October Horrorshow: Pieces

At first glance, Pieces, the 1982 slasher flick from shitty auteur Juan Piquer Simón, is just like every other bottom-feeding Italian film that flooded the American market in the 1980s. Except for one thing. Pieces is not an Italian flick. It’s from Spain. All the hallmarks of a Lucio Fulci or Enzo G. Castellari film are present. The cast is from all over the map. Many read their lines in their native tongue, everyone was dubbed in post, and there was a cavalier attitude towards making sure if any of it synced. The production is low rent, but there’s lots of blood, and it’s so bright one could use it to see by night. And, while it takes place in the United States, it was very clearly filmed in Europe. So, just why does this film have the appearance of cheap Italian cinema of the day?

Well, it hadn’t been that long since Spain was released from the grip of Francisco Franco, who died in 1975. Spain’s entry into modern Western Europe was delayed by the rule of the dictator, and it left the country kind of without direction in the wake of his death. It’s no surprise, then, that they would look to the outside for influences. That’s mere speculation, but the idea is reinforced by how the film regards an American college, where this film is set.

In this film’s world, an American college is full, top to bottom, with sluts who cannot have enough sex. They beg for it, constantly, forcing every man on campus to beat them off with sticks. Gratuitous nudity abounds. It has all the hallmarks of a cloistered society’s impression of the outside world. Simón’s portrayal of coed life is absurdity of the highest order, and is one of many factors that make this movie a wonderful shitty watch.

Written by Roberto Loyola and legendary shitty movie producer Dick Randall, Pieces takes place at some college in Boston. Which college is never said and it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that there is a chainsaw-wielding maniac on the loose, and he’s mutilating young, nubile college ladies with reckless abandon.

But, no fear. Police Lt. Bracken (Christopher George) is on the case. He sends one of his detectives, Mary Riggs (Lynda Day George), undercover into the university as their new tennis coach.

Lynda Day George’s character is precious. Her backstory is among the wildest I’ve seen in a shitty movie. Riggs is a one-time tennis champion. We’re talking a real star. In this film’s universe, she is famous. Yet, there she is, working for the BPD after her retirement from the circuit. So, she’s not really undercover at the university. Everyone knows who she is. They just don’t know she’s a cop.

Now, if a filmmaker has as one of their characters a former tennis pro who is posing as a tennis coach, said filmmaker is going to want some establishing shots of the former tennis pro playing tennis. Those shots are in this film, and they are amazing. It looks like George and her opponent had never picked up a racket in their lives before the day of filming. It’s an astounding level of ineptitude, and must have been embarrassing for everyone involved in shooting it. I loved it.

Back in the plot, Riggs is being aided in her investigation by oversexed college student Kendall James (Ian Sera). How he got involved in the case isn’t worth going through. Just know that the identity of the killer is unknown, and he is one of the suspects.

Other suspects include Professor Arthur Brown (Jack Taylor), and university groundskeeper Willard (Paul L. Smith). Smith is another performer who contributed much to this film’s precious shine. He was a good actor, normally. In this film Simón chose to use Smith as a caricature. He’s gruff and snarling throughout the entire film, which is the way he normally acted, but Simón coaxed Smith into overacting. That would be a bad thing in most movies, but not in this sleaze.

How the plot progresses and resolves is less important than all the gore. This is one bloody flick. It’s doesn’t have the blunt realism of Tom Savini’s more adventurous work, say, but the effects team did some nasty work. Basilio Cortijo was credited with special effects, but with work this extensive, he had to have had lots of help.

My personal favorite moment of shitty filmmaking has to be the random appearance of shitty kung fu flick actor Bruce Le (not a misspelling), who pops out of nowhere in one scene to flash some moves, and then disappears just as quickly. It has about as much effect on the plot as watching Riggs brush her teeth in the morning, but it sure is a flashy way to pad the running time.

Buckets of blood, loads of cheapness, bad acting, and plenty of breasts. What a movie. Pieces flies up the Watchability Index to #63, landing between My Bloody Valentine and Cyber Tracker. Check it out.

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