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In Association with
Pieces (1982)
Director: Juan Piquer Simón

review by Mark West

In 1942, a young boy is making up a jigsaw puzzle of a naked woman when his mother comes in, screams at him and tells him to go and get a bag so that she can burn the filth. He goes off and returns with an axe, which he kills her with. Flash-forward to the present day and a chainsaw wielding maniac, wearing an overcoat, a fedora and sensible shoes is working his way through the female contingent of a college, keeping bits of the murdered girls for his own ends.

Leading the case is Lieutenant Bracken (Christopher George), an old school copper who inserts big pauses into his dialogue and has very little in the way of comic timing. He's ably supported by Sergeant Holden (Frank Brana) who has the best lines - chief of them being, when asked what the police are doing, "we're just buying clothes without a label and trying them on for size" - and assigns his presumed girlfriend Mary Riggs (Linda Day), an undercover cop who also happens to be a tennis champion, to check out the faculty. He also enlists a student, Kendall James (Ian Sera), a hit with the ladies who both resembles and seems to fulfil the role of Keith Gordon from Blow Out. Red herrings are chucked in with great abandon, with Paul L. Smith as Willard the biggest chewer of scenery, resembling Bluto more here than he did in Robert Altman's Popeye.

The murders - all of them against nubile, mostly naked woman - are well staged (especially the shower one), quite brutal and cheerfully gruesome, and the whole thing operates on its own level of logic. In 1942, nude woman look like late 1970s glamour models and push-button phones are in common operation. In 1982, men with running chainsaws can get into lifts with intended victims and nobody bats an eyelid.

For all this, it's a lot of fun. Juan Piquer Simón keeps events ticking along at a good pace, it's well made and edited, the acting is acceptable and the locations - Barcelona, standing in for Boston - look nice. Once you get the tone of the piece - yes, it's gory but it's not taking itself 100 percent seriously - it becomes all that much more enjoyable. I still don't get the ending though.

On my screener copy, there were three extras in addition to a commentary by Tony Timpone (ex-editor of Fangoria). A trailer - "Pieces, it's exactly what you think it is" - is short but fun, and there are two featurettes. The first, Pieces Of Jack, is an 18-minute interview with Jack Taylor (who plays Professor Arthur Brown), covering his whole career in Spanish cult films - he also contributes a short introduction to the film. The other, Pieces Of Deconstruction, is 23 minutes long, bringing together film-makers and critics to talk about the film and their reactions on first seeing it.


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