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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Piranha (1978), directed by Joe Dante

Piranha (1978) -

The only way I can explain all the positive reviews of this movie is that maybe the reviewers were all given Advance Viewing Copies in exchange for an honest review.


You can see from the poster that it's a Jaws ripoff slash parody. It's a 90-minute in-joke for horror movie fans. Well, I'm in on the joke and still didn't find it particularly funny.


But then there's no accounting for humor, is there? All I can really say is that, when everything is stupid, I'm generally out.


Kevin McCarthy plays a scientist who has cooked up a batch of genetically altered piranha that are capable of living in both cold water and salt water. After a couple of idiot teenagers go skinny-dipping in the outdoor piranha tank, a pushy, irresponsible skip-tracer (Heather Menzies) and a local drunk (Bradford Dillman, who drinks a lot but never really gets drunk) drain the tank looking for the bodies and unwittingly release the deadly fish into the nearby river. It's a river that leads past both a kids' summer camp and an adult resort. And, of course, to the ocean.


John Sayles, who wrote the screenplay, works in a few good lines that serve only to suggest that the movie could have been so much better. "Parody" is so often a cop-out: if it's dumb, it's supposed to be dumb; if it's unimaginative, it's supposed to be derivative -- that's what makes it funny. Or not. Steven Spielberg called it "the best of the Jaws ripoffs," but I'm not convinced that was an endorsement.


You'll notice that I haven't described why I think this movie is so bad. That's because, as I said, there's no accounting for humor, and whatever I say might be irrelevant. You might like it. See, me, I'm a so-bad-it's-bad guy. If you belong to that other group -- well, there's no telling.


P.S.: I'll tell you what did amuse me. Watching this movie caused me to pull out an old comic book I hadn't read since I was a kid, but one the cover of which I've never forgotten. You can see why, I think, my brain made the association.

Looks pretty cool, right? Very exciting. So I opened it up and started through it. And you know what I discovered? That the cover describes an event that spans all of two panels in the story. That's funny.