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Article Archive >> Entertainment

Movies From the Black Lagoon: Pieces

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Pieces - 1982, Unrated

A chainsaw wielding psycho killer upsets a quiet Boston campus in this 80's chiller that boasts gory effects, horrible dubbing, gratuitous aerobics, and a seasoned cast of B-Movie thespians phoning in their performances.
The story begins with a prologue, circa 1942,that sets up the action. A young boy is glimpsed putting together a jigsaw puzzle while reciting the tale of "Humpty Dumpty" in a flat monotone. His mom storms in and freaks out when she sees his puzzle is that of a nude pin-up girl. She proceeds to wreck the room while searching for a porn stash and orders the lad to fetch a trash bag.
Unfortunately there's a communication problem here as he returns with an ax instead and proceeds to split open mom's melon. Having dealt with this distraction the boy finishes his puzzle but must think fast when a nosy neighbor calls the cops and they begin hammering on the door. He opts to stash himself in a closet and is discovered by the lawmen who automatically assume he is a victim too.
Cut to 40 years later. A college campus is stunned by a series of chainsaw murders and the police are having a hard time with the investigation. One problem is too many suspects though the campus appears to be almost deserted (maybe they couldn't afford extras). The other problem is that the student body appears to consist of two guys and a gaggle of leotard sporting aerobics students. They aren't an impressive lot and come off as sex obsessed dope fiends who giggle over nonsense and are just looking to party; actually this was probably a realistic interpretation of campus life in the 80's if memory serves.
Still there are a few dubious characters, which include a hulking gardener, a fey anatomy teacher, and a Dean of students with sensitivity issues.
Inspector Bracken gets the case and spends most of his time arriving at murder scenes and chomping on a cigar. He embeds a female cop on the campus, posing as a tennis instructor, but doesn't provide her any security though he does enlist an annoying student, named Kendall, to keep an eye on her. Kendall should be a suspect, he's had relations with most of the victims, but Bracken treats him like a golden boy and even allows him to assist in the investigation.
It's all just an excuse for gory murders, which pop up every seven minutes and keep the film on life support. The proceedings are also livened up by bizarre choices, which include shots of gloved hands putting together the puzzle glimpsed in the opening. These scenes correspond with the killings as the murderer takes a body part from each victim according to where he is on the puzzle. There's also plenty of aerobics to pad the running time and the young cast practices good hygiene by taking on camera showers whenever possible.
Eventually the police figure out who the chainsaw killer is but they'll have to hurry up if they are going to save their undercover officer after she's been slipped a mickey and lies helpless in the killer's lair.
This is grade A cheese and it benefits from a deluxe two disc set from Grindhouse Releasing, run by Sage (son of Sylvester) Stall one. The extras include bits by Eli Roth (Hostel), who cribbed a few moments from this gore classic for use in his films, and a prolonged interview with Paul Smith (brilliant as the sadistic prison guard in "Midnight Express" who appears as the gruesome gardener. Smith relates tales about making a host of genre films and comes off as big kitten despite his brutish looks. The film itself looks great but suffers from some sorry acting. The main culprits are Christopher and Lynda Day-George as the cops. Christopher barely hits his marks as Bracken, mumbling most of his lines, while Lynda speaks more clearly but is way out of her depth and emotes as if she was in a silent movie bulging her eyes and occasionally shrieking her lines. Edmund Purdom fares much better as the tightly wound dean and manages a few moments. The worst performance honors are snared by newcomer Ian Serra (who?)as Kendall. It's impossible to fathom his charms though he does rock a stylish perm. His final fate is worth waiting for and closes the film with a "What were they thinking moment?" as a stitched together corpse reaches between his legs and proceeds to change his singing pitch without benefit of anesthetic.
Best Line: "Apparently his mother was chopped up when he was a kid. It must have affected his mind."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.

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