Fishies Pt 3 (Piranha, 1995)

piranha_1995_posterProbably the most interesting fact of the Piranha remake is that a twelve year old Mila Kunis plays the daughter of the Greatest American Hero.

In 1995, Roger Corman and Showtime started remaking Corman “Classics” like Not of This Earth and Humanoids From the Deep.

Piranha was part of this series and the worst thing about it?  It is not bad or good.  It is just there.  It exists.  It is a pretty straight remake, just with a different cast.

William Katt (The Greatest American Hero & House) and Alexandra Paul (Baywatch & Christine) head up the cast.  The film follows  the original beat for beat.

There is not much to say, the effects are updated (yet there are many effects shots from the original film used in place of shooting new footage).  But the film brings nothing new to the story and ends up being so close to the original, it feels pointless.

The Showtime films somehow managed to tame the source material, which ends up making them…well…toothless.  It lacks Dante’s flair and has no chance of unseating the original.  This explains why the film is largely forgotten.

Just one random observation of both the original and the remake.  Somehow, when people start getting attacked while on docks or in boats, they are unable to remove legs or arms from the water…people are even pulled from boats by the piranha.  Because they are super strong…I guess?

Fishies Pt 2 (Piranha II: The Spawning, 1981)

piranha_ii_spawning_posterSet in the Caribbean (though, no pirates) Piranha II: The Spawning is the story of Scuba Instructor, a police chief (her ex-husband) and a biochemist (her current boyfriend) trying to determine the cause of several gruesome deaths.

There are lots of people who are eaten by the Piranha…but there is a twist…apparently the piranha have mutated and can now fly.  Yes…fly.  They flap their fins and fly around.  In spite of this, the hotel manager refuses to cancel a beach side fish fry.  Because there is always one guy who refuses to listen to the people setting off the alarms.

Frankly, the film is pretty dull.  This is no fault of the cast (which includes Lance Henrikson in his sixteenth of 227 roles)…the concept just goes nowhere and it lacks any actual tension.

Piranha II was James Cameron’s first feature length film.  He was also fired.  His name remains as the director due to a contractual obligation that the film have an American director.  Cameron filmed the movie but was not allowed to cut it or see the footage.

Fishies pt 1 (Piranha, 1978)

piranha_1978_posterJoe Dante’s third film was one of Roger Corman’s knockoff films.  Corman had a formula and it had a lot to do with seeing what was big or on the verge of big and following suit with lower budgets.  And it worked.  A lot of well known filmmakers and performers came out of the Corman Machine.  Dante, James Cameron, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Gale Anne Hurd and John Sayles are but a few.

The first writing gig for John Sayles, Piranha is the tale of a young private detective named Maggie who is searching for a rich man’s daughter who disappeared on a hiking trip.  She meets up with local guide Paul and they find a remote building with a large pool.  They suspect maybe there could be bodies in the pool.  They find the lever to flush the pool, but get in a struggle with a crazed gentleman who wants to make sure they do not succeed.  After they managed to flush the pool, they find two skeletons.  Ultimately, it turns out that the pool was full of genetically altered piranha who are making their way down the river eating everything that comes into their path.  The river is taking them right to a local summer camp and a grand opening of a resort.

As is to be expected, there is a race against time (Paul’s daughter is at the camp) as Maggie and Paul try to warn everyone.  The local mayor wants them jailed, as he does not want to hurt tourism.  Did I mention that Piranha was made to cash in on the success of Jaws?

Sayles and Dante do not treat this as just a knockoff of a bigger film.  They understand the limits of their budget, and center things to work within those boundaries.  This results in a fun monster movie that has plenty to enjoy.  It is not nearly as exploitative as other Corman films (Corman often had deals with distributors requiring sex scenes and gratuitous nudity) and the gore is low level.  The titular piranhas are often unseen or blurry shadows.  The attacks often involve people disappearing beneath churning waters.

The cast is enjoyable, especially Corman regulars like Paul Bartel and Dick Miller.  Kevin McCarthy is always dependable for the “Maniacal Scientist” role, and he does not let the viewer down here.  Piranha has earned it’s cult status, being one of the more clever attempts to take advantage of a hit movie.  It manages to avoid simply being an imitation and is quite memorable in it’s own right.

 

 

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