Juan Piquer Simon Splatterfest!!!

Gory greetings! Welcome to the wild world of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT!

This time around I’m throwing the spotlight on a terrible trio of clas-sick exploitation flicks from the notorious Spanish writer, producer, and director Juan Piquer Simon. Juan grew up raised on a diet of classic American cinema in his native Spain and considers himself an adamant fan of fantasy, thriller and horror films. Juan Piquer Simon’s efforts are infamous for being so bad, that they’re actually good. Simon has even been called the Spanish answer to Ed Wood.

I’m a huge fan of his flicks, especially the ones featured in this column. Something about the horrible dubbing, the incoherent editing, the incomprehensible plots, the tacky synthesized music; it all adds up to create pure movie magic! For all of their many, many faults, Simon’s flicks are hysterically funny and entertaining as Hell. They also deliver the goods in the splatter and sleaze departments, with plenty of scenes of flesh ripping ferocity.

In honor of the late, great Juan Piquer Simon, LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

PIECES (1982)

Boston 1942. A blossoming young pervert named Timmy Reston sits alone in his bedroom putting together a jigsaw puzzle featuring a nude pin up girl. His emotionally unstable mother walks in and catches him red handed. Infuriated, she asks him where the filth came from and slaps around the little brat while demanding answers. She warns the boy that he will end up like his father and proceeds to slam a picture of the man into a mirror. This violent act appears to have a profound effect on the boy. Mrs. Reston sends her son off in search of a plastic bag so she can junk all of his toys. Timmy returns with an axe instead and repeatedly slams it into mommy’s skull! Then the pint sized psychopath removes mommy’s head with a saw! After shutting his mother up for good Timmy goes back to work on his blood splattered puzzle.

A friend of the family becomes concerned when she can’t reach Mrs. Reston and shows up with police. When the cops break in they discover a gruesome sight in the bedroom – enough blood on the floor to ensure that something had been butchered. Then they find Mrs. Reston’s severed head in a closet. Little Timmy is found cowering in another closet, covered in blood and whimpering about a big man that hurt his mommy. We are told that Mr. Reston is overseas in the Air Force and that the murderous little bastard Timmy will be sent to live with an Aunt who lives nearby.

After the opening credits we flash forward forty years to find an unseen killer (who is obviously Timmy Reston all grown up) on the prowl at a large New England university. A bizarre skateboarding accident involving a large pane of glass reminds the madman of his mother smashing the mirror with his father’s picture forty years before and inspires him to go on a brutal killing spree. The unseen slasher stalks after the sexy young students so he can remove their limbs with a chainsaw and use the pieces to create a human version of his prized pin up puzzle! His first victim is a tasty young co-ed that he decapitates with a chainsaw in broad daylight.

Hard boiled police detectives Lt. Bracken (Christopher George of “Grizzly” & “Enter The Ninja” fame!) and Sgt. Holden (Leslie Nielson lookalike Frank Bana, who also appeared in “Return Of The Evil Dead”) are sent in to investigate the murder. They start with the Dean, who seems more concerned about bad publicity than the murder itself. The Dean (Edmund “Don’t Open Til Christmas” Purdom) turns the detectives on to the head of the anatomy department and closet campus queen – Professor Brown. (Jack Taylor, who appeared in numerous Spanish horror epics including “Ghost Galleon” & “Night Of The Sorcerors”) Professor Brown seems to think it might be one of the boys, but Sgt. Holden assures him that at this point the investigation consists of buying clothes without labels and trying them on for size.

Shortly afterwards we are introduced to the campus stud Kendall James. (Ian Sera, who also appeared in “Pod People”) A blonde hardbody sends Kendall an invitation to fuck in the campus swimming pool later. Kendall accepts the invitation of course, but the killer beats him to the pool room and proceeds to net the girl like a large fish and then shear away her limbs with his trusty saw. This time the madman takes the girls’ torso as a souvenir. The temperamental and sneering campus gardener WillArd (unforgettably portrayed by Paul “BLUTO” Smith!) stumbles upon the bloody crime scene and has a wild run in with the cops that ends with Sgt. Holden threatening to BLOW his brains out!

The detectives question Kendall and his nerdy best friend “Goggles” and wind up believing that Kendall had nothing to do with the murder. Lt. Brown even decides to turn to Kendall for help with the investigation. He also arranges for an undercover police officer named Mary Riggs (played by Christopher George’s wife – Lynda Day George, who also starred in “Mortuary” and “Day Of The Animals”) to join the campus faculty as the new female tennis coach.

Meanwhile, the killer decides he needs a pair of arms and decides to relieve a pretty young dance major of hers inside an elevator. Kendall hears her screams of torment and barks out orders to the police officers on the scene. The sight of the limbless girl in the elevator is enough to make a seasoned police officer puke his guts up, but Kendall immediately seizes control of the situation and tells the guy to go call an ambulance! The girl initially survives the attack but dies in the hospital from the massive shock and loss of blood before she can identify the killer. Mary searches for clues and stumbles upon the fucking Kung Fu Professor (Bruce Li!) who attacks her because of something he ate. Bad chop suey maybe.

The mad butcher then sets his sights on the legs of Susie Billings, a sexy young tennis player. The ever resourceful killer sabotages the campus P.A. System so it continuously plays canned intermission music. This makes a perfect cover up for the sound of his chainsaw. While Mary, Kendall, and WillArd are fumbling around with the music the lousy bastard kills her. It’s all enough to make Mary unleash a devastating display of sheer frustration! BASTARD!!!

Lt. Brown turns to Kendall yet again for help and sends him to the record vault with Sgt. Holden to pour over files looking for any reference to the campus staff. Mary goes to a suspects house for an evening for a cup of coffee and a few questions and winds up getting a lot closer to the killer than she bargained for. Just as Mary is drugged and her lovely feet are about to become the final addition to the murderer’s supreme creation, Kendall unearths a clue that reveals the killer’s true identity. Kendall and the cops have to race to stop the killer before he can finish his human jigsaw puzzle. This all culminates with an unbelievable mind blowing genital crushing grand finale that must be seen to be believed!

I have seen this flick more times over the years than I could possibly count. I make everyone I know watch this movie. Whenever I talk to people about horror flicks I always have to mention PIECES. This flick is absolutely hilarious, and manages to get a little funnier every time I watch it. It plays out like a really gory and outrageous version of an Italian Giallo. The unseen, black gloved killer is pure Dario Argento. The soundtrack from Carlo Maria Cordio (aka CAM) is atmospheric and excellent, even if it borrows heavily from Goblin’s score for “Zombi.” “Pieces” was written by the terrible trio of director Juan Piquer Simon, producer Dick Randall (“Slaughter High”), and the infamous Joe D’Amato. (“Antropophagus”) No wonder this slasher flick is so full of brutal violence and perverse sexual overtones. There’s some tasty nudity to enjoy and even a little something for the ladies when Simon slips in a full frontal shot of Ian Sera. IT STINKS!

There’s more sidesplitting dialog in this howler than any other I can think of. From the cross eyed girl with the HUGE tits that dreamily coos how “the most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed at the same time,” to WillArd proudly proclaiming  he “ain’t getting’ paid by the hour,” to Christopher George imploring his partner to “take some uppers, anything, just get me a lead!” The dubbing and dialog definitely make this work an unintentional comedy.

“Pieces” also works as a slasher flick. Big time. The graphic violence is very nasty and convincing. In the gruesome scene where the killer chainsaws into the abdomen of a girl in the shower a real pig carcass was used which makes the scene very effectively disgusting. From start to finish this flick takes no prisoners. This gory little gem definitely lives up to its’ immortal tag line: “You don’t have to go to Texas to have a chainsaw massacre!”

Several “budget” dvd companies have released PIECES. The fine folks at Grindhouse Releasing released an amazing 2-disc special edition dvd release, which is loaded with bonus features and should be considered a must-have for hardcore fans of the film. Either way, it can easily be found for cheap – so there is no excuse for not owning this clas-sick 80’s splatterpiece. This is a fucking must see!

 

POD PEOPLE (1983)

A meteor crashes to Earth while a truck full of poachers lead by the one and only Frank Bana, drive around in fog. Then there’s more outer space footage, this time with a ball of blue light. A poacher named Matt who looks like Jesus grabs his trusty crossbow in response. Then there’s even more outer space footage, this time with a ball of yellow light apparently heading towards Earth. The poachers argue for a while and then find a tree full of nightingale eggs. During their hunt there are some incredibly fake shots of lightning that even Sam Raimi could snicker at. We next meet a little red headed scamp named Tommy who loves animals and his telescope. Timmy peers at the moon which has turned green and his bedroom lamp flickers ominously.

The evil poachers steal eggs and Sam, the geek of the group, is the only one who notices a blinding flash of light in the sky and a fiery explosion in the woods nearby. Sam goes to investigate and stumbles upon a eerily lit cave full of fog and large alien eggs. He wisely decides to break one of the eggs open and is revolted when he finds a rotisserie chicken inside. He then grabs a conveniently located club and starts making omelets out of the alien eggs, much to the anger of the mother alien who catches him in the act and makes him quickly regret it. Frank Bana and Jesus assume their geeky partner in crime has deserted them and are forced to rough it in the woods until morning.

The next morning we spend some quality time with little Tommy and his incredibly angry and miserable Uncle Bill. We also meet Tommy’s mother Molly, who lives as single parent under Uncle Bill’s oppression. Just as you start to appreciate how miserable Tommy’s existence truly is, prepare for a series of neck snapping cuts that violently throw you into a recording studio where an idiot named Rick (Ian Sera!) is cutting his new hit single. Before the sheer hilarity of that idea sinks in long enough to make any amount of sense, we then fly into the woods for a shot of a fog covered mountaintop and listen in as Frank Bana & Jesus sit around doing nothing and ponder breaking into a ranger’s station. Then we settle back into the studio and are treated to a taste of the toe tapping classic “Hear The Engines Roll Now.” During the session a studio skank named Laura coolly remarks how Rick is pretty good, which causes a comic relief gay guy in an I’M A VIRGIN t-shirt to snap back: “Good?!? He’s THE BEST!”

Rick is a relentless perfectionist in the studio who never jokes about his living. When he boldly declares that “IT STINKS!”, few can argue. He even accuses his best gal and backup singer Sharon of coming in half a beat late and blasting out like a foghorn! Just when the tension in the studio is about to reach its breaking point, the group’s cool-headed manager Brian steps in and tells the gang to get ready for their weekend vacation to a nearby forest. Rick thoughtfully invites along Laura the skank which makes Sharon explode with jealousy. Brian then has a heart to heart conversation with Sharon and assures her that making out with chicks is just part of Rick’s act as an artist. Incredibly, Sharon understands this and the whole gang piles into a Winnebago and heads off to their doom.

For the next several minutes the film is ruthlessly padded with scenes of Rick, Laura, and Brian smiling like idiots in the front seat of the Winnebago and lengthy shots of the camper slowly making its way down a long stretch of road in the woods. Things finally pick up when little Tommy finds the one alien egg that Sam the poacher didn’t manage to destroy and decides to take it home. Rick and the gang set up camp and it isn’t long before the love triangle between Rick, Sharon, and Laura turns ugly. Sharon throws coffee in the face of Laura and she runs off into the woods where she stumbles upon evil Frank Bana & Jesus. Laura manages to escape the clutches of the poachers but doesn’t fare so well when she gets a good look at the alien, which pushes her off a cliff.

Rick and the other idiots find Sharon and take her back to their camper. When they can’t revive her they decide to drive her to a hospital. Brian the manager reminds them that it’s at least 50 miles to the nearest town and with the bad roads and weather they would never make it. Exactly what bad roads and weather is never explained, since they drove into the woods with no problem. Rick barely manages to drive to crabby Uncle Bill’s cabin for help, and Uncle Bill is nice enough to greet him with a shotgun and tells him to go to Hell. Molly finally convinces Bill to let the kids inside. While all this is taking place, upstairs in Tommy’s room the miracle of life is in full effect when the egg breaks open and reveals a Cornish game hen covered in strawberry jam.

Meanwhile at a nearby campsite, the evil poachers are still sitting around, this time pondering the merits of stealing the kids’ camper. Before this or anything else can possibly happen, the alien makes an appearance. Jesus attempts to distract the extra terrestrial with some chicken and Frank Bana tries to get the drop on it with a net. The poachers’ plan backfires in a big way and the hunters become the hunted. Just when things are getting interesting we cut back to little Tommy’s room and watch his alien pal Trumpy grow up. Scenes of Trumpy interacting with cute little kitties, bunnies, and birdies are sure to tug on the heartstrings. Then the film takes a turn for madcap hilarity when Trumpy sucks up a snout full of peanuts and then unleashes his magical mystical powers of mind control to make all of Tommy’s toys and clothes come to life and dance around his bedroom. Wacky!

The rest of the film turns into a never ending collection of pointless scenes with the characters driving around looking for help, arguing, doing dishes, taking sleeping pills, showering, and arguing some more. Finally the evil alien shows up and breaks up the monotony by snuffing a chick in the shower. Uncle Bill manages to wound the alien with a shotgun blast and chases the monster into the woods. Rick grabs a rifle and also gives chase. Molly and Sharon run around looking for Tommy, and Tommy tries to hide Trumpy. This all leads up to the film’s memorably downbeat ending where Uncle Bill is taken out with a lethal extra terrestrial karate chop, the mother alien succombs to the firepower of Ian Sera, and cute and innocent Trumpy is left alone to starve to death in the woods. The kids will love it!

Juan Piquer Simon’s honest attempt at a mean spirited “Alien”cash in was severely hampered by the greedy and short sighted producers, who insisted that the script be changed in the middle of filming to more closely resemble the then wildly popular film “E.T.” It’s been rumored for years that POD PEOPLE was meant to be an “official” Italian sequel to “E.T.”  To add to the confusion, the film was released internationally as “Extra Terrestrial Visitors!” The worlds of foggy backwoods horror and family friendly extra terrestrial hilarity collide and the end result isn’t very pretty, or interesting. This is a train wreck of a film. It works very well as a comedy though.

This made perfect fodder for the brains at “Mystery Science Theater 3000”  to savage. A lot of MST3K fans consider “Pod People” to be one of the all time great episodes and I have to agree. The MST3K episode featuring “Pod People” was released on home video by Rhino. The original, uncut version of the film has never been released in the States. In light of J.P. Simon’s recent passing, and the undying popularity of MST3K, I would hope Shout! Factory might step up to the plate and give us a special edition dvd release.

 

SLUGS: THE MOVIE (1988)

Not to be mistaken with SLUGS: THE BROADWAY MUSICAL, this motion picture tells the cautionary tale of a small New England town invaded by hideous hordes of bloodthirsty mutant radioactive slugs. The first victim is a doofus teenaged fisherman who gets dragged down to his watery grave in front of his bikini bottom sporting blonde bimbo gal pal. Next up on the slugs’ menu is the town drunk and his pooch, who are both devoured inside of the drunk’s home.

Coincidentally enough, the grumpy and ineffectual town Sheriff is sent to the drunk’s house the next morning to serve an eviction notice. Sheriff Reese inexplicably brings along the town’s health commissioner, Mike Brady and the two men discover the drunk’s nasty looking partially devoured corpse. Despite the slime trails covering every square inch of the house, Sheriff Reese is completely baffled as to what could have happened and Mike suspects rats.

Shortly afterward, Mike gets a call from an angry old hag complaining of a backed up sewer. By the time Mike gets to the house, the town’s sanitation supervisor, Dan Palmer is already there waiting for him. Dan descends into the sewer system and discovers a large pipe choked with the rotting remains of dead rats, chickens, cats and dogs. As this is taking place, an old man in a greenhouse has a wild run in with a slug inside his gardening glove that ends with grandpa hacking off his hand with a hatchet, much to the shock and disgust of his haggard wife! In the confusion, a conveniently located can of gasoline ignites and causes a massive explosion, killing them both.

Mike has an encounter with the slugs in his garden when one of the bastards bites his finger. Mike snaps up a few of the slugs and brings them to an English friend of his wife, a vaguely scientific type named John. The English egghead agrees to examine the slugs and gets a close up look at their ravenous appetite for flesh when one of slugs eats a hamster. In the meanwhile, Mike keeps himself busy tagging along with Sheriff Reese to investigate the spectacular deaths of a pair of horny teens who are found devoured beyond recognition.

We also spend some down time with a bored alcoholic housewife who accidentally chops up one the slugs that had been hiding inside a head of lettuce and serves it up to her yuppie husband for dinner. Ingesting the salty tasting mutant slug meat infests his body with deadly parasitic worms that later ruin a business luncheon when they cause blood to pour out of his mouth and nose and make his eyeballs explode!

John the scientist eventually decides that the slugs are mutated, and Mike and Dan discover that the mutation was caused by poisonous gas escaping from a pipe in a landfill that used to be a toxic waste dump in the 50’s. Mike tries to go to the sheriff with his theory and the sheriff quickly dismisses him as an idiot. Then Mike makes the mistake of turning to the poorly dubbed and purely evil town planner, Frank Fucking Phillips (Frank Bana!) for help. When Mike tries to declare a state of emergency, Frank Phillips informs him that “he ain’t got the authority to declare happy birthday in this town!”

Finally Mike goes to the Mayor, but the corrupt politician is more concerned with lining his pockets with a lucrative real estate deal than the public’s safety. In frustration, Mike decides to take the law into his own hands and heads into the sewers with his pal Dan and a shitload of volatile chemicals for an explosive final confrontation with the quickly multiplying hordes of murderous mutated slugs.

Another splatterpiece from Juan Piquer Simon, and possibly his most bloodthirsty and entertaining effort. SLUGS is a very fun tribute to the monster flicks of the 50’s that influenced him as a filmmaker. The title and inspiration for this film came from one of British splatterpunk novelist Shaun Hudson’s most popular books. Most of the graphic gore depicted in the film is lifted directly from Hudson’s novel. This was a relatively low budget affair that was shot in upstate New York and Madrid Spain. A lot of fun can be had as the expense of the dubbing of the Spanish actors. The voices used for the dubbing are simply horrible, especially the guy who dubs Frank Bana. The plot is about as recycled as they come, right down to the nerdy scientist and grumpy, ineffectual police.

The obvious highlight of the film is the non stop gore, which was impressive enough to win a Goya award for best special effects. That’s right folks, this is an award winning film. That means it must be good! People looking for liberal doses of blood, guts, and slugs need look no further. The good folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment released SLUGS on dvd, both as a single disc and as part of the fantastic Man’s Worst Friends Fright Pack, which also includes such clas-sicks as “Rats: Night Of Terror,” “Parasite,” and Lucio Fulci’s “The Black Cat.” Highly recommended!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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One Response to “Juan Piquer Simon Splatterfest!!!”

  1. Davesplatter Says:

    You should (you probably already did) think about putting these in print form. I know print is dead but I would like a copy.

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