“You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!”
A.k.a. Chainsaw Devil
Director: J. Piquer Simon / Writers: Dick Randall & Joe D’Amato [as John Shadow] / Cast: Christopher George, Frank Brana, Lynda Day George, Paul Smith, Edmund Purdom, Ian Sera, Jack Taylor, Isabelle Luque.
Body Count: 7
Dire-logue: “The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed.”
A quick run of the plot before we look at the ‘unique viewing experience’ that is Pieces. At a Boston college campus, which looks an awful lot like Madrid, a maniac is chainsawing off various appendages of the female students in accordance with the nudie jigsaw he’s obsessed with. Who is it and why blah blah blah…
Even though I’ve dolled out a generous three stars, Pieces cannot be regarded as a good film by any standards. It’s truly horrendous no matter how you cut it (with chainsaw or not). But nevertheless, it’s a funny-as-fuck 82 minutes. To truly convey the spirit of Pieces, we’re going to need a few pictures.
Beginning in 1942, the killer-to-be is caught by his strict mom playing with the nudie jigsaw. She loses her shit, smashes a mirror and photo of her husband, and tells sonny she’s going to burn the filth. In turn, he whacks her in the head with an axe and saws off her head, pretending to the police that he has merely survived the attack when they force their way in, after nobody answers the push-button phone. Hmm… looks a bit advanced for 1942, don’t it?
The cops (cheese favourite, Christopher George and Frank Brana) come along and the college Dean (Purdom) requests that they keep quiet, saying he’s told the staff it was an “unfortunate accident”. Would like you see how he explained that… she tripped and fell on a running chainsaw then her head rolled into a storm drain?
The killings continue in a clunky, idiotic way… The next victim is a cute blonde girl who first introduces us to one of our leading men, ‘Campus Heartthrob’ Kendall.
I know, right?
Anyway, cute blonde girl goes off to the swimming pool for a topless dip and is soon attached by the most frightening predator of all: THE POOL-SKIMMER KILLER!
Echoes of the killer’s garb at the start of The Burning don’t you think? With the lethal pool skimmer, our loon pulls cute blonde girl out of the water and lays her out flat while he fetches his handy chainsaw and comes at her with it. Does she do what the rest of us would and just roll back into the pool and swim away? No. She’s sits there quivering, allowing him to remove all her limbs and head and make off with the torso.
At this point, the finger of suspicion is pointed at beady-eyed custodian Willard. The actor playing him (Paul Smith) was a shoo-in to play Bluto in the 1980 Popeye movie that starred Robin Williams. No question, the guy is Bluto. And he has a big chainsaw that he strokes. And loves. It’s his friend fo’ sure.
The killer tries once and fails to capture his victim of choice – the dancer in the blue ‘tard – but catches up with her later in the first scene that really began to show just how phallic a movie Pieces is. The girl leaves the dance studio alone and, as she closes the door, another one opens and the killer skulks through holding his big, penis-shaped chainsaw. And, because he appears as a shadow, it looks like he’s just walking along with a giant stiff one. Regardé:
There you go. Big and brutal. What ensues is one of those classic Jason-style chases where the girl flees through an endless maze of corridors but the killers feet mope along slowly, and yet he’s still apparently only just behind her. Eventually, she reaches the safety of the elevator and bumps into the killer – GASP! – she knows and trusts him!
In one of Pieces‘ many ridiculous moments, the killer climbs into the lift behind the girl wielding the fuck off massive ass chainsaw and somehow conceals it!? A few seconds later, out it comes like he’s flashing her with it and he takes her arms off.
Despite being outside and quite far from the building, Kendall hears the commotion from inside a concealed box halfway between floors and, with two cops, breaks in to find the poor girl minus her upper limbs.
Christopher George recruits real life wife Lynda Day George – who is some tennis-pro-cum-detective called Mary – to investigate the college. Posing as a tennis pro. Kendall fancies the pants of her and even cuts short a shag to spy on her. This scene is something to behold and one that compounds the borderline uncomfortable misogynistic taste of the film. While he leaves the bed to gaze upon Mary, his female companion promises she’ll try not to let herself get so carried away and then tells him he can tie her up and gag her if it means they can continue!
Nevertheless, the scene is noteworthy for a little equal opportunity gender objectification. As ‘college heartthrob’ Kendall climbs out of bed, the nude-o-meter pings to the seldom used male end of the spectrum for a quick, profile cock shot!
What a hunk. Ladies and gay fellows watching must have been be so overjoyed to see it.
Randomly, Mary is attacked by an Oriental dude outside and Kendall comes along and saves her, even though she manages to strike him down. He gets up, as introduced as Kendall’s Kung Fu master, says something about eating bad chop suey, and buggers off. IMDb trivia tells us the actor – Bruce Le! – was something of a tribute act to his neo-namesake and a friend of the producers, so they made up this totally random scene to crowbar him in. Gotta love that.
Next on Pieces death-to-PC-values toboggan ride is the killing of the snooping reporter. Naturally, it’s a she, and said lady finds herself accosted by the killer in some random building where there’s a waterbed. Things go into slo-mo for what’s possibly the most overtly sex/death crossover on screen. The killer’s big, shiny, dildo-sized knife keeps coming down at her and the victim grunts as blood spunks over her face and, when the blade pierces the waterbed, it resembles some kind of twisted porno the patrons of Elite Hunting would jack off to.
While the scene is high art in terms of what Pieces is capable of (i.e. very little), it’s got a disturbing edge to it. The slow motion seems to prolong the victim’s suffering in some belief that the audience will enjoy the spectacle.
The killer doesn’t even require a body part from this victim, she was merely the curious one who gets too close. I wonder what the scene might’ve been like had they cast a male actor in the role… Probably a quick, from-behind knifing with none of the waterbed theatrics.
The female victims in Pieces are pathetic idiots, the kind of useless girls that don’t really exist beyond the realms of cheap-ass exploitation movies like this. That they freeze up, fail to even try and save themselves when there are ample opportunities must be riling for the non-stupid female viewer. Hardly any of them are given names let alone any facets of character of motivation; they exist purely to strip off and then die, making Pieces possibly the most aggressive film when it comes to pointing out the ones that feminists are actually right about.
The final kill does nothing different. Kendall and Mary go to play tennis and are put off by loud, annoying big band music blaring from the speakers. In the meantime, some random girl who lost a game to Lynda earlier, is chased around the changing rooms (topless, of course), cornered, wets her pants, and is sliced in two.
Yes, the dildo-saw blade strikes again. There are couple of neat shots in this sequence though, and it’s soon followed by the film’s most hilarious moment. When Kendall, Mary, and the custodian guy find the body, she yells out: “While we were fumbling with that music, the lousy bastard was in there killing her!” then she shrieks; “Bastard!” and then; “Bastard!” and a beat later; “Bastaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard!”
Where did her career go, we must ask ourselves?
Eventually, everyone involved seems to grow bored and they decide to reveal the killer and bring proceedings to a close. Lynda George is sent to talk to the Dean with questions she has about her various suspects, only Kendall and the non-Chris George detective find out that the Dean was the boy who axed mama!!! Too late for Mary though, because Evil Dean has laced her coffee with a paralyzing drug and intends to cut off her feet.
The cops and Kendall show up and shoot him, saving the day for all yaddah yaddah yaddah… As they clear out, the non-Chris George cop leans against a wall that spins around, throwing the stitched-together human doll right on top of Kendall. But here, Pieces does what Pieces does best. Fucks with us.
It’s like a totally different girl in two seconds.
Pieces‘ final shock, and possible apology for its kill-the-stupid-girls extravaganza, is that the corpse suddenly animates and rips off campus heartthrob Kendall’s balls! Random shit.
In conclusion, Pieces is funny now, in 2013, but thirty years ago, when the people looked regular and their hair and fashion tastes weren’t repulsive, it would be a worrying sight to behold: countless pretty girls being horrifically cut up, all with their tits out, acting like morons – it’s really not that long ago. That said, it’s more idiotic than spiteful, probably just a box-ticking exercise on behalf of a couple of guys who said: “People like gore and tits.”
I don’t particularly like the film and my third star was added for the sheer laugh-at quality/failing that Pieces is stacked with. It’s a pitiful piece of crap, but viewed in the right mindset, it’s bloody hilarious.
Blurbs-of-interest: Christopher George, who died the same year, was in Graduation Day and, with his surviving wife, in Mortuary; Purdom was in Don’t Open Till Christmas and Absurd; Jack Taylor was in fellow slasher Espanol, Edge of the Axe.