Saturday, October 24, 2009

Film Review: PIECES (1982, Juan Piquer Simón)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 89 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Christopher George (Vanna White's uncle, ENTER THE NINJA, THE EXTERMINATOR), Lynda Day George (his wife, CHISUM, DAY OF THE ANIMALS), Edmund Purdom (2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK), Paul L. Smith (Bluto in Altman's POPEYE, Lynch's DUNE, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS), and Jack Taylor (THE NINTH GATE, CONAN THE BARBARIAN). Written by Joe D'Amato.
Tag-line: "You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre..." and "It's exactly what you think it is!!!"
Best one-liner: "Who knows? Right now we're just buying clothes without labels and trying them on for size."

Holy Mother of God- even in the blood, sweat, and Campari-soaked annals of Euro-sleaze cinema, PIECES is truly something special. Directed by unhinged Spaniard Juan Piquer Simón and written by by scuzzy Italo-trashtermind Joe D'Amato, PIECES is a mash-up of giallo traditions, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and the All-American Sorority Slasher.

The set-up is genius: a little boy works on a nudie jigsaw puzzle.

Mom bursts in and starts bustin' shit up, screaming "I'll KILL YOU!"

and the kid counters by delivering an axe to her forehead.

The moral: don't mess with an 8 year-old's porn stash. We cut immediately to a gal wrecking her skateboard into a gigantic mirror in slow-mo.

'Why?' you ask? Just don't worry about it.

Then there's murders, black gloves, creepy groundskeepers, badly dubbed screaming, the works. The cops send in Christopher George to investigate. He's doing a whole lot of eyebrow indicating and the like, but who cares, cause so's the entire cast. "Stop calling me Doc, I'm a psychiatrist, NOT A DOCTOR OF MEDICINE!!" Well, actually, you are, but whatever. "You'll be playing so much tennis it'll be coming out of your ears!" Well, let's hope so. "I want you to run a complete check on the staff- full background, in depth- if you have to, use the department's FULL BUDGET!"

Now that strikes me as just plain irresponsible. Anyway, there's sleazy jazz ballet

(I think Castellari's proclivity toward asscrack is outdone by the 'pubes through tights' here- yikes), the killer successfully conceals a chainsaw behind his back in an elevator, and "BASTARRRRD!" is screamed to the heavens (three times). There's more mind-blowing police work ("Take some uppers or something-JUST GET ME A LEAD!") and suspects are deputized ("What the hell, you're practically on the force anyway"). And one scene is too ridiculous to be described, but know that an Asian's erratic behavior is blamed on "Bad chop suey." It builds to a mind-blowing denouement that A. makes no sense, and B. involves bloody balls-grabbing.

Clearly five stars.

But then there's the Spanish-language version. The director's preferred cut. And while the visuals themselves remain the same, we've got a new title and a new soundtrack. The new title, of course, is MIL GRITOS TIENE LA NOCHE– ONE THOUSAND CRIES HAS THE NIGHT. Heavy stuff. But the soundtrack comes out of left field: no longer is there terrible, utterly generic rip-off Goblin, there's a blended, tonal, piano-heavy, emotionally-affecting, Ennio Morricone meets Philip Glass by way of Chopin soundtrack by Librado Pastor. Though the filmmaking itself still remains largely incompetent and laughable, holy shit– this thing has a dark, swirling, driving flow to it. You're not really laughing anymore, per sé, you're held rapt by it. It's still a confusing mess, but it has a tonal flavor and a palpable atmosphere now. I highly recommend watching both versions.

-Sean Gill

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)
23. KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)
22. FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991, Rachel Talalay)
21. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971, Robert Fuest)
20. FRANKENHOOKER (1990, Frank Henenlotter)
19. HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)
18. GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983, Nick Zedd)
17. ALLIGATOR (1980, Lewis Teague)
16. LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971, Lucio Fulci)
15. THE CARD PLAYER (2004, Dario Argento)
14. SPASMO (1974, Umberto Lenzi)
13. C.H.U.D. (1984, Douglas Cheek)
12. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982, Steve Miner)
11. SWAMP THING (1982, Wes Craven)
10. DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008, George A. Romero)
9. THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988, Ken Russell)
8. PIECES (1982, Juan Piquer Simón)

No comments: