Release Date: August 23rd, 1982 (Spain)
Directed by: Juan Piquer Simon
Written by: Dick Randall, John W. Shadow
Music by: Librado Pastor
Cast: Christopher George, Paul L. Smith, Edmund Purdom, Linda Day
Artists Releasing Corporation, Film Ventures International, 89 Minutes
“Yes! While we were out fumbling with that music, the lousy bastard was in there killing her! BASTARD! BAAAAASTAAARD! BASTAAARD!” – Mary Riggs
Pieces is a Spanish-Italian-Puerto Rican-American production that is actually quite good, even if it is essentially a rehash of several slasher and splatter film tropes.
The film takes place in Boston, where some exterior shots were filmed. The rest of the production was done in Spain, which is obvious by the architecture as well as the flora.
It is mostly a Spanish-Italian co-production and because of this, reflects the visual style of those regions. While it is a straight up slasher flick with a heavy emphasis on chainsaw dismemberment, it has a giallo styled visual flair. There are lots of dark shadows and high contrast with beautiful vibrant colors added in. While it isn’t as vibrant as some of the traditional giallo pictures, the influence of the style is quite prevalent.
The story isn’t anything to write home about but all you really need for a good gore-filled slasher is a setup. Any setup will do, really. As long as there is some sort of violent or twisted backstory about the killer. In this case, as a boy, our killer murders his mother after she freaks out about him playing with a nudie puzzle. Forty years later, the killer, whose identity is a mystery, murders young girls and takes specific body parts from them. While committing his violent acts, he puts pieces of the nudie puzzle back together: forming a full woman with each murder.
The real highlight of this film is the murders. They are all pretty graphic and for a foreign picture from 1982, I was really impressed with the special effects. Practical effects, even when resources are limited, always show the passion of those creating them. The effects and the gore were just really well handled and executed in Pieces. There is a fantastic scene where a knife goes through the back of a head and comes out the mouth. There is another scene where a girl is literally chainsawed in half and it was just a great sequence.
There is some random bizarreness in this movie. The biggest example is when a Bruce Lee lookalike jumps into a scene and kung fus the shit out of one of the ladies. She pulls a gun on him, he kicks it, knocks her down and then another actor runs up and apparently the guy was just messing around and then runs off.
Pieces is a pretty good slasher movie. While some people still remember it, it has since been mostly forgotten due to the high number of slasher picks from the era. It is nowhere near the best in the genre but it is better than average and a better movie than some of the more famous slasher films.
Release Date: July 3rd, 1985
Directed by: Richard Fleischer
Written by: Clive Exton, George MacDonald Fraser
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Brigitte Nielsen, Sandahl Bergman, Paul L. Smith, Ronald Lacey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ernie Reyes Jr., Pat Roach
Dino De Laurentiis Company, MGM/UA Entertainment Company, 89 Minutes
Arnold Schwarzenegger once referred to this film as the worst of his career. He’s wrong. In fact, I can name many of his films that are worse than this picture and if you don’t think that Jingle All the Way isn’t a complete abomination, than you have no taste.
Is this as good as Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian? Well, no. It is, however, better than the lackluster Conan the Destroyer.
Red Sonja introduced the world to the talent of Brigitte Nielsen. Now that isn’t too exciting but she had a very short run of appearances in mid-80s action films. She went on to be featured in Rocky IV, Beverly Hills Cop II and the often panned Cobra. I like friggin’ love Cobra.
This film also featured little martial arts bad ass Ernie Reyes Jr. who is most famous for playing Keno in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, as well as starring in Surf Ninjas and having smaller roles in Rush Hour 2, The Rundown and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Ronald Lacey, who most famously played the evil Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark, shows up to play the evil queen’s top henchman. The evil queen is played by Sandahl Bergman, who was Conan’s love interest in Conan the Barbarian.
The cast was good enough, the film was straightforward and most importantly, it was action-packed. This film follows the well-established sword and sorcery genre pretty solidly. It felt like an extension of the Conan world and its mythos, which was already well-known at the time this came out.
Red Sonja is often times trashed. I don’t see why though. People don’t watch these movies for acting prowess or to be pristine works of art. Films like these are made to be fun escapism and this one does a great job of that. It runs short at around 90 minutes and that is the perfect amount of time to jump in, like a few characters and enjoy the sweet battles and even sweeter decapitations. Yes, this film has some sweet decapitations.
The effects are decent for the mid-80s and the sets are pretty well-made. Also, they somehow got the legendary Ennio Morricone to score this picture. There really isn’t a lot to dislike about Red Sonja unless you go into it expecting The Return of the King.
Is this movie a great fantasy epic? Not really. What it is though, is a shit load of fun. And it has sweet decapitations. And Arnold.