Pieces (film)

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Pieces
PiecesPoster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Juan Piquer Simón
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Music by Librado Pastor / CAM
Cinematography Juan Mariné
Edited by Antonio Gimeno
Distributed by Artists Releasing Corporation
Film Ventures International
Release dates
  • August 23, 1982 (1982-08-23) (Spain)
  • September 23, 1983 (1983-09-23) (US)
  • December 7, 1983 (1983-12-07) (France)
Running time
89 minutes
Country
Language Spanish
English
Box office $2 million (US)[2]

Pieces (original title: Mil gritos tiene la noche translation: 'A Thousand Screams in the Night' or 'The Night Has 1000 Screams') is a 1982 exploitation slasher film directed by Spanish filmmaker Juan Piquer Simon and stars Christopher George, Linda Day, Frank Braña, Edmund Purdom, Paul L. Smith, Ian Sera, and Jack Taylor.[3] Set at a college campus, the film follows a murderer brutally killing many of the students and using their body parts to make a human jigsaw puzzle. Since its release, the film has attracted a cult following and has been a drive-in favorite.

Plot[edit]

In 1942, 10-year-old Timmy plays with a jigsaw puzzle of a nude woman when his mother walks in and chastises him for it. The mother orders Timmy to get a plastic bag to "burn everything." Instead, Timmy murders her with an axe, then saws her body with a hacksaw. The police later arrive to find the gruesome crime scene in Timmy's bedroom and Timmy hiding in his closet. He acts as though he merely witnessed the murder. No one suspects the boy of having committed the crime and Timmy is sent to live with an aunt.

Forty years later, the killer opens a drawer and takes out a box that contains Timmy's mother's bloodstained clothes, shoes and a photograph of her. Another scene shows a girl skateboarding through a college campus, eventually smashing into a large pane of glass being carried across the sidewalk by two workers. Back at the killer's house, he removes another box containing the bloodied puzzle of the nude woman from his childhood, which he starts to put together.

The girl on the skateboard, apparently unharmed by the accident, is now studying in the grass. Nearby, an unknown person is seen working on the shrubbery with a chainsaw. The killer approaches and decapitates the girl with the chainsaw in broad daylight. A little later, Lt. Bracken (Christopher George) and his partner Sgt. Holden (Frank Brana) arrive to investigate the murder. They explain to the college dean (Edmund Purdom) that there were no witnesses, there are no suspects and the girl's head went missing. The Dean asks the rather sinister Professor Brown (Jack Taylor), who teaches anatomy, to show the detectives around. Outside, Willard (Paul Smith) the groundskeeper trims a hedge with a chainsaw, similar to the one the killer used. In the campus library that evening, a girl gives a note to a male student named Kendall (Ian Sera), expressing the desire to "do it underwater". The unseen killer finds the discarded note and goes to the pool where the girl is swimming. He uses a net to choke the girl and pull her out of the water, then he attacks her with his chainsaw. A little later, Willard turns on the pool lights and spots Kendall, who fights with him. Near the pool lay a bloody chainsaw and the girl's corpse, sawn into pieces with her entire torso missing. The police arrive and arrest Willard. Dr. Jennings (Gerard Tichy) meets with Kendall at the station the next day in the hope that Kendall can help provide a profile of the murderer. Lt. Bracken brings in Mary Riggs (Lynda Day George), a former tennis player-turned undercover-cop. Bracken explains to Holden that Mary is going undercover to pose as a tennis instructor at the college, and Kendall is going to assist her whenever he can.

Sylvia Costa (Isabelle Luque), a reporter for The Boston Globe, questions Bracken about rumors of a homicidal maniac on the loose, but he stonewalls her. That evening, the killer stalks a girl who has just finished her dance routine and saws both of her arms off in an elevator. On the floor below, Kendall hears a scream. He and a pair of police officers race to the elevator, only to discover the armless, dying woman. A little later that night, the killer follows Sylvia as she snoops around the campus and stabs her to death on a waterbed.

The next day, one of Mary's tennis students heads into the locker room to shower after practice. The killer appears again and pursues her through the showers with his chainsaw before slicing her in half across her mid-section. Moments later, Mary and Kendall arrive at the tennis courts on a date and ask Willard (who was released from custody for lack of evidence) about music blaring over the loudspeakers. Kendall enters the locker room and encounters the victim's body, minus the lower half. Kendall then goes to the police station where he meets Holden and presents his theory that the killer must be part of the university faculty, since the killer seems to know when and where to strike and avoid the police. They spend hours researching files on the entire faculty and discover that the Dean changed his name and that his mother was brutally murdered. The Dean becomes their prime suspect.

Meanwhile, Mary visits the Dean at his apartment. He drugs her coffee in an attempt to saw off her feet and complete the jigsaw puzzle of his own—his mother's shoes couldn't fit the feet of the previous victim. Bracken, Holden, and Kendall burst into the Dean's apartment, where they find a paralyzed Mary and the Dean, who attacks Kendall, but Bracken kills him with a single shot through the forehead. Kendall finds the box containing the old puzzle of the nude woman and Holden jokes that he should become a police officer and see the secrets people hide. Just as he says this, he leans on a bookshelf that gives way to reveal a secret panel containing the decomposing woman-puzzle the Dean stitched together with different body parts from his victims. The reconstructed woman falls right on top of Kendall, horrifying him. Later, the crime scene clears out and Bracken orders officers to take the Dean's body away. When a shaken Kendall bends over the jigsaw-corpse to get his jacket, it inexplicably comes to life and reaches out from under the blanket to castrate him as he screams.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The short script for Pieces was written by British filmmaker John W. Shadow and co-written by Dick Randall. Contrary to popular belief, Joe D'Amato was not involved in this production. It was given to director Juan Piquer Simón by producers Dick Randall and Steve Minasian, with whom he had worked on previous films.[4] Although the film was set in the United States, specifically in Boston, it was actually shot in and around Valencia, Spain, home of film director Juan Piquer Simón. Filming went for four weeks with the cast and crew, and another week went by to film the special effects for an estimated budget of $300,000.

According to the interview with Simón in Pieces of Juan (on the Grindhouse DVD version of the film), the director says that none of the female stars of the film knew how to play tennis, even though they were supposed to be portraying "professional" players. A tennis coach had to be hired so that they could learn to lob the ball in a convincing enough manner to make the film believable. Simón also reveals in the interview that he is proud of the visual effects in the film, especially that a pig carcass was used for the effect of the chainsaw cutting through a young woman's stomach and the slaughterhouse guts used.[5]

The film starred real-life husband and wife team Christopher George (of TV's The Rat Patrol) and Lynda Day George (of TV's Mission: Impossible), Edmund Purdom, spaghetti-western star Frank Braña, and Paul L. Smith ("Bluto" of Robert Altman's Popeye).[6]

Release[edit]

The original film was first released in Spain on August 23, 1982, followed on September 23, 1983, by a North American theatrical run distributed by Artists Releasing Corporation. The film opened on December 7, 1983, in France.

The uncut, uncensored director's cut of Pieces (aka Mil gritos tiene la noche) appeared for the first time in North America on DVD in October 2008 distributed by Grindhouse Releasing / Box Office Spectaculars. The release includes Grindhouse Releasing interviews with director Juan Piquer Simón (Pieces of Juan, directed by Nacho Cerda) and Paul Smith: The Reddest Herring (directed by Alma Har'el), an extended interview with star Paul L. Smith.

The two-disc deluxe edition by Grindhouse includes, for the first time, an (optional) restored original soundtrack by Spanish composer Librado Pastor, as well as many other extras and bonus materials.[3] Liner notes have been contributed by the renowned horror writer Chas Balun ("Deep Red"), and the release also includes as bonus video of American horror director Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) presenting a theatrical screening of Pieces to a Los Angeles cult audience.[4] Grindhouse Releasing / Box Office Spectaculars released the first North American deluxe uncut, uncensored director's cut edition of the previously out-of-print movie on DVD on October 28, 2008, on Ryko Distribution/Warner Brothers label.[6] Grindhouse Releasing continues to be the official licensed distributor of the film.

On September 5, 2011, British company Arrow Video released Pieces on DVD in a 1.66:1 (16×9) anamorphic aspect ratio version with an introduction by star Jack Taylor and a number of other extras.

On March 1, 2016, Grindhouse Releasing will release a 2 Blu-ray disc / 1 CD special edition of Pieces on Blu-ray. The Blu-ray part of the package includes the U.S. theatrical and Spanish versions of the film, a new documentary about the history of 42nd Street called 42nd Street Memories, a re-scoring of the film, a new commentary for the U.S. version by star Jack Taylor, and the extras from the 2008 special edition DVD release. The CD part includes the original soundtrack of the U.S. release of the film composed by CAM, taken from the original master tapes.[7] In addition, the first 3000 units of the special edition included a 15 piece facsimile of the nude woman puzzle seen in the beginning of the film. This 3000 unit limited edition, known as the "Puzzle Edition", was shipped out to customers early, and as of February 8, 2016, was sold out.[8]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, Pieces has a 22% approval rating based on nine reviews.[9] The film has retained a cult following however among bad movie fans on account of its numerous logical absurdities, gaffes, unlikely dialogue and ridiculous moments. It is uncertain to what extent the film was intended to be taken seriously or intended partly as a spoof.

References[edit]

External links[edit]