Blu-ray & DVD: Pieces (1982)
Beginning in 1942, a young boy is alone in his bedroom putting the final pieces of his jigsaw together. His Mother comes into the room and is aghast at seeing that the jigsaw depicts a naked woman and in a fit of rage she swipes the jigsaw away, sending it flying across the room and dispersing the pieces. Not content with this she then begins to hunt for anymore ‘filth’ in the boys room, upending furniture and removing drawers. While this is happening the boys discontent escalates and he leaves the room, only to appear moments later with a huge axe which he then introduces to his mothers head. He then gets a large saw and cuts her into pieces (see a theme starting yet?) before hiding in the closet when the cops arrive and who suspect that the boy was hiding from the crazed killer. Cut to present day.
The seeds of your typical and already established slasher movie have been well and truly planted within that opening scene, but it is much to Pieces credit that it branches off in some unexpected ways, while at the same time hitting some of the usual tropes that you will be expecting.
The movie continues in the present day where a series of bizarre murders are happening and women are getting killed and dismembered. The kills are the usual 1980’s blood-soaked gore filled set pieces that are structured to have the audience clapping and cheering, but at the same time there is also a cinematic beauty in the way in which they are presented on screen by director Juan Piquer Simón. Non more so than a stabbing scene on a water bed that is almost balletic in its choreography and sweeping body movements, all captured in slow motion as the water bursts through the bed and begins to mix with the victims blood as she writhes in agony. A visually stunning scene that is only let down in part when you see the obviously fake knife bend in half when it hits the back of the woman’s skull.
And hereby lies the conundrum with Pieces; on the one hand it plays like a cheap slasher movie with boobs, blood, gore and hokey acting…especially the infamous ‘Baaaasssttaaarrrd‘ scene where Lynda Day George emotes to the extreme. Yet on the other hand it has visually stunning shots and some scenes that unfold like a well crafted Giallo. Pieces may not be the best example of either genre, but it constantly entertains throughout its entire 86 minute running time.
I’ve deliberately refrained from elaborating on any of the story after the initial opening scene, as Pieces is definitely one of those movies where the less you know going into it, will equate to even more enjoyment as you watch it. I will say however that your experience of the movie changes depending on what version you watch from the 3 that are presented here in this wonderful package from Arrow Films. The U.S. theatrical version raises more laughs due to its dubbing and the occasional discrepancies in the translation of the original script, whereas the original uncensored Spanish language directors cut (complete with original score) makes for a more macabre viewing experience. Having said that, by far my favourite is the ‘5:1 Vine Theater Experience’ in which (with the help of your 5:1 sound system) you are audibly placed in the middle of the Vine Theatre, along with a packed house of fellow Pieces fans, for a showing of the movie. Introduced with footage of the actual attendees arriving at the Vine, the movie then begins and it is just like being sat at a horror convention showing with hundreds of likeminded people. I can not stress enough how much I LOVED this feature and it’s one which I hope is utilised more often in future releases of movies such as this where audience participation is such a big part of the whole viewing experience.
With an ending that will have you cheering at least twice, set piece kills that have you whooping, and well crafted shots that will have you appreciating the direction and lighting, Pieces is a movie that unfortunately got passed over by a lot of people and was lost amongst the bigger budget and higher profile horror movies that were out at the time. This superb release from Arrow Films rectifies that and gives it the chance to find a whole new audience, as well as giving the ultimate viewing experience to people such as me who grew up watching it on VHS back in the 80’s.
Yes I could write about its misogynistic narrative and delve into the symbolism of a missing jigsaw piece at the beginning being the woman’s vagina, but Pieces is best appreciated as the fun and visually stimulating movie that it is.
Arrow Films have released a lavish package which is packed with superb special features AND contains a soundtrack CD that is currently on repeat play in my car…don’t worry, I’m not going to slice anyone up.
A ‘must buy’ for all fans of the movie and the same applies if you’ve never seen it before…you’re in for one hell of a treat.
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:
- Brand new 4K transfer from the original camera negative
- Two versions of the feature: Pieces, the US theatrical version, and Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche, the original uncensored director’s cut, presented in Spanish with original score by Librado Pastor [Blu-ray exclusive]
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original English and Spanish Mono Audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- 5.1 Vine Theater Experience
- Alternate Re-score by composer Umberto
- Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
- It’s Exactly What You Think It Is! – brand new featurette offering up an appreciation of Pieces by various filmmaker fans
- Brand new interview with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo
- Pieces of Juan – a career-spanning interview with director Juan Piquer Simón
- The Reddest Herring – extensive interview with actor Paul Smith, including a discussion of Pieces
- Audio Interview with producer Steve Minasian
- Image Galleries
- Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Michael Gingold
- Soundtrack CD featuring the entire original score
Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from discs kindly supplied by Arrow Films.