Piranha (1978)
By: J.R. McNamara on January 31, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MGM (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Mono, German DD 2.0 Mono, French DD 2.0 Mono, Italian DD 2.0 Mono, Spanish DD 2.0 Mono. French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Polish, English (FHI), German (FHI) Subtitles. 94 minutes
The Movie
Director: Joe Dante
Starring: Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele
Screenplay: John Sayles
Music: Pino Donaggio
Tagline: They're here...Hungry for flesh! Who can stop them?
Country: USA
Usually in the wake of a big budget picture that is hugely successful, many of the smaller companies quickly put together a copycat to make the most of the impetus created by its popularity. When Jaws was released in 1975, a wave of aquatic antagonists began surfacing: The Deep, Orca, and then this, the ridiculous but enjoyable Piranha. Sometimes these B movie copies could be absolute tripe, but the involvement of Roger Corman - legendary producer of such B films as Death Race 2000, House and Chopping Mall - suggests some kind of quality, and direction from The Howling's Joe Dante virtually gurantees it.

Absolutely useless private investigator Maggie McKeon (Heather Menzies) travels to a mountain retreat to find two missing hikers. Upon arrival she enlists the help of local alcoholic mountain man, Paul (Bradford Dillman) and together the pair travels to an abandoned Army research station to see if the hikers are there. They search the lab, but Maggie is dead certain that the pair's bodies must be in the pool there, even though they are excellent swimmers. She empties the pool into the river that runs down the mountain, not realizing she is releasing a horror into the river. A horror with fins and sharp teeth! Maggie and Paul gain help from Doctor Hoak (Kevin McCarthy), but the army soon gets involved, and they believe that they can stop the piranha with poison. Hopefully they are right, because if the piranha avoid the trap laid for them they could decimate Buck Garder's (Dick Miller) new riverside resort and the local summer camp run by Mr. Dumont (Paul Bartel) and cause many deaths…

With a cast on genre favs like McCathy, Barbara Steele, Bartel and Miller, and directed by the man who gave us Gremlins and Innerspace (OK, he gave us Looney Toons: Back in Action as well, but cut him a little slack) you really can't go wrong. It kitsch, it's corny and it waves its B movie banner proudly and with heart. It is worth pointing out that some of the effects are done by SFX and makeup legends Phil Tippet, of Star Wars and Starship Troopers fame, and The Thing's Rob Bottin.

Some of the elements of the script are laughable, especially as the person responsible for releasing the piranha into the lake never seems to feel much remorse over her actions. A special mention has to go to some of the acting, particularly to Barbara Steele, and her wonderful pronunciation of 'Pirahn-Ya'!
Piranha has a fairly clear picture, but the colour appears to be a little washed out. No noticeable artefacts can be seen in this 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced transfer.
The audio is presented in stereo 2.0, and is an adequate presentation, but nothing special.
Extra Features
The only special feature is a trailer (1 minute 57 seconds) which strangely has an English voiceover on the Spanish trailer. One of the truly great trailer monologues as it takes several shots at the film it imitates, Jaws: 'sharks come alone, Piranha come in thousands' and 'these are the man-eaters who go beyond the bite of all other Jaws'. Brilliant.
The Verdict
What are the ingredients for a good B movie? A little bit of nudity, some monsters, B movie legends making special appearances, buckets of blood, a silly script and a tongue in cheek attitude? If you are expecting an Oscar nominated tour de force of epic proportions, you will be surely disappointed but if you go into it with a good sense of humour expecting very little you should have a ball. Piranha has the above and is daft beyond belief, but well worth watching!
Movie Score
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