Thursday, August 5, 2010

PIRANHA (Blu-ray)

"The piranhas... "
"What about the goddamn piranhas?"
"They're eating the guests, sir."

One of my two favorite JAWS imitations (the other is GRIZZLY, if you're interested), Joe Dante's PIRANHA (1978) gets the Shout! Factory "Roger Corman Cult Classics" treatment, and while it's not quite as loaded with extra features as some of their other recent releases in the line, it's still a fantastic package.

For one thing, the movie is great. An inexperienced skip tracer (Heather Menzies, SSSSSSS) and a local guide (Bradford Dillman, THE SWARM) are looking for a couple of lost hikers in Texas when they stumble upon a strange complex hidden in the woods. Draining a pool to look for possible bodies, they accidentally release a school of genetically-engineered super-piranha into a river. The voracious little fish make their way downstream, eating any and every haplass human who should get in their way, and heading straight for a summer camp full of kids, a new vacation resort... and the open sea. Can our heroes stop the toothy terrors before they can escape to open water....?

A witty script by John Sayles, a cast of talented character actors - including Kevin McCarthy (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS), Barbara Steele (NIGHTMARE CASTLE), Keenan Wynn (THE DEVIL'S RAIN), Paul Bartel (ROCK 'N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL), Dick Miller (EVIL TOONS) and Belinda Belaski (MATINEE) - and extremely accomplished direction by Joe Dante, combine to make one of the greatest drive-in classics of all time. Fast paced, funny, suspenseful and exciting, PIRANHA is one of the best killer critter flicks of its era.

Released at least three times on DVD by Roger Corman's own New Horizon label in an unmatted, speckly transfer, the new Blu-Ray from Shout! sports a beautiful new HD 1080p, anamorphic widescreen transfer, properly matted at 1.78:1. Audio is a crystal clear Dolby 2.0 mono. PIRANHA was one of the first cult film DVDs I ever bought, back in the late 90s, and I remember thinking how great it was then. But this new edition is a huge improvement, both technically and in terms of bonus material. (The only thing I miss are the animated menus where a snapping piranha would swim at you every time you made a selection.)

Every supplemental feature from the earlier editions are here along with lots of new stuff, including an informative and entertaining audio commentary by Dante and producer Jon Davison, ported over from the earlier DVD releases (and it's one of the best B-movie commentaries I've heard), a brand new "Making of" documentary featuring interviews with Corman, Dante, Miller and Belaski, among others , behind-the-scenes footage, bloopers and outtakes, severa l still galleries, the trailer and TV/radio spots, additional scenes shot for television airings of the movie, more New World trailers, and an 8-page booklet of liner notes. Like other discs in the line, this one also includes a reversible sleeve that features alternate poster art.

PIRANHA (which is getting a 3-D theatrical remake this year) is one of Joe Dante's best films, and a great example of Corman's 70s B-movie-making machine at its best. Genuinely good entertainment, professionally crafted, and now looking better than ever before on Blu-Ray and DVD. I love 70s "nature gone wild" flicks, and this is among the best. Highly recommended.

BUY: Piranha (Roger Corman's Cult Classics) [Blu-ray]

BUY: Piranha [Roger Corman's Cult Classics] (Lenticular Cover) [DVD]