Tuesday, February 2, 2016

PIECES (1983) 3 DISC DELUXE EDITION (Grindhouse Blu-ray Review)

PIECES (1983) 

Label: Grindhouse Releasing:
Release Date: March 1st 2016
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 83 Minutes, 86 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0, Spanish DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0, Vine Theater Experience English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Juan Piquer Simon
Cast: Jack Taylor, Christopher George, Paul L. Smith, Lynda Day George, Bruce Le, Robert Purdom

Spanish filmmaker Juan Piquer Simón's Pieces (1983) opens in 1942 as an adolescent boy assembles a nudie jigsaw puzzle on his bedroom floor as his mother bursts into the room and catches him with the naughty novelty. She chastises the boy with taunts that he is a louse just like his father before she smashes a picture of dear old dad against a mirror. While she searches the boy's room for more naughty contraband she sends the boy to fetch a garbage bag, but he returns with an axe instead which he thrusts repeatedly into her cranium. With mother properly dead he sets aside the axe in favor of a handsaw which he uses to saw off her head, which he places inside a closet before finishing-up his preciously lewd jigsaw puzzle. Eventually the police are alerted by a worrisome nanny and arrive on scene, when they find the young boy in the closet they assume he's the survivor of the grisly ax-attack and not the fiendish culprit.

Some forty years later the adolescent murderer now a disturbed adult who keeps mementos from the massacre hidden away in a shoe box, inside are his mother's blood spattered flower print dress and shoes, plus the naughty jigsaw puzzle now stained with mother's blood. The killer appears to have kept his murderous urges at bay for all these years but when he witnesses a young girl skateboard into a pane of mirrored glass it resurrects his long dormant blood lust and fascination with kinky jigsaw puzzles. The killer begins to terrorize a Boston area college slaughtering young ladies with a chainsaw, collecting their body parts and assembling them into a perverse human jigsaw puzzle of his own creation.

The first piece of the heinous body-puzzle is a co-ed who the killer finds sprawled out on the campus lawn, her head severed with a chainsaw in an artfully shot kill as her head spins through the air followed by a crimson wave of blood. The shocking murder is investigated by Lt. Bracken (Christopher George, The Exterminator) and Sgt. Holden (Frank Brana, Slugs) who arrive on campus to inform the Dean of Students (Robert Purdom, Don't Open Till Christmas) of their odd plan to place police woman Mary Riggs (Linda Day George, Day of the Animals) undercover as a tennis coach in an effort to identity the maniac. Top on the list of suspects is a cock-eyed gardener maned Willard (Paul L. Smith, Sonny Boy) who appears in near every scene with chainsaw in hand, after that we have the odd Prof. Brown (Jack Taylor, Eugenie ...the story of Her Journey into Perversion), and young college student named Kendall (Ian Sera, The Pod People) who has been near the scene of each of the murders ...so of course the cops deputize him and make him part of the investigation. With this brilliant dragnet in place what could possibly go wrong?
The investigation does little to deter the chainsaw slasher who dismembers several more co-eds in quick succession. The killer decked in the latest Giallo fashions sports a black trench coat, black leather gloves and a black fedora, it is a very stylish and menacing get-up to be sure. He literally nets the next victim while she skinny dips in a pool and then dismembers her leaving a neat pile of severed limbs right next to the instrument of her death. When the body is discovered the Lt. calls Prof. Brown to the scene and asks if he thinks that perhaps the chainsaw next to the corpse, it's teeth covered in chunks of meat and gore, might possibly be the murder weapon, which is a nice bit of what-the-fuckery. A third victim is a dancer caught in an elevator by our stealthy sicko who somehow sneaks a running, yellow chainsaw into the confines of a small elevator. The woman recognizes the killer's identity but doesn't seem to notice the gas-powered chainsaw behind his back until it's too late. The gore effects in the film are surprisingly gruesome, with plenty of disembowelment, dismemberment, chainsaw savaged flesh and multiple stabbings perpetrated against a variety of nude women. Two of the best kills are left for last, we get an artful Argento worthy slow-mo stabbing on a water bed and a gruesome locker room evisceration with the chainsaw tearing through flesh. It may be a bit surprising just how much great gore is crammed into such a silly film, particularly considering how goofy some of the film's more dramatic elements are. Let's not forget a nutty kung-fu professor which is perhaps one of the most random chop-suey fueled nonsensical moments in all of horror film history, a scene that will leave you scratching your head in wonderment.

One of my favorite scenes comes immediately following the elevator death when all of the film's red-herrings are gathered together in a hallway looking suspicious beyond belief as the lightning dramatically illuminates their faces, a completely hilarious moment straight out of  an episode of Scooby-Doo. The film's final moments are bat-crap insane as one shocking reveal careens preposterously into a shocking, ball-shredding, ending that will leave you speechless and gasping for air. There's nothing else like it out there, not sure if the inherent camp is intended but I don't see how it possibly could be, this is the kind of stuff you just can't plan for and is most likely a happy accident of schlocky b-movie cinema. While there's no other film quite like it I would make a comparison toe Lucio Fulci's The House by the Cemetery which is equally gore-tastic while also uniquely absurd.

Pieces is a very silly movie, it borders on a slasher-parody, but what saves it from pure-camp are some gloriously gruesome gore scenes that rival anything you will see in a more venerated classic slasher. Some of the funky English dubbing might actually enhance the charm of the movie, the dialogue is straight-up crazy. Perhaps the most memorable quote from the movie is Linda Day George's notorious blood curdling shrieks of "BASTARD!" in a bizarre, oddly paced succession, just one of the weird and wonderful oddities of this splatter-classic. Plus we have some fine appearances from Euro-cult all-stars Jack Taylor, Christopher George, Edmund Purdom, and the reddest herring in all of cinema, Mr. Paul L. Smith. The cinematography is above average for an early 80's slasher, too. Perhaps not on par with the works of Argento or Fulci but not too shabby either, that water-bed murder sequence definitely stands out

Audio/Video: Grindhouse Releasing have gone back to the original camera negative for a brand new 4K scan of the movie, and WOW is all I can say about the results. Film grain is nicely managed, the details and textures have never been more crisp and the the colors are more vibrant than ever. I wasn't quite prepared for how robust this gory grindhouse classic would look in 1080p with improved depth and clarity, this is well worth a double or triple dip, as some who own both eh previous Grindhouse and Arrow Video releases I can assure you that you need this in your life. 

The main feature has two audio options, we have the English language version with the library music score featuring Steve Cipriani, Carlo Maria Cordio and Fabio Frizzi and the original, uncensored director's cut presented in Spanish with an original score from Librado Pastor (Don't Panic), both presented with DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 audio. Both come through clean, with the English version having not just the better fidelity, but the better score in my opinion. The Librado Pastor piano score seems a bit clunky in comparison, but both pale in comparison to the Umberto synth re-score also found on this disc. 

The first disc contains the feature length movie, in two version, we now have the Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche (86 Mins) version – the original uncensored director’s cut, presented in Spanish with original score by Librado Pastoras, the versions are seamlessly branched. There's a brand new commentary from Eurocult star Jack Taylor moderated by Calum Waddell with the star reflecting on how he came to appear in the gore-classic, also touching on other facets of his career, reminiscing about the director and his co-stars, mentioning that this was not some great piece of art, ha ha.  A very cool extra is the option to watch the movie with the Matt Hill (Umberto) re-score which he performed live an Beyond Fest and Mono Con. This score is available on CD and vinyl under the title 'The Night Has A Thousand Screams'. Unfortunately the audio option is a music only track, too bad they couldn't have it re mixed into the film as a viewing option with dialogue and sound effects.

Finishing up disc one we have a collection of stills galleries, each focusing on the various video releases, lobby posters, and print ads for the movie. Among these is a video of Simon culling through various lobby cards for the film and nudie pics from the audition process, which are also included in one of the galleries. There are at least two Easter egg tucked away on the main menu of the first disc, one of Eli Roth introducing the film at the New Beverly Cinema and mixing it up with fans waiting in line, while singing the praises of Pieces. This video also has a snippet of actor Clu Gulager (The Initiation) giving an appreciation of the gore-classic! Also hidden away is a an additional five-minutes of J.P. Simon looking at more lobby cards and more  nude shots from the audition process.

Onto disc two of this magnificent set we find the interviews with director Juan Piquer Simón and actor Paul L. Smith from the previous DVD release, both are great, with the Paul L. Smith not just touching on Pieces, but also David Lynch's Dune, Popeye, Red Sonja and Crimewave with Sam Raimi. Grindhouse have also added a brief three-minute audio only interview with Producer Steve Minasian who speaks a bit about the troubled distribution of the movie and being ripped-off by another producer.

The main course on the second disc is the Calum Waddell and Naomi Holwill produced documentary '42nd Street Memories' which is a ton of fun. This is the story of the rise and fall of 42nd street, beginning with its history as a pre-depression era venue for vaudeville acts, descending into a pit of sleaze in the '70s and '80s until it was cleaned-up by Mayor Rudolph Guilliani in the '90s. What makes this one so damn fun is the slew of notable directors and distributors speaking first hand about what a cesspool many of the theaters were. We have appearances from directors Bill Lustig, Larry Cohen, Frank Henenlotter, Buddy Giovinazzo, Jeff Lieberman, Matt Comber, and Joe Dante among others. Well worth a watch, and a lovely tribute to the seedy underbelly of NYC cinemas. The doc is stuffed with vintage video and images of the infamous block, including clips from movies like Nightmare in a Damaged Brain, The Exterminator, Basket Case and The Massage Parlor Murders that features the neon-lit strip in it's heyday. 

Easter eggs tucked away on disc two include a clip of J.P. Simon speaking about Christmas themed horror films, mentioning the the Dick Randell produced Don't Open Till Christmas. The bios contain a few videos, too. One is a funny one-minute promo for Don't Open Till Christmas with producer Dick Randell, the other is a three-minute clip of producer Steve Minasian speaking about promoting Mark of the Devil with the now infamous vomit-bag. You may also find a one-minute clip of Paul L. Smith speaking about a few movies he enjoys, plus another brief clip of Smith behind-the-scene during the interview. Author Michael Worth chimes in with a hidden two-minute clip shedding some light on how Bruce Le happened to appear in the movie in that weird kung-fu scenario. The last hidden interview I found was a two-minute clip of J.P. Simon going through some behind-the-scenes shots of his other movies like Devil's Island and The Crack, some cool special effects make-up shots.

Among the in-depth bios and filmographies are trailers for Primative World (4 Mins), Ecco (4 Mins), Don't Look in the Basement (1 Mins), Mark of the Devil (1 Mins), Last House on the Left (1 Mins), City of the Living Dead (3 Mins), Day of the Animals (1 Mins), and Witchcraft '70 (2 Mins). There are also a videos of Smith speaking about working on his Russian accent for Richard Donner's Maverick, and a three-minute clip of J.P. Simon speaking about his own personal favorite movies.

Separate from the disc extras we have a very handsome embossed slipcover with vibrant coloring - this one really pops and looks stunning on the shelf. Inside there's an eight-page collector's booklet with liner notes by horror journalists Rick Sullivan (Gore Gazette) and Chas. Balun (Deep Red). The Balun notes are also fond on the 2008 DVD release from Grindhouse, the Rick Sullivan entry is new to this release.  

Again Grindhouse have included the original motion picture soundtrack for the English version on a separate CD with a slipcase, much like they have for Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, The Big Gundown and The Beyond. I hope they keep this up, love getting the soundtrack with the movies. Also of note, the first 3000 units include an actual 15-piece jigsaw puzzle of the infamous nude puzzle from the movie, which is just all kinds of awesome. 

Special Features:
– Two complete versions of this shocking gore classic: PIECES (83 min.) – the original, unrated U.S. theatrical version, presented in English. MIL GRITOS TIENE LA NOCHE (86 min.) – the original uncensored director’s cut, presented in Spanish with original score by Librado Pastor
– Spectacular new 4K transfers – scanned from the original camera negative
– Brand New Audio Commentary by star Jack Taylor moderated by Callum Waddel
– Special 5.1 audio option – the Vine Theater Experience!
– In-depth interviews with director Juan Piquer Simón (55 Mins) and genre superstar Paul L. Smith (58 Mins)
- Audio Interview with Producer Steve Minasian (3 Mins)
– 42nd STREET MEMORIES – all-new feature-length documentary containing interviews with Bill Lustig, Larry Cohen, Frank Henenlotter, Buddy Giovinazzo, Jeff Lieberman, John Skipp, Lynn Lowry, Terry Levene, and many other exploitation icons (82 Mins)
– Extensive Gallery of Stills and Poster ArtL Production stills (20 Images) HD, Publicity Materials (22 Images) HD, Video Releases (39 Images) HD, Bits and Pieces (60 Images) HD, Juan Piquer's Still Show (8 Mins) SD
– Exhaustive Filmographies
- Grindhouse Releasing Previews (36 Mins) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (1 Mins) HD
– Liner notes by legendary horror journalists Rick Sullivan (GORE GAZETTE) and Chas. Balun (DEEP RED)
– BONUS CD – original soundtrack – newly remastered from the original studio tapes

- Beautiful embossed slipcover
– First 3000 units include an actual jigsaw puzzle! Strictly limited to 3000 units!

Pieces could be considered an awful film, that beyond reason has turned into one of my favorite slasher movies of all time. A none too subtle demented chainsaw slasher that's straight-up ridiculous and bat-crap crazy, but I love it and consider this a must own schlockfest. Te new Grindhouse 3-Disc Deluxe Edition BD/CD is the finest it has ever looked. Worth the double-dip alone for the '42nd Street Memories' doc, this is a knock out of a release.  5/5