Saturday, February 5

Picking Up The Pieces (Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh) (1991) - Pack-In-Video Japan VHS

You know you're in for trouble whenever an Alan Smithee directorial credit appears. Although Dean Tschetter's Picking Up The Pieces seemed doomed to start with. The story of two bumbling, gruff detectives chasing a mysterious killer harvesting body parts with power tools drenched in the quirky humor of David Zucker's Naked Gun series from the period. Not only was this horror comedy hard to categorize, which means hard to market, but a producer with final cut mutilated the director's original intention. Then, instead of understanding the comedic value of the Tom Savini-supplied goofy gore like the BBFC's fully uncut pass of Peter Jackson's Braindead (Dead Alive) in the U.K., the MPAA sloppily gutted the violence for an R-rating.

Despite the odd Bloodsucking Pharaohs re-title, this Paramount Pictures-distributed mess bombed and quickly vanished. It's not as bad as its sour reputation, especially for those who enjoy the late '80s primes of Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau. Given the brand of comedy, it's a love-or-hate proposition, and even then it's something you have to be in the mood for. Savini's effects are unfairly busted on with all the MPAA cuts; some cool stuff somewhat survives like a brutal face melt/rip (seen on the cover). The film was granted a VHS release and eventual special feature-stacked DVD release from Power Programs Entertainment. The disc has a director/producer commentary, director interview, producer interview, deleted scenes, and a bunch of paper-based stuff from the production via DVD-ROM. The full frame transfer is a video master reflective of the R-rated cut and actually looks very nice aside from persistent mosquito noise buzzing around edges.

One thing the DVD doesn't have is four extensions to gory sequences seen on this full frame Japanese tape. This came as a complete surprise since the back states 89 minutes. The first difference is lack of the Paramount Pictures logo seen on the DVD. It's strange how Paramount gave grief over Full Moon trying to release the Puppet Master series on disc while BPiP's DVD remained in-print until Power Programs folded. The second VHS change is the print retaining the Picking Up The Pieces title and featuring much more damage than the DVD's transfer (workprint?). The tape also has a murky green tint with a certain subtle smear to motion compared to the sharp and neutral color of the DVD.

But the tape excels where it counts. Three of the murders; the girl in need of a quarter for a phone call, the brutal face ripping (complete with blood exploding eyes), and climatic demise of the villain match the uncut sequences seen on the DVD's time-coded deleted scenes. Just without any picture degradation or time-code. Also early in the film, the detectives are chasing a man in an alley who they just can't put down. The man tries to open a warehouse door and is shot through the head with a huge blood splat on the door only to get up again and run some more. On the DVD, the shot of the guy's brains blowing is entirely missing in an extremely obvious cut. This snippet isn't even in the disc's deleted scenes. Sadly, the opening death scene witnessed uncut in the deleted scenes is butchered the same way on both the VHS and DVD. Still, Pack-In-Video's Japanese VHS is a genuine surprise and it's great to see the film in a more complete version.


Toxaemia said...

One of my favorite movies of all time! The characters are hilarious.

I had no idea there was still footage missing from the movie, what a bummer :(

I am still pretty pleased with the DVD though.

Jayson Kennedy said...

The DVD really looks a lot better despite missing pieces. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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