Piranha title

Tag line : Lost River Lake was a thriving resort - until they discovered...

PiranhaReleased to cash in on the success of Jaws, this 1978 horror film from infamous producer Roger Corman stars US TV actress Heather Menzies as private investigator Maggie McKeown, who's been hired to locate a young couple that have gone missing, whilst out backpacking in some remote woodlands.

Enlisting the help of local man Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman), they stumble across an old army research facility up in the mountains, which appears to contain rather a large swimming pool. Finding the couples belongings nearby, they decide to drain the pool to see if they fell in, believing the old base to be empty and abandoned.

However, they are subsequently confronted by a Dr Hoak (Kevin McCarthy), who's been keeping an eye on the old facility, and informs them they have just released a deadly batch of genetically engineered Piranha into the local river.

With a summer camp and lakeside resort located down stream and the Piranha on the loose devouring anything and everything in their path, they to try and head them off before disaster strikes. Fortunately, the military are quickly on the scene to take care of things, but it soon becomes apparent that they're really there to just cover things up, as opposed to stopping any further problems.

With the military reluctant to take any further action and Maggie and Paul unable to get word out about the remaining fish on the loose, it looks like the nearby Lost River Resort is going to have an opening weekend that won't be forgotten in a hurry...

Directed by Joe Dante ("Gremlins", "The Howling"), with a cast comprised mostly of US TV actors, along with former horror siren Barbara Steele and B-movie actor Dick Miller, the film was huge hit a drive-in theatres during the late 70s and proved to be big hit on home video during the early 80s on both sides of the Atlantic.

Whilst it may be a bit slow in places and the effects slightly dated by today's standards, it has lost none of its charm over the years and is tremendous fun, as we get to see numerous people, including a bunch of schoolkids, getting devoured by the ravenous fish. So if you love these "nature on the rampage" sort of films, then this comes highly recommended!

Overall marks 7/10.

Terrifying Trivia.

  • Alternate tag lines, "They're here...Hungry for flesh! Who can stop them?", "There's something in the water at Lost River Lake. Something you can't see...something you can't feel...until it's too late!", "Then... you were shocked by the great white shark - Now... you are at the mercy of 1000 jaws!"

  • The films budget was $660,000.

  • The "Jaws" video game Heather Menzies is playing at the start of the film was put in deliberately as a jokey reference to the film it was trying to rip off.

  • Shortly after filming had begun, producer Roger Corman almost pulled the plug on the production as he felt the budget was too high, however he relented after United Artists stepped in and agreed to co-finance it in return for handling the overseas distribution.

  • Heather Menzies previously played Jessica in the 70s US TV series "Logan's Run".

  • Future special effects technicians Phil Tippet, who was 17 at the time, and Rob Bottin, who was 19, helped with the special effect on this.

  • The original script was by Richard Robinson, who also scripted "Kingdom of the Spiders", but producer Roger Corman disliked it, so he asked author John Sayles to re-write. Sayles would go on to work with director Joe Dante again for "The Howling"

  • Whilst attempting to film some underwater footage in the river, the divers didn't realise the riverbed was made of loose silt, and when they tried to stand on the bottom with their camera rig, sank up to their waists and almost became stuck.

  • Dick Miller, who plays resort owner Buck Gardner, was a regular in Roger Corman films, and as a result of his appearance in this went on to be frequently cast in Joe Dante's films, including "The Howling" and "Gremlins". He has also had minor roles in films like "The Terminator", "Chopping Mall" and the "Twilight Zone" movie.

  • The role of Dr Mengers was originally intended to be a male character, but when Joe Dante found out they could get Barbara Steele in the film, they changed it to a woman.

  • The scenes with the submerged control room were filmed in the University of Southern Carolina's swimming pool. Unfortunately, due to the amount of fake blood poured into the pool, along with the various other plants and dirt they imported to create a realistic underwater scene, it caused a nasty fungus to develop in the water, resulting in some of the crew getting ear infections. As a result, the pool had to be drained, cleaned and re-surfaced before the university could use it again.

  • Barbara Steele previously starred in a number of Italian horror films prior to this, most notably Mario Bava's "Black Sunday" and "Castle of Blood". She also starred in Roger Corman's "Pit and the Pendulum".

  • Universal pictures apparently tried to sue the film makers for ripping off "Jaws". However Stephen Spielberg, who had seen the film and liked it, stepped in and apparently persuaded them against taking legal action.

  • During the scene where the piranhas attack the raft, Phil Tippet, who was doing the underwater effects, got accidentally bashed a number of times with the pole Bradford Dillman was using, as he didn't realise how close to the surface he was. The blows knocked off his mask and respirator and was nearly knocked unconscious before one of the crew realised what was going on and they dragged him back up.

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