In 1942, a 10-year-old named Timmy plays with a jigsaw puzzle of a nude woman when his mother walks in and chastises him for it. After she orders him to get a plastic bag, he returns with an axe and murders her, then saws her body with a hacksaw. When the police arrive, they find him hiding inside a closet and Timmy acts as if he was a witness of the crime scene. The police believe this, not suspecting him as the murderer, and is sent to live with his aunt. Forty years later, a black-clad figure opens a box containing the bloodied clothing and a photograph of Timmy's Mother. He also unboxes the bloodied jigsaw puzzle and starts to put it together.
Meanwhile, as a nearby girl studies outside in broad daylight, she is decapitated with a chainsaw by the unidentified killer and steals her head just before Lt. Bracken and his partner Sgt. Holden arrive to investigate the murder. After the detectives explain to the college's Dean that there were no witnesses or suspect, the Dean asks the rather sinister Professor Brown (Jack Taylor), who teaches anatomy, to show the detectives around. Outside, the groundskeeper named Willard (Paul Smith) is seen trimming a hedge with a chainsaw, similar to the killer's. In the campus' library, a student named Kendall receives a note given by a girl to come to the pool later; the killer finds it and tracks down the girl at the swimming pool, where she is brutally sawed with the chainsaw. A little later, Willard arrives on the scene and is arrested, believing to be a suspect. Near the pool, they find the chainsaw and the girl's body parts, with the exception being her torso is missing.
The next day, Dr. Jennings meets with Kendall at the station in hopes that Kendall can help provide a profile of the murderer. Lt. Bracken brings in an undercover cop named Mary Riggs, who was also a former tennis player. Bracken explains to Holden that Mary is going undercover to pose as a tennis instructor at the college, and Kendall is going to assist her whenever he can. As a reporter named Sylvia Costa is stonewalled by Bracken, the killer stalks a girl later that evening, who had finished her dance routine, and saws her arms off inside an elevator just before Kendall and the police arrive. During the same evening, the killer also stalks Sylvia and stabs her on a waterbed.
Later the next day, one of Mary's tennis students heads into the locker room after the killer turns on music on the loudspeakers, and is pursued until she meets her demise by having her waist sawed horizontally. While Mary and Kendall focus on turning off the loudspeaker's music, the killer steals the girl's legs and escapes. Prior to Mary getting enraged for the killer's escape, her and Kendall find Willard being released from custody due to lack of evidence. Kendall then goes to the police station and presents his theory to Holden about the killer being part of the university faculty, since the killer knows when and where to strike before avoiding the police. They spend hours researching files on the faculty and discover that the Dean previously changed his name and that his mother was brutally murdered, finding out the Dean's identity to be a grown-up Timmy. Meanwhile, Mary is drugged by the Dean at his apartment and attempts to saw off her feet after the previous victim's feet didn't fit his mother's shoes for the puzzle. Bracken, Holden, and Kendall burst into the Dean's apartment, and the Dean gets shot in the head by Bracken while trying to kill Kendall; who was also trying to leave with Mary, paralyzed by the drugs given to by the Dean.
After searching through the apartment and discovering the jigsaw puzzle, Holden - joking to Kendall that he should join the police force - leans on a bookshelf which switches around and contains the Dean's human puzzle; a decomposing body of the Dean's victims' body parts stitched together donning in his mother's dress, which tears apart as the stitched jigsaw corpse falls on Kendall, horrifying him. Later on, a shaken Kendall leaves with Holden and just as he grabs his jacket, the jigsaw-corpse inexplicably comes to life and castrates him as he screams.Christopher George as Lt. Bracken
Linda Day as Mary Riggs
Frank Braña as Sgt. Holden
Paul L. Smith as Willard
Edmund Purdom as The Dean
Ian Sera as Kendall James
Jack Taylor as Prof. Arthur Brown
Isabelle Luque as Sylvia
Gerard Tichy as Doctor Jennings
Hilda Fuchs as The Secretary
The short script for Pieces was written by British filmmaker John W. Shadow and co-written by Dick Randall. Contrary to popular belief, Joe D'Amato was not involved in this production. It was given to director Juan Piquer Simón by producers Dick Randall and Steve Minasian, with whom he had worked on previous films. Although the film was set in the United States, specifically in Boston, it was actually shot in and around Valencia, Spain, home of film director Juan Piquer Simón. Filming went for four weeks with the cast and crew, and another week went by to film the special effects for an estimated budget of $300,000.
According to the interview with Simón in Pieces of Juan (on the Grindhouse DVD version of the film), the director says that none of the female stars of the film knew how to play tennis, even though they were supposed to be portraying "professional" players. A tennis coach had to be hired so that they could learn to lob the ball in a convincing enough manner to make the film believable. Simón also reveals in the interview that he is proud of the visual effects in the film, especially that a pig carcass was used for the effect of the chainsaw cutting through a young woman's stomach and the slaughterhouse guts used.
The film starred real-life husband and wife team Christopher George (of TV's The Rat Patrol) and Lynda Day George (of TV's Mission: Impossible), Edmund Purdom, spaghetti-western star Frank Braña, and Paul L. Smith ("Bluto" of Robert Altman's Popeye).
The original film was first released in Spain on August 23, 1982, followed on September 23, 1983, by a North American theatrical run distributed by Artists Releasing Corporation. The film opened on December 7, 1983, in France.
The uncut, uncensored director's cut of Pieces (aka Mil gritos tiene la noche) appeared for the first time in North America on DVD in October 2008 distributed by Grindhouse Releasing / Box Office Spectaculars. The release includes Grindhouse Releasing interviews with director Juan Piquer Simón (Pieces of Juan, directed by Nacho Cerda) and Paul Smith: The Reddest Herring (directed by Alma Har'el), an extended interview with star Paul L. Smith.
The two-disc deluxe edition by Grindhouse includes, for the first time, an (optional) restored original soundtrack by Spanish composer Librado Pastor, as well as many other extras and bonus materials. Liner notes have been contributed by the renowned horror writer Chas Balun ("Deep Red"), and the release also includes as bonus video of American horror director Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) presenting a theatrical screening of Pieces to a Los Angeles cult audience. Grindhouse Releasing / Box Office Spectaculars released the first North American deluxe uncut, uncensored director's cut edition of the previously out-of-print movie on DVD on October 28, 2008, on Ryko Distribution/Warner Brothers label. Grindhouse Releasing continues to be the official licensed distributor of the film.
On September 5, 2011, British company Arrow Video released Pieces on DVD in a 1.66:1 (16×9) anamorphic aspect ratio version with an introduction by star Jack Taylor and a number of other extras.
On March 1, 2016, Grindhouse Releasing released a 2 Blu-ray disc / 1 CD special edition of Pieces on Blu-ray. The Blu-ray part of the package includes the U.S. theatrical and Spanish versions of the film, a new documentary about the history of 42nd Street called 42nd Street Memories, a re-scoring of the film, a new commentary for the U.S. version by star Jack Taylor, and the extras from the 2008 special edition DVD release. The CD part includes the original soundtrack of the U.S. release of the film composed by CAM, taken from the original master tapes. In addition, the first 3000 units of the special edition included a 15 piece facsimile of the nude woman puzzle seen in the beginning of the film. This 3000 unit limited edition, known as the "Puzzle Edition", was shipped out to customers early, and as of February 8, 2016, was sold out.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Pieces has a 42% approval rating based on twelve reviews. Kevin Thomas, film critic for the Los Angeles Times gave the film a negative review, writing, "Pieces is a wretched, stupid little picture whose sole purpose is the exploitation of extreme violence against women". Billy Kelley, entertainment writer for the Fort Lauderdale News, awarded the film no stars, describing Pieces as a "gross-out extravaganza" and a "bargain basement abomination".
The film has retained a cult following however among bad movie fans on account of its numerous logical absurdities, gaffes, unlikely dialogue and ridiculous moments.