Digi-Schlock: PIECES (Grindhouse Releasing 2 Blu-Ray/1 CD Set)

Grindhouse Releasing has done beautiful work over the last few years revisiting the titles in their catalog for blu-ray, giving them all gorgeous new transfers and stacking on extras new and old. The latest Grindhouse title to get this treatment is Pieces, a title that label’s fans have been clamoring for a hi-def redux of ever since they launched their blu-ray line. Those fans will be happy to know the wait was worthwhile because this is the ultimate home video rendition of this grindhouse evergreen.

Pieces-bluFor starters, the new transfer is a stunner: the colors are rich without ever looking artificially enhanced and the level of detail is stunningly vivid, especially in the closeups. Grindhouse had done nice work with their earlier DVD edition of this film but this new hi-def edition surpasses it with ease. Fans will be happy to know that both the Spanish and the export cuts are included here, with the Spanish version featuring a differently edited prologue that has alternative opening title cards.

You get even more choices in the audio department. For starters, you have the original English and Spanish mono mixes in lossless form. Besides the change in language, the Spanish track replaces the Italian music library score used in the English version with an original soundtrack by Librado Pastor. His piano-dominated keyboard score gives the film an even more bizarre mood, with a sombre main theme and odd silent movie flourishes.

Next up on the audio slate is the “Vine Theater Experience,” a 5.1 lossless stereo recording taken in the audience of a 2002 Hollywood screening of the film. The crowd is rowdy and enthusiastic, with plenty of hooting and hollering in the key places (Schlockmania attended this screening and it was every bit as much as fun as it sounds.). Newly recorded for this set is a new full-length score-only track by Umberto, who gives the film an edgy yet melodic electronic score that falls halfway between techno and the style of soundtrack-influenced groups like Zombi. If you want to use the film as background viewing at a party, this is a perfect option.

As is customary for any Grindhouse release, this is also stacked to the ceiling with extras, so many that two blu-rays were required to capture them all. Here’s an overview of what you can expect:

Commentary: this Pieces-03pairs actor Jack Taylor with moderator Calum Waddell. Pieces is discussed but its main function is to provide an overview of Taylor’s career, an impressive affair with lots of credits in countless Spanish and English films. He speaks in a wry, candid manner about the ups and downs of working with Jess Franco as well as his appearances in Paul Naschy films, Conan The Barbarian and The Ninth Gate. Any fan of Eurocult material will find this to be a treat.

Additional Disc 1 Extras: you get five image galleries – a production stills set with copious nudes, publicity materials, a colorful set of video covers from around the world, a “bits and pieces” gallery with everything from theater pictures to revival screening promotions and a director’s still show that is actually a video segment with Juan Piquer Simon talking you through several stills. There is also the brief but punchy original American trailer for the film.

Pieces-04Juan Piquer Simon interview (55 min.): a relaxed chat produced by Spanish filmmaker Nacho Cerda that features the director discussing Pieces in the context of his career. He talks about the challenges of making English-language genre fare in Spain, reveals how the film’s special effects were achieved, explains why there are two different scores for the film and tells some fun anecdotes about the cast.

Paul Smith interview (58 min.): excellent retrospective interview with this great character actor discussing his entire career. You’ll learn about how he got his break in film acting with Exodus as well as hearing great stories about his work in films like Midnight Express, Dune, Haunted Honeymoon and Sonny Boy. Pieces is of course covered, including a nice tribute to producer Dick Randall. He displays a charming irreverence toward show business and tells all his tales with an impish wit.

Steve Minasian (3 min.): quick audio snippet with the veteran producer offering his blunt assessment of the film and an interesting story about how he and the other producers were scammed by the film’s U.S. distributor, the notorious “Big Ed” Montoro.

Pieces-05Text Biographies: an extensive set covering eight key cast and crew members. These are worth the time for cult/exploitation students because they offer quality biographical sketches for each person as well as bonus interview clips and trailers (look out for the wild, Edmund Purdom-narrated trailer for Witchcraft ’70).

42nd Street Memories (82 min.): a compelling documentary from Calum Waddell that chronicles the history and demise of the titular filmgoing center. This achieved through weaving together a narrative from the memories of an amazing array of participants: distributors like Terry Levene, Lloyd Kaufman and Sam Sherman as well as filmmakers like Larry Cohen, William Lustig and Joe Dante.

The participants reveal the differences between theaters (the New Amsterdam was the best, the Anco was the pits), quirks of programming schedules, what films were perennial attractions and how the rise of porn ultimately made the location vulnerable Pieces-06to a cleanup in the early ’90s. There are also great tales of the theater’s wild ad campaigns, including Levene talking about his infamous “Butchermobile” promotion for Dr Butcher M.D., and you even get street-level tales from 42nd Street Pete and adult film star Veronica Hart. It’s a must-watch for any grindhouse enthusiast.

Additional Disc 2 Extras: the extensive Grindhouse Releasing trailer gallery is here, including an alternative reissue spot for Pieces, and a credits page that shows just how much work was put into bringing this special edition to life.

Insert Booklet: This full-color booklet includes some appropriately eye-popping ad art and stills as well as two essays. The first is the Chas Balun essay used for Grindhouse’s original DVD set: it’s a rabble-rousing appreciation of the film that mixes critical insight and gallows humor in the best Balun tradition. The second is the first new piece of writing in years by Rick Sullivan of Gore Gazette fame. It’s a remembrance of screening Pieces at a 42nd Street theater that packs plenty of vivid details and scabrous wit into a short space.

Pieces-dvdSoundtrack CD: bonus soundtrack CD’s have become a frequent inclusion in Grindhouse blu-ray special editions and this might be their most unique and valuable one to date. It collects all the CAM music library cues used in the familiar export version of Pieces, a bonanza of synth-y, Goblin-esque material by Fabio Frizzi, Stelvio Cipriani and Carlo Maria Cordio as well as a few kitschy pop music source cues. It’s the first CD collection of this material in one place and a boon for Eurotrash soundtrack buffs.

First 3000 Copies Bonus: If you purchase one of the first 3000 copies from Diabolik DVD, you also get a miniature reproduction of the nude girl jigsaw puzzle that figures so prominently in Pieces. It’s a fun little tchotchke and a nice representation of how this label goes the extra distance for the faithful.

In short, this set is another fantastic release from Grindhouse and a must for fans of this film. It’s only the second month of 2016 but other labels are going to have a tough time topping the level of care, technical polish and sheer cine-love that Grindhouse Releasing has put into this edition of Pieces.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Pieces, click here.

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