Pieces (1982)

When the general public thinks of a slasher film with no redeeming value whatsoever, chances are they’re thinking about this movie. It is at the same time the best and worst film you’ve ever watched. But more importantly, it is never ever boring.

Back in 1942, a young boy named Timmy was putting together a jigsaw puzzle of a naked woman. His mother, understandably, is upset and demands he get a garbage bag to throw the puzzle away. Instead, he came back with an axe to her head and then cut her up with a hacksaw. He hides in a closet and the police send him to live with his aunt, as they believe whoever killed his mother had escaped.

This all happens within the first minute of this movie. Yes, Pieces packs more gore and strangeness into sixty records than most movies do in ninety minutes.

Cut to (no pun intended) a girl studying outside, who gets her head chopped off by a chainsaw and stolen. Lt. Bracken (Christopher George, Day of the AnimalsCity of the Living Dead) and Sgt. Holden (Frank Braña, Yellow Hair and the Fortress of GoldIf You Shoot…You LiveGod Forgives…I Don’t!) start their investigation, meeting the dean (Edmund Purdom, Absurd2019: After the Fall of New York) and anatomy Professor Brown (Jack Taylor, Horror of the ZombiesConan the Barbarian). Rounding out our suspects would be Willard (Paul Smith, Bluto from Altman’s Popeye, one of the first movies that I remember hating as a child), a groundskeeper who is using a chainsaw.

Then, in the library, Kendall gets a note from a girl, telling him to come see her at the pool. The killer reads the note first and chainsaws the girl to, well, pieces. Willard is arrested and the detectives find the chainsaw and the girl’s body…except for her torso (no, not 1973’s Torso).

Meanwhile, Dr. Hennings (Gérard Tichy, Hatchet for the Honeymoon) meets with Kendall to get a profile of the murderer. They also bring in an undercover cop named Mary Riggs (Lynda Day George, TV’s Mission: ImpossibleMortuary), who will be acting as a tennis instructor to try and catch the killer. How the killer is attracted to tennis is never explained. And according to director Juan Piquer Simón, none of the women in the movie knew how to play tennis, despite the fact that they are playing professionals in this movie. They had to hire a tennis coach for the production as a result. Why tennis figures so prominently in Pieces is one of the many mysteries of this film.

The killer then decimates a girl who just finished her dance routine — dance and aerobics are also vital points of this film — and saws her arms off. He also stabs a reporter who is nebbing about — all before the cops arrive on the scene.

One of Mary’s tennis students is then sawed in half while loud music blares on the school’s loudspeakers. The volume of this music drives people completely insane! Mary and Kendall discover the body, as well as the fact that Willard has been released. Before calling the cops, they decide to turn the music down. Bad idea — the killer steals the girl’s legs. Mary then has a nervous breakdown which is, for some, the most memorable part of Pieces.

Kendall wants to be a cop — and why not, the real cops just let college students follow them as they chase murderers — and together with Lt. Holden, they come up with the theory that the killer is on the school’s teaching staff.

Surprise! The dean has changed his name, which used to be Timmy. Mary has figured this out as well, but Timmy/the dean has drugged her and is sawing of her feet to see if they fit into his mother’s shoes. The cops and Kendall arrive to stop him, shooting him the head.

Everyone is joking around, about how Kendall should be a cop now, when a bookshelf is triggered and they discover the human jigsaw puzzle of body parts wearing Timmy’s mother’s dress. It falls on Kendall, who screams his head off and is traumatized.

Finally, as the cops and Kendall leave, the corpse comes back to life and squeezes Kendall’s nuts so hard that blood pours out of his jeans. Why is the body still alive? Why is it after arguably the hero of the movie’s twig and berries? Oh, the questions you will have when you watch Pieces!

Any film with the tagline, “It’s exactly what you think it is!” is going to go for the jugular. This one also goes for the femoral vein, renal artery and the dorsalis pedis artery.

Oh man! I nearly forgot — there’s a cameo by Bruce Lee imitator, Bruce Le, in Pieces that don’t fit into the movie at all! He just shows up and tries to do karate moves on Mary, thinking she is the killer. This is all because producer Dick Randall was simultaneously some kung-fu films in Rome! Here’s an example of just how racist this scene is:

Kendall: Oh, hey, it’s my Kung Fu professor. What’s the story, Chao?

Karate Professor: Oh, I am out jogging and next thing I know I am on ground! Something I eat, bad chop suey. So long!

This film is filled with completely bonkers dialogue. Here is one of my favorite moments:

Lt. Bracken: You’ll be playing so much tennis it’ll be coming out of your ears!

And this exchange:

Female Student 1: Have you ever been laid on a waterbed?

Female Student 2: The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed, at the same time.

Oh man! I can’t forget the scene where Sgt. Holden calls a friend on the force for help and then says, “I’ll send you a box of lollipops,” suggesting that Pieces and Kojak take place in the same universe!

There was another title for this film — The Night Has 1,000 Screams — but I prefer Pieces. It’s a grimy, scummy, goofy, strange film that will find it’s way into your heart so that it can cut it out and stab it several times, then saw it up and throw it in a garbage bag.

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