star in the possession film Beyond Evil (1980) with John Saxon. She also had an extensive career in television, most notably as Lisa Casey on Mission: Impossible. In Pieces, her character of Mary Riggs is supposed to be a modern multi-talented woman, but Lynda Day George isn't very convincing as a policewoman, and she's even less convincing as a tennis player (there's one very stiff and awkward scene where she plays a round of tennis, the actress playing her opponent not knowing how to play either).
The big and burly Paul L. Smith is best known as portraying Bluto in Robert Altman's Popeye (1980), but he's also been in genre fare like Dune (1984), Crimewave and Red Sonja (both 1985), Haunted Honeymoon (1986), Gor (1987), and Sonny Boy (1989). There's an extensive and entertaining interview with him on the previosuly mentioned DVD release, where he talks about everything from Otto Preminger and the Six-Days War in Israel to David Lynch and Dom DeLuise. In Pieces, it seems he is constantly making this face:
"It stinks!" guy from The Pod People.
Speaking of the ending to Pieces, it is something that can only be described as bat-shit crazy. It's a jawdropper that comes completely out of left-field and has to be seen to be believed. It will grab you.
Final Thought: "Pieces. It's exactly what you think it is!" So see it already.