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You can't fault the marketing geniuses that picked up this grindhouse classic, packaging it for audiences on The Deuce. Originally titled Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche, (loosely: The Night Has 1000 Screams) the movie might have struggled to find an audience thinking it was just another naff giallo flick of uncertain parentage. Call it Pieces, however, and tag it; "It's exactly what you think it is!" and let stunted imaginations run wild. Apocryphal accounts cite the movie as one of the few to stymie grindhouse habitues, but then again, that's been said of countless gore classics. Did Pieces have the goods to shock jaded gore hounds back then, and does it now? Or does it even matter?
Depends where you're sitting, I guess. If I recall correctly, this little stinker is one I picked up back when you'd rent Betas by pulling an identifying tag off the pegboard, in order to present it to a clerk who'd then fetch your movie. By which I'm saying I was young and inexperienced. Pieces shocked me. It disturbed me. Its callous disregard for life, death, and the nubile bodies of hot, topless girls was a searing revelation. I'll always hold those memories dear. But now, today, for me and you, you sick little puppy, Pieces might be something more of a brutal joyride; fun, explicit, but no more disturbing than a cartoon version of Freddy Krueger. Or something.
It's 1942. A young boy studiously assembles a nudie puzzle, much to his mother's enragement. Well, boys can become enraged too, so this one immediately takes a few divots out of mom's head with an axe, before sawing up her corpse. (Something tells me he had problems before the puzzle incident.) Fast-forward 40 years, to a sunny Spanish locale subbing for a Boston college, at which some nut-job commences to dismember all the pretty ladies. No points scored for figuring out it's the boy with the puzzle, all grown up, and, well, probably no points for figuring out which adult is that grown up boy. Giallo elements (popularized by gory Italian murder mysteries of the '70s) crop up: the killer wears black gloves, and is seen only in fedora-wearing silhouette, while red herrings sort of abound. Could the killer be the crazy groundskeeper who could very well be the real life Bluto of Popeye cartoon fame? (Played by Paul L. Smith, who did in fact play Bluto in Robert Altman's Popeye.) Well, he does wander the campus trimming small shrubs with a chainsaw. He even scowls directly at the camera ala The Skipper from Gilligan's Island. Or, do we need to look further?
Look no further than Pieces' reason for being, cutting up nude women. Logic be damned. And yes, this isn't the most gyno-friendly movie out there, but you knew that coming in, right? What viewers and director J. Piquer Simon want(ed) was to ogle a strippercize class (the actresses in this particular scene, however, refused to get naked) before chasing some other poor floozy into a bathroom so she could get cut in two by a chainsaw. And this is important, they wanted to ACTUALLY SEE THE CHAINSAW CUT INTO HER NAKED FLESH. (The power of suggestion having long lost its mojo since people figured out there was literally NO GORE in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.)
And that, my friends, is what you get, along with implausibility, buckets of blood, stream-of-consciousness plotting, and Christopher George hoping to class up the joint with cigar-chomping bad-assery. If you like old-school, no holds barred gore, if you like co-eds who can't ride a skateboard but still try, if you like girls whose only desire is to strip down and get chopped up, then Pieces is for you! And that climax that was so disturbing to my virgin eyes? It's fucking ridiculous! Which makes Pieces just about the greatest movie ever made. And, since Grindhouse Releasing has done another stellar job in bringing us this gut-bucket in a 3-disk Blu-ray edition, we'll go ahead and give it what has become a standard rating for the imprint, the good old DVD Talk Collector Series.
Pieces splatters your eyeballs with AVC encoded 4k transfers (for both versions of the movie) scanned from the Original Camera Negatives, in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. With a crisp, clean transfer, Grindhouse allows the movie to look as good or better than new. Film grain is tasteful while accurately reflecting the source, and damage to that source is subtly scrubbed away. Details are sharp and commensurate with the movie's origin; they haven't been overly enhanced, just true to form. Blood is bright red - oh so very bright - while otherwise the naked flesh put on display for rending looks accurate and naturalistic. Black levels are pretty deep, and detail levels within retain clarity.
Presented in a Mono 2.0 DTS-HD MA mix, Pieces' audio is pretty great, considering what was there to work with. The dynamic range is wide, with piercing screams and screaming piercings, plus a robust low end. The English version's score mingles well with all other audio elements, and sounds very Goblin-esque for a Spanish movie, (probably because the likes of Stelvio Cipriani and Fabio Frizzi, plus Carlo Maria Cordio, contributed) while the Spanish version's Mono mix and score by Librado Pastor lends that version a slightly more serious tone. Both the English Language version and the slightly longer Spanish Language version mix dialog appropriately with other aspects of the soundtrack, so you won't be struggling with your volume control, and other dimensional audio effects are fairly effective.
As usual, Grindhouse Releasing falls all over itself, delivering you the extra goods, starting with a clear keep case that reveals an amusing gatefold image on the reverse of the cover. A 6-page Liner Notes insert includes movies stills and two essays: a lengthy one from the late, great Chas Balun, and a shorter contemporary take from Rick Sullivan. We'll then move on to Disk 3 in the set, which is a Bonus CD of the Original Movie Soundtrack, English Version (which looks to have been cobbled together from other soundtracks, including that of Anthropophagus 2, but hey, recycling is good for the Earth, right?)
But, there is so much more, including the fact that you get Two Versions of the Movie, the 85-minute English Language version slopped onto 42nd Street audiences, and the 86-minute Spanish Language version, AKA the uncensored director's cut. Disk 1 also includes a Commentary Track with actor Jack Taylor, moderated by Calum Waddell. If you can put up with, let's just say, the more stately manner of an older actor, you'll find some interest here, including the history of Taylor's career, as well as his experiences on set. For your listening pleasure you can enjoy a Vine Theater 5.1 Experience, which allows you to feel as if you are watching with the audience from a 2002 screening of the film. And, what the heck, why not enjoy a disorienting viewing of the film with the Original Score ONLY, here credited to Umberto, which at first glance seems to sound almost the same as the English Language score, but frankly there is so much here to discover, that, as the kids say, I can't even. (Side note: if you access this feature from the Extras, rather than Setup, menu, Umberto is credited with 're-scoring' the movie.) In the extras menu you'll also gain access to the Theatrical Trailer and numerous Still Galleries, all of which are self-navigated.) You may find a salacious Easter Egg if you look hard enough. And I mean, really, haven't you had enough extras?
No, Grindhouse says you haven't, so they've included an additional Blu-ray disk packed with more! So much more, I've half a mind to simply list them and call it good. I'll get the easy stuff out of the way. The whole shebang comes in a nice, embossed slipcover with awesome cover art. And, if you order fast, you may be one of the first 3000 lucky ones to get a Mini Puzzle, a blood-smeared version of the very same puzzle our little killer works on at the beginning of the movie. What a cool extra, and I mean that, but order quickly or it'll be gone! You also get a subtitled Interview with Juan Piquer "Pieces of Juan" , giving a quick overview of his career, and tons of time for his personal history of Pieces, 55 minutes worth! An interview with Paul Smith, Paul Smith: The Reddest Herring allows the affable actor his own hour to talk shop. It's an all-inclusive, real good time. Producer Steve Minasian gets only a 3-minute Interview, but sometimes brevity is the soul of wit.
You also get Bios And Filmographies for the stars and others, which seems pretty old school, but why not ladle it on, eh? I bet you want even more, though, so how about 42nd Street Memories, an 81-minute documentary about the district that spawned the Grindhouse experience, featuring interviews with pretty much everyone, clips from Deuce classics, as well as archival footage and stills. Kind of essential viewing. If you've got another 40 or so minutes to kill, you can enjoy no less than 15 Grindhouse Releasing Trailers, before looking for another Easter Egg. I mean, really ...
Is Pieces the greatest movie ever made? No. (Despite what I said previously.) It's daft, lacks internal logic, is pretty much a template for the 'misogynistic killer' movie, and is excessively violent, sadistic, and sexually perverse. Wait, what? Yes, it's one of the greatest exploitation movies ever, if you're inclined to that sort of thing. Grindhouse Releasing brings this paean to power tools ripping flesh to the Blu-ray world in embarrassingly louche fashion, piling on the quality and extras with perverse glee. You, with the blood dripping from your open mouth, you know you want this, which is good, since it belongs in the DVD Talk Collector Series.