On the surface, 1978’s PIRANHA may look like a throw away JAWS rip off but thanks to the talents involved, it’s a B-movie masterstroke that lovingly recalls the monster movie heyday of the fifties. I have fond memories of PIRANHA’s television premiere and the spirited frenzy of conversation it spawned at the elementary school bus stop the next day. With a theatrical remake around the corner (a cable version was made in 1995) directed by HIGH TENSION’s ALEXANDRE AJA and presented in 3-D, I think it’s high time we take a look back and examine just what made this ROGER CORMAN produced classic so special…
In 1978, director JOE DANTE was in peak form and poised to deliver a string of hits including THE HOWLING, GREMLINS and undoubtedly the most imaginative segment of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE. His collage of cartoon humor, twisted gore and blatant self-awareness are commonplace today, but only because DANTE paved the way.
He would later move on to become Oscar bait (LONE STAR, PASSION FISH) but thank God he spent some time in the trenches and gifted B-movie fans the likes of ALLIGATOR, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and his two collaborations with DANTE, THE HOWLING and PIRANHA.
A drunk (BRADFORD DILLMAN of BUG and THE MEPHISTO WALTZ) and a snoopy reporter (HEATHER MENZIES from SSSSSSS), who let’s face it, cause the entire piranha problem themselves by foolishly emptying a pool at a research facility. Extra props for the quickest “How do you do? Let’s screw!” this side of JOHN CARPENTER’s THE FOG.
Years of psychotherapy are predicted for this kid who watches helplessly as his dad becomes fish food and what about that old guy whose feet get eaten off?
KINDERTRAUMA IN ACTION
That drunk’s kid is rightfully hydrophobic but that doesn’t stop her from jumping on an inflatable raft and saving her favorite camp counselor (frequent DANTE player BELINDA BALASKI.) Way to overcome your fears Suzie!
Here’s a tip, if KEVIN McCARTHY (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS ‘56) warns you about something, no matter how outlandish it sounds, BELIEVE HIM.
I’ll let this legend’s eyes do the talking.
I know he’s supposed to be a jerk in this but who can hate the one and only PAUL BARTEL?
What JOE DANTE movie would be complete without this guy?
THAT WEIRD SOUND THE PIRANHA MAKE
Forget the JAWS theme, I’m all about the crazy whirly whirl sound that tells you that you are currently being chomped on by a school of killer PIRANHA!
LATE SEVENTIES FASHION
Really? People walked around like this?
AND FINALLY THIS GUY…
So many questions: Who is he? What does he know? When does he get his own movie? Where can I buy one? Can I feed him after midnight?