Monday, December 8, 2008
Choppin’ Em Up at The Liberty Theater: Pieces and The Hills Have Eyes
The Liberty Theater , close to the corner of 42nd Street and 8th ave was THE place for any type of Euro sleaze. In 198, The Liberty premiered a film the really blew away the jaded audience at this venue. Pieces was the film. It’s tagline read “ You Don’t have to go to Texas for a Chainsaw Massacre”. On the one sheet was a girl that was all stitched together.
Obviously, whoever booked this film wanted to attract a big crowd. So they paired it with a proven winner, 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes. Most of “the Deuce” crowd tended to watch these films over & over again, so this pairing made a lot of sense. Truth be told, “Hills” was one of the few films that actually scared the crap out of me when I first saw it.
Pieces started with a young boy putting together a nudie puzzle. His overbearing mother finds this and goes bonkers. She found a couple of nudie mags, slaps the kid around, then yells at him to get her a plastic bag to throw all this crap in. The crowd went nuts at the plastic bag comment because this part of the film was set in the 40’s. I don’t even know if plastic was invented yet. Anyway the boy returns with an axe and chops up mom, much to the crowd’s delight.
The boy fools the cops by hiding in a closet. They think the murderer escaped. Fast forward 40 years later. Someone is chainsawing up the girls at a private school. The evidence points to the hulking handyman (Paul Smith), but even with him locked up, after he beats the crap out of a bunch of cops, which had the crowd cheering him on, the carnage continued.
Although the crowd was rowdy, certain scenes put it into shocked silence. A topless girl is chased though a locker room and there is a close up of her pissing her pants before she is sawed in half. there is a cool, slow motion decapitation, and a girl rollerskates into a mirror. Each victim is missing a body part. It is pretty obvious what the killer is doing.
Christopher George plays a world weary detective. Edmund Purdom is the Dean, and Linda Day George is a potential victim. Chris George had starred in TV’s Rat Patrol and, I believe he also did a few Noxema Shaving cream commercials. He turned to horror and exploitation just to pay the bills. He was in Fulci’s City Of the Dead, Grizzly, Dixie Dynamite, Day of the Animals, Mortuary, Graduation Day, and The Exterminator. He died, prematurely of a heart attack right after Pieces.
The big payoff in Pieces was that the dean was the killer. He is about to gut Linda Day George after drugging her. He catches a bullet between the eyes for his trouble. But that’s not all. A sewn together body topples out of a secret hiding place. They cover it with a sheet, but a hand grabs the crotch of a helpful student and rips his balls off through his jeans. Every guy there was grabbing his junk at that point. Forget about how ludicrous the scene really was. It just came out of left field and fucked up everyone’s head.
Now it was time for the co feature, The Hills Have Eyes. Funny how that thirty some odd years have passed and that film still makes me nervous. It had originally opened at the Rialto on the corner of 42nd street and 7th ave. There was a huge blow up on the marquee of Michael Berryman’s face. It was being billed as the new Freaks. We all know it was anything but.
The crowd just loved this film and any tension that Pieces built up, was overshadowed as the crowd was in full swing talking back to this film and some people were cheering the killers on.
It was amazing the punch this film still packed almost five years after its release. Pieces came & went. It showed up a couple of more time before the “Deuce” finally died. The Hills Have Eyes was released on an obscure VHS label, Harmony Video. Pieces wound up on Vestron Video, a company that seemed to favor dark prints. It fell into public domain and was released on DVD by budget label Diamond. It has since been restored by Grindhouse Releasing with a ton of extras. “ Hills” got the special treatment on DVD a couple of years ago from Anchor Bay.
42nd Street Pete