This one’s going to be a cake walk, creeps: two vintage 80s slasher flicks and some Vincent Price. Sometimes ancient talismans procured in questionable eBay lots really do work as advertised!
• RELEASE DATE: Available March 1st on Special edition Blu-ray (2 Blu-rays + CD)
• WRITTEN BY: Dick Randall, Joe D’Amato
• DIRECTED BY: Juan Piquer Simón
• STARRING: Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Frank Braña, Paul L. Smith
PIECES had a weird effect on me when I first saw it. I remember thinkin’ it was one of the greatest slasher films I’d e’er slapped my eerie eyeballs upon, as it pretty much had everything that makes the genre so outrageous, only amped up to the nth degree. I also remember thinkin’ “Man, I need to own this film right away; it’s the bat’s knees!” I then sat down, ate a slice of pizza (maybe it was a sandwich… hell, it could have been a filet mignon for all of the relevance it has), and forgot about the flick entirely for 15 years. Yup.
Anyway, today the ultra-super die-lux version of PIECES tumbled down into the Crypt o’ XIII, so let’s hold hands (maybe more later if yer feelin’ as frisky as me) and revisit this sleazy lil’ freak show!
PIECES is the delightful tale of a young scamp that enjoys that most beloved of national past times: the assemblage of nudie puzzles. Well, this goes over like a fart in a submarine with his dear ol’ mummy, who demands he burn the puzzle and sundry other things. She’s promptly rewarded with a splittin’ headache thanks to junior’s axe. Flash forward a few years, and it appears that lovable lil’ tyke is all growed up, and charmingly enough, he has a new hobby: slaughtering nubile college co-eds and reassembling them in a human jigsaw to recreate his mother. What the F, kid?
Now, that’s the goings-on in a nutshell, but believe me, you get so much more than just that lil’ feel-good yarn with this flick. Yessir, you also get a goofy chick skateboardin’ through a plate-glass mirror as raunchy music blares, a denim-jacked nerd in a monster mask blowin’ razzberries (I mean that was kind of a given as you see that everywhere), roughly 4,567 nude scenes (and it just ain’t the ladies either, there’s some good ol’ peen present as well in a scene that goes on waaayyy longer than it should and of course ends with the owner of said peen being begged by his girlfriend to gag her… yeah), gallons of great gore, a line reading of “Bastard!” the likes of which can seldom be believed which is quickly followed by two more ridiculous takes, and a truly uncomfortable Asian stereotype (oh 80s, you keep right on provin’ how the times they have a-changed).
You may guess that PIECES is a rather un-politically correct, sleazy, bloody, juggy good time; and you are 110% correct. The kills are extreme and feature beheadings, stabbings, chainsaw mutilations, a woman sliced in two, and on and on, all shown in lurid detail. Nearly every woman present manages to lose her clothes at some point, and the acting runs the gamut from cartoony to over-the-top to even more cartoony.
Speaking of acting, this flick features one of my favorite genre actors of all time—the late, great Paul L. Smith. This dude was absolutely, flat-out awesome in every flick I ever saw him in, from his arguably most famous role as Bluto in Altman’s POPEYE adaptation, to the scene (and tongue) chewing psycho Beast Rabban in Lynch’s off-the-rails version of DUNE, to the lovable oaf Falkon in RED SONJA. Smith brought his A-game every damn time, and his role here is no exception as he’s all evil-eye and ham fists as the groundskeeper Willard.
OK, I dig the flick and some of the cast therein, but why else do I think you’ll want this in your collection? Simply put, I have seldom seen a drive-in flick get as much love as the fine fiends at Grindhouse Releasing have given this film! You get two versions of the feature (with gorgeous transfers), some commentary action (and an option for an audience reaction track), a few interviews, and still and poster galleries. Not enough for ya? How about a copy of the films soundtrack on CD? Want more? How about a feature length documentary on the whole grindhouse experience called 42ND STREET MEMORIES featuring interviews with the cats that made that scene so rad-ass (it will also have you thanking Cthulhu that you can now watch flicks like these at home instead of in a rat infested, bodily-fluid-ensconced theater)!
This is my first experience with a release from Grindhouse Releasing, and I can assure you it won’t be my last. The absolute reverence and respect they have given PIECES is staggering, and the value they offer for a horror-hound is astounding. I give this the highest recommendation possible!
• RELEASE DATE: Available February 16th on Blu-ray
• WRITTEN BY: Buddy Cooper
• DIRECTED BY: Buddy Cooper, John Douglass
• STARRING: Matt Mitler, Ruth Martinez, Bill Hitchcock
Another day, another slasher flick I somehow completely missed despite having grown up with a serious horror addiction in the golden age for such things. Well, let’s see how THE MUTILATOR stacks up to rest of the hockey mask and machete crowd!
THE MUTILATOR opens with a scene that could have come from any given Norman Rockwell painting—namely a kid accidentally blowing his mother’s spine to pieces with a shotgun (for the record, he was cleaning the gun for his father as a birthday gift… I’m amazed that scenario ended in merely one homicide).
Flash forward a few years and we see that the kid, named Ed, has amazingly not pursued a career as a sniper despite displaying outrageous pin-point accuracy in the opening scene. Nope, he has in fact matured into that most 80s of characters: the beer-chugging college dude. A dude who of course immediately answers the summons to lock up his family’s (well, the remaining ones he hasn’t violently obliterated with a rifle) beach condo from his dear old Dad, mainly because he sees this as the perfect excuse to drag his friends along on his quest to die of alcohol poisoning by the age of 19. So after the award-losing strains of the film’s theme song “Fall Break” finally (mercifully) fade away, we discover that Ed’s Dad (along with his prized possession, his trusty battle-axe… Ed’s Dad has apparently started a Manowar cover band in his golden years) has made like the budget for this film and completely vanished. And then our gang of goofs start getting offed in various and sundry violent ways by a psycho. Then some stuff happens, and that mother F’n theme plays again.
Stuffed fatter than a padded bra on prom night with dodgy acting, regional accents, extremely well done gore, a boob or two (as is expected since they come in pairs and all), and scenes that linger half a second longer than they should, ol’ MUTILATOR is a big bowl of slasher flick comfort food. It’s filled with that “80s cheese” that’s impossible to duplicate outside of that decade… the characters are corny, the writing is clichéd, and in a move that you would think would absolutely destroy a film like this, the killer’s identity is never kept a secret… but goddammit, the whole thing just really works. I think it’s the whole “Let’s put on a show” Mickey Rooney-esque vibe of the whole thing—you can tell both the cast and the crew are having such a great time makin’ a fright flick that any technical limitations that get in the way are inconsequential (an assumption that was proved in the special features).
Speaking of special features, this thing contains about 4 million of them, which isn’t s surprise to anyone when it was learned that the fine fiends at Arrow Video had it in their sweaty (yet immaculately manicured) lil’ mitts. Multiple commentaries, interviews, a feature length doc detailing the films production, screen tests, some storyboards… just a beastly bundle of groovy goodness! You also get a real sense of just how immensely likable the folks behind this flick actually are, and as I said previously, it’s that charm that shines through in the finished product!
THE MUTILATOR is just flat out fun—great cast, great gore, lousy theme song… pure perfection!
THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION III
• RELEASE DATE: Available February 16th on Blu-ray
• WRITTEN BY: Various
• DIRECTED BY: Various
• STARRING: Vincent Price; who else would it be?
Vincent Price. The man is one of the all-time horror greats. I love him, you BETTER love him, and I am always on the lookout for flicks starring the man that don’t already have a place in my creepy collection. Well, what do you know; ol’ Scream Factory, having exhausted some of Price’s best known flicks in two previous collections, now return with a third offering featuring some of the lesser lights in his filmography. Now, I know what you’re saying (mainly because I have a lil’ studio apartment type of set-up in your linen closet and you talk rather loudly): “If all the Grade-A sh-t was in the previous collections, how good can the flicks in this set be?” Well, this is only the first paragraph of this thing; I ain’t gonna reveal all here! Let’s take a lil’ look see at what ya get in this baby…
MASTER OF THE WORLD. Vincent stars as Robur, the “master of the world”, a crazed inventor that decides to wage war on war by eliminating warships from his tricked out zeppelin The Albatross. Based on a few novels by Sci-Fi maestro Jules Verne, this is Price at his best: nuanced, theatrical, and every bit the comic book super-villain. It’s a great performance, and the best part of the film! That’s not to say the rest of the film is bad—it features a solid (if talky) script from I Am Legend scribe Richard Matheson, some fun special effects work, and a rather stoic performance by Charles Bronson as the exact antithesis to Price’s antics. Solid entertainment for fans of Verne and Price, and a good way to spend a rainy afternoon (and with a commentary track and lengthy doc about Matheson, it really could be a whole afternoon)!
TOWER OF LONDON. This could best be described as die-rector Roger Corman’s attempt to move from Poe to more Shakespearean territory as Price stars as a haunted Richard III, who attempts to gain control of the vacant throne of his deceased brother King Edward IV through any means necessary—even murder! Price was made to deliver long stretches of overly theatrical dialogue, and this flick die-livers that in spades! The atmosphere is thick in this one, creeps, and while not a horror flick per-se, it definitely has the trappings of the genre to an extent. Included on this disc is a really cool bonus: two episodes of the 1950s television program Science Fiction Theater that featured Vincent!
DIARY OF A MADMAN. Alas, Ozzy doesn’t appear… but the film is awesome anyway! Price stars as a benevolent French Magistrate who is possessed by a demon called The Horla that makes him turn from nice dude to murder machine in the blink of an eerie eye! Great atmosphere and some solid cares make this a ghoulish good time, and the real highlight of this collection for yours cruelly! Also included on this disc is AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE in which Vincent, in full costume, reads some of Poe’s best-loved tales. This is pure perfection, and belongs on every horror hound’s shelf!
CRY OF THE BANSHEE. OK, I may have been a bit premature when I said the last flick was the highlight of the set, because this film is every bit its equal in the awesome department! In this one, Price stars as a magistrate/witch hunter who eradicates almost an entire coven save their leader Oona who summons a (completely unconventional) banshee to deliver (un)holy hell on the magistrate’s entire family. Rock solid fright flick thrills and spills from beginning to end with this picture, my creeps! Good extras on this one, too; you get both the theatrical cut and the Director’s cut (featuring title animation by Terry F’n Gilliam!!!) along with a grab bag of assorted goodies (commentary, interview, trailer et.al.).
As you can surmise, THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION III is every bit a must-own as the previous entries in the series. While the flicks contained within may not be as well known, they contain some superlative gems among their ranks… and that Poe special on disc 3 is a thing of wicked wonder!!!
Three reviews, all 5 skulls?!! You just know, by the time the next column rolls around, the ol’ fiendishly fickle (middle) finger of fate will be raised firmly in ol’ XIII’s die-rection… oh well, I’m just gonna sit here and enjoy the feeling while it lasts… hey, why are you creeps still hangin’ around; can’t a ghoul bask in peace?