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Piranha (1978)

Cast: Conrad Palmisano, Conrad Palmisano, Bradford Dillman, more...
Director: Joe Dante, Joe Dante
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Shout! Factory
Genre: Comedies, Horror, Parodies, Killer Critters
Running Time: 92 min.
Languages: English
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The sophomore effort for director Joe Dante, a future protégé of Steven Spielberg, this low-budget, high-camp horror spoof of Jaws (1977) features several chiller stars of yesteryear. Insurance investigator Maggie McKeown (Heather Menzies) is dispatched to find two missing teenage hikers near Lost River Lake. She hires surly backwoods drunkard Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman) to serve as her guide. Searching the area, they find an abandoned military facility. The only resident is Dr. Robert Hoak (Kevin McCarthy), former head of a top-secret project to breed piranha for use in the Vietnam War. The project was closed down years ago, but Hoak has continued raising a deadly strain of the flesh-eating fish. When Hoak is knocked unconscious, Maggie and Paul accidentally release the piranha into a local river, which leads to the lake where a children's summer camp and a newly opened tourist resort will provide plenty of fish food for the hungry predators. Maggie and Paul race to warn the locals, but their pleas fall on skeptical ears, such as those of resort owner Buck Gardner (Dick Miller) -- until the piranha reach the swimmers. Piranha (1978) was co-written by John Sayles, making his motion picture debut. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Very entertaining, intelligent schlock by ColonelKong December 11, 2003 - 9:04 AM PST
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful
This early Roger Corman-produced film from director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Small Soldiers, Looney Tunes: Back In Action) is a very solidly entertaining B-picture that definitely made the most of a rather small budget. Like several other Joe Dante films, this is very much a B-movie for people who love B-movies with appearances by genre movie icons (Kevin McCarthy, Barbara Steele, Joe Dante regular Dick Miller), rather cheesy special effects (I would've liked some more of that little stop-motion Phil Tippett creature toward the beginning), a good score by frequent Brian De Palma composer Pino Donaggio, and no apologies for the rather obvious source of it's inspiration (Piranha has the rare distinction of being an attempt to cash in on Jaws that future Gremlins producer Steven Spielberg liked).

Piranha is overall a very fun movie that should appeal to fans of other New World productions from the 70's/early 80s like Death Race 2000 (the director of that film, Paul Bartel, appears in this one), Battle Beyond the Stars, and Humanoids From The Deep. They just don't make great little unapologetic B-movies like that anymore. (The other Joe Dante/John Sayles collaboration, 1981's The Howling, is also highly recommended too.)

A lot of DVD commentaries are rather boring filler, but if you rent or buy this disc, I recommend that you listen to the commentary by Joe Dante and producer John Davison to get some idea of how miraculous is it that this movie got made and that it's anywhere near as good as it is. Dante and Davison tell several interesting stories about the production, and you might learn a thing or two about low-budget filmmaking. (One big thing I've learned from lots of DVD commentaries and making-of docs is just how much of a pain in the arse filmmaking can be.)

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.29)
84 Votes
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