Director – J. Piquer Simon, Screenplay – Dick Randall & John Shadow, Producers – Dick Randall & Steve Minasian, Photography – John Marine, Music – Cam. Production Company – Almena Films.
Christopher George (Lieutenant Bracken), Ian Sera (Kendall James), Linda Day (Mary Riggs), Edmund Purdom (Dean), Paul Smith (Willard), Frank Brana (Sergeant Randy Holden), Jack Taylor (Professor Brown)
Boston, 1942. A young boy is treated cruelly by his mother after she finds him putting together a jigsaw of a naked woman. He responds by hacking her to pieces with an axe. Forty years later, a maniac starts attacking women on the university campus with a chainsaw. In their desperation to find the killer, the police recruit teenage casanova Kendall James and tennis pro Mary Riggs to work undercover for them.
Pieces comes from the late Spanish exploitation director Juan Piquer Simon, who also variously credited himself as J.P. Simon and Juan Piquer. Simon made a number of films, all within the science-fiction/horror genre. These included The Fabulous Adventure at the Center of the Earth (1977), Supersonic Man (1979), Beyond Terror (1980), Monster Island/Mystery on Monster Island (1981), The New Extraterrestrials/The Return of E.T. (1983), Slugs: The Movie (1988), Cthulhu Mansion (1990) and The Rift/Endless Descent (1990). All of Simon’s sf/horror films were cheaply conducted ripoffs of other successes that usually came out in the last couple of years before they were made. Simon frequently did his own special effects and all of his films were shoddily made.
Pieces was a clear attempt to make a slasher film in the vein of the then recent successes of Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). The video box even tries to claim that the film is “from the producer of Friday the 13th“, although this is a blatant lie as none of the producers, or for that matter anybody in the cast or crew, had anything to do with Friday the 13th or any of its sequels. Simon has imported a number of minor names – Christopher George, George’s wife Linda Day, Paul Smith of Midnight Express (1978) fame and British actor Edmund Purdom.
As with all of Juan Piquer Simon’s films, Pieces is terrible. In fact, when it was released in the US, Fangoria magazine printed a three-page article that completely ridiculed the film. A lot of this is due to the incredibly bad dialogue, which frequently sounds like nothing that could ever be uttered by a native English-speaker. There is the scene where young hero Ian Sera is interrupted while having sex by a sound outside and tells the girl to keep quiet, whereupon she offers up the surreally hilarious reply: “If you gag me, I wouldn’t make any noise then.”
There is the utterly bizarre scene where Linda Day is attacked by a man who leaps out in front of her in a display of martial arts before collapsing on the ground – this turns out to be Ian Sera’s ‘kung fu professor’ (!!!) who then offers an apology in pidgin English: “I am out jogging. Next thing I know, I am on floor. Bad chop suey.” There is a great deal of funny dialogue during the police investigation, none more so than the scenes where precocious teen student Ian Sera, who has just been deputised onto the force by detective Christopher George, starts ordering beat cops around. And then there is the classic moment where the killer follows a woman into the elevator and then produces a chainsaw that he has somehow kept hidden underneath his raincoat.
Certainly, the film has an effective opening – a scene where a mother lashes out with harsh moralism after finding her young son playing with a jigsaw of a naked woman, which he responds to by hacking her up with an axe. This scene seems to be setting up the film for an intriguing piece of slasher movie cod motivation – the idea of a psycho who is taking women’s body parts and piecing them together like a jigsaw, presumably the ‘pieces’ of the title. Alas, despite the title, Juan Piquer Simon fails to tie this opening scene to anything else that happens in the film.
The rest of the show is routine hack and slash. As with some of the more unpalatable of the slasher movie entries, Juan Piquer Simon gives the film a nastily misogynistic undertow – almost all of the female victims are shown in a state of undress before being hacked apart. The violence is often nasty and shown in prodigious detail – a good deal gorier than most American slasher equivalents – with images of chainsaws going into stomachs and knives jabbing out through victims’ mouths from behind.