Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn
Directed by Joe Dante
Distributed by Shout! Factory
With the big budget remake of Piranha getting all the love lately, the fine folks over at Shout! Factory have seen to it that the original flick that started it all is finally getting its due in a proper home video release as part of their Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Collection. Sit back, dearest reader. It’s time for some old fish tales.
The storyline for Piranha, directed by a very young Joe Dante back in 1979, is a pretty familiar one – Investigator Maggie McKeown (Menzies) finds herself in Texas hunting for clues in the disappearance of two hikers who have long become fish bait. Once there she takes up with town bad boy Paul Grogan (Dillman), who knows the area well. The duo end up at a military base where the government (those untrustworthy pricks) has been breeding a deadly strain of piranha that were intended to help our country win the Vietnam War. Of course while poking around, Maggie and Paul accidentally set these creatures loose, and anything or anyone in their path of destruction is now on the menu.
That’s it in a nutshell, and yes, the storyline is both random and goofier than shit. Yet, that’s all part of Piranha‘s charm. This flick is by no means good; in fact, for the most part it’s just a really blatant rip-off of Jaws, but wow is it fun. We’re talking turn your brain off entertainment at its finest, folks. Piranha delivers more than its fair share of laughs, intentional and otherwise, while keeping in tune with the campy boobs and blood flicks of its time. None of it really makes any sense, but it’s a safe bet that by the time these creatures start their nibbling, plot holes will be the last thing on your mind.
Picture-wise this 1080p transfer is a bit of a mixed bag. There are times when Piranha looks amazing with even the most minute of details popping off of the screen, and then there are other moments in which muddled blacks and a really excessive amount of screen noise will muck up the proceedings. Still, the flick has never looked better, and Shout! should be applauded for their painstaking efforts in presenting these flicks in the grand fashion that they have. The PCM 2.0 soundtrack has its problems as well, but it’s completely serviceable, and given the budget of this entire affair, we’re fairly certain that this is as good as it will ever get.
Speaking of good … let’s talk supplemental material (all of which appear on both the DVD release and the Blu-ray)! Shout! has one again turned in another quality package for a movie that no one ever thought would be in line for such lavish treatment.
Things kick off with a truly in-depth and fun commentary with director Joe Dante and producer Jon Davison in which the twosome discuss everything under the sun pertaining to this film and even its sequel! No stone is left unturned as they talk working with Corman, staying on budget, and even a few ideas they had that ultimately never made it into the final cut. Really good stuff!
From there we get the nearly twenty-minute long The Making-of Piranha featurette, which features all new interviews with Corman himself, Joe Dante, Dick Miller, and Belinda Balaski. This is the perfect complement to the already great commentary and helps to paint quite a picture of the proceedings for curious fans. Next up you’ll find nine minutes of behind-the-scenes footage featuring Dante and Davison talking over raw footage from the shoot. Not a big fan of these types of things, but at least someone is narrating this time around, and that alone helps to keep it moving along quickly.
Capping things off, we have about seven minutes of bloopers and outtakes, twelve minutes of additional scenes for the television version of Piranha, poster and stills galleries that include a collection of Phil Tippet’s behind-the-scenes photos, several radio and TV spots, a trailer gallery that includes the Piranha trailer with commentary by producer Jon Davison, and some neat liner notes from Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. Quite the haul, no?
Yep, there’s a surprising amount of meat on these bones. If you’re looking for a senseless good time that goes a long way in terms of keeping you entertained, then this Piranha package may just be everything you’ve been hoping to sink your teeth into. Once again, bravo, Shout! Factory. Bravo.
3 1/2 out of 5
5 out of 5