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Pieces (Spanish: Mil gritos tiene la noche, lit. 'The Night Has 1000 Screams') is a 1982 slasher film directed by Juan Piquer Simón, and starring Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Frank Braña, Edmund Purdom, Paul L. Smith, Ian Sera, and Jack Taylor. The plot follows an unknown assailant killing female students at a college campus in Boston, who uses their body parts to make a human jigsaw puzzle.
|Directed by||J. Piquer Simon|
(as John Marine)
|Edited by||Antonio Gimeno|
|Box office||$2 million (U.S.)|
A co-production between Spain, the United States, and Puerto Rico, Pieces was filmed largely in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.
Since its release, the film has attracted a cult following and has been a drive-in favorite. While not prosecuted for obscenity, the film was seized and confiscated in the UK under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 during the video nasty controversy.
In 1942, a 10-year-old boy named Timmy is chastised by his mother for playing with a jigsaw puzzle of a nude woman. After she orders him to dispose of the puzzle, he returns with an axe, murders her, then dismembers her body with a hacksaw. When the police arrive, Timmy hides inside a closet and pretends to be a witness to the crime. The police believe Timmy's story and he is sent to live with his aunt. Forty years later, a black-clad figure opens a box containing the bloodied clothing and a photograph of Timmy's mother. He also unboxes the bloodied jigsaw puzzle and starts to put it together.
While studying outside in broad daylight, a girl is decapitated with a chainsaw by an unidentified killer who steals her head. Lt. Bracken and his partner, Sgt. Holden, investigate the murder. The school's dean asks Professor Brown, who teaches anatomy, to give the detectives a tour of the school. Outside, the groundskeeper, Willard, is seen trimming a hedge with a chainsaw. In the library, a student named Kendall receives a note given by a girl to come to the pool later; the killer finds it and tracks down the girl at the pool, where she is brutally killed with the chainsaw. Willard later arrives on the scene and is arrested, believed to be a suspect. Near the pool, they find the chainsaw and the girl's body parts, save for her torso.
The next day, Dr. Jennings meets with Kendall at the station in hopes that he can help provide a profile of the murderer. Bracken brings in an undercover cop named Mary Riggs, who was also a former tennis player. Bracken explains to Holden that she will pose as a tennis instructor at the college and that Kendall is going to assist her whenever he can. As a reporter named Sylvia Costa is stonewalled by Bracken, the killer stalks a girl later that evening and saws her arms off inside an elevator just before Kendall and the police arrive. That same evening, the killer also stalks Sylvia and stabs her on a waterbed.
Later the next day, one of Mary's tennis students goes into the locker room after the killer plays music on the loudspeakers and ends up being sawed in half. While Mary and Kendall focus on turning off the music, the killer steals the girl's legs and escapes. Kendall presents his theory to Holden about the killer being a member of the faculty, since he knows when and where to strike before avoiding the police. They spend hours researching files on the faculty and discover that the dean previously changed his name and that his mother was brutally murdered, discovering that he was Timmy. Meanwhile, Mary is drugged by the dean at his apartment and attempts to saw off her feet, since the previous victim's feet did not fit his mother's shoes for the puzzle. Bracken, Holden, and Kendall burst into the dean's apartment, and he is shot dead by Bracken while Kendall rescues Mary.
After searching through the apartment and discovering the jigsaw puzzle, Holden – joking to Kendall that he should join the police force – leans on a bookshelf which switches around and contains the dean's human puzzle; a decomposing body made of his victims' body parts stitched together and donned in his mother's dress, which tears apart as the jigsaw-corpse falls on top of Kendall. Later, a shaken Kendall leaves with Holden and just as he grabs his jacket, the jigsaw-corpse inexplicably comes to life and castrates him as he screams.
- Christopher George as Lt. Bracken
- Linda Day as Mary Riggs
- Frank Braña as Sgt. Holden
- Paul L. Smith as Willard
- Edmund Purdom as Dean Foley
- Ian Sera as Kendall James
- Jack Taylor as Professor Arthur Brown
- Isabelle Luque as Sylvia Costa
- Gérard Tichy as Doctor Jennings
- Hilda Fuchs as Grace, the Secretary
- May Heatherly as Mrs. Reston
- Alejandro Hernández as Timmy Reston
- Roxana Nieto as Virginia Palmer, First Victim
- Cristina Cottrelli as Jenny, Pool Victim
- Leticia Marfil as Suzie, Locker Room Victim
- Silvia Gambino as Mary, Elevator Victim
- Carmen Aguado as Carla, Aerobics Instructor
- Paco Alvez as Alister Schwartz
Film scholar Ian Conrich notes in Horror Zone: The Cultural Experience of Contemporary Horror Cinema that Pieces has an "almost self-reflexive awareness of its status as an exploitation film." Conrich summarizes the film as a "hybrid amalgamation" of body horror films, "the pioneering splatter films of Herschell Gordon Lewis," and the Italian giallo. Additionally, Conrich criticizes the film for having a "transparently misogynistic narrative" as well as resembling the aesthetics of pornography, featuring scenarios similar to those found in contemporaneous adult films.
The short script for Pieces was written by American exploitation filmmaker Dick Randall and Italian producer Roberto Loyola, credited as "John Shadow". Contrary to popular belief, Joe D'Amato was not involved in this production. It was given to director Juan Piquer Simón by Randall and Steve Minasian, with whom he had worked on previous films. Although the film was set in the United States, specifically in Boston, it was mainly shot in and around Valencia, Spain, home of film director Juan Piquer Simón, though some exterior filming took place in Boston. The shoot lasted 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 revealed 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.
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).
Kevin Thomas, film critic for the Los Angeles Times gave the film a negative review, writing, "Pieces is a wretched, stupid little picture whose sole purpose is the exploitation of extreme violence against women," and further criticized it for being poorly dubbed and lacking suspense. Billy Kelley, entertainment writer for the Fort Lauderdale News, awarded the film no stars, describing Pieces as a "gross-out extravaganza" and a "bargain basement abomination."
In a retrospective review, Alex McLevy of The A.V. Club wrote that the film's "narrative is pedestrian as hell, but damn, the execution. The movie manages to luck into that ideal combination of over-the-top bloodshed, gratuitous nudity (of both male and female types, though the latter is, as expected, the mainstage show), and unintentional absurdity for which enthusiasts of the genre are perpetually on the hunt." Bill Gibron of PopMatters wrote of the film: "Thanks to VHS and the thriving home video market, the sleazoid shocker became an instant cult classic... Pieces is the kind of fright film that sneaks up on you. It is really nothing more than your standard slasher effort with a chainsaw doing all the slice and dice (well, there are a couple of knife kills thrown in for good massacre measure)."
Film scholar Scott Aaron Stine was less laudatory of the film, writing that it blends elements of the giallo and the slasher film "without adding anything new to either." Scholar John Kenneth Muir notes that the film features sequences "so poorly staged" that they "elicit laughter," ultimately deeming the film "utterly absurd from start to finish."
The uncut, uncensored director's cut of Pieces (a.k.a. Mil gritos tiene la noche) appeared as a 2-disc DVD in October 2008 distributed by Grindhouse Releasing / Box Office Spectaculars. The release includes interviews with director Juan Piquer Simón and 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. On September 5, 2011, British company Arrow Video released the film 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 released a double Blu-ray disc / 1 CD special edition of Pieces. 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. In addition, the first 3,000 units of the special edition included a 15-piece facsimile of the nude woman puzzle seen in the beginning of the film. This 3,000-unit limited edition, known as the "Puzzle Edition", was shipped out to customers early, and as of February 8, 2016, was sold out.
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