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Piranha: The 20th Anniversary Special Edition

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Piranha: The 20th Anniversary Special Edition

Old 11-13-99, 10:13 PM
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Review by G. Noel Gross

PIRANHA: THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION (1978, 92 minutes) -- Highly Recommended -- I was in grade school the first time I saw "Piranha" on television. For months, I just knew the little buggers would come up the bath tub drain and nibble my toes off. In 1978, it arrived on the heels of "Jaws II" and was an unapologetic ripoff of the original (and "Jaws" was a throwback to the '50s classic "Creature from the Black Lagoon"). Now, 20 years after its initial release, we have an extraordinary new DVD from the folks at New Horizons Home Video. I've had a chance to screen it twice, and here's some of my thoughts on the DVD (with apologies to Joe Bob Briggs.)

The movie: Well, you've got this young couple hiking through the woods, and they happen upon an abandoned facility with a great big swimming pool, so they decide to strip nekkid and go for a dip. Turns out there's something fishy in the water and they get eaten alive. Then some stuff happens and we find out there were mean ass piranha in the pool, and oops, they're out now and high-tailing downstream toward a lake resort, but figure they'll stop for a snack at a summer camp. Along the way these suckers chew up a bunch of folks, including this real cool old dude with a dog. Old dudes in movies like this are cool. Especially when they have the skin stripped from their legs. The wildest part about the movie is that they really had the piranha EAT THE LITTLE KIDS at summer camp. These days, they'd have to save them just in time. Hell, I think it's even against the law to show violence toward children in movies. But I could just be making that part up. Anyway, so you've got little Timmy and Sally, screaming their little guts out (literally) and we're not even to the final reel yet. Downstream, the piranhas start the chewing all over again, this time with adults mixed in. I forgot to tell you there was this lady and another guy who are trying to save everybody. But don't worry too much about that. Oh, and there was this part where a crazy scientist rattles on about "Operation Razor Teeth" and the North Vietnamese, or something. A little too much plot getting in the way of the story, but its OK because he gets chewed on pretty good also. I don't want to give away the ending, so get the movie and see for yourself.

Notables: More than 20 dead bodies. 6 breasts. More than 300 gallons of blood. Nipple ripping. Piranha to the ear. Exploding boat. Gratuitous fat guy. Camp Counselor munching. Camper chewing. Gratuitous camp counselors in hot pants. Piranha to the face. Gratuitous pantsless Texas Ranger. Toilet lid to the head. Hook fu. Canteen fu. Jeep crash with rollover. Feet devouring. Arm eating. Disappearing Huck Finn raft. Rotenone-235 fu. Sleeping bag to the head. Police chase. Pants to the face. Pollution fu.

Quotables: Cheers to Janie Squire as Barbara who says, "Let's get wet!" while stripping off her clothes ... to Paul Bartel as Camp Counselor Dumont who snaps at a frightened little girl, "People eat fish! Fish don't eat people!" ... to Bradford Dillman as Paul Grogan for saying to his leading lady, "Come on! I'd have sworn you could get a man's pants off quicker than that!" and "We'll POLLUTE the bastards to death!" ... the great Barbara Steele as Dr. Mengers who declares, "I'm not afraid. I'm a scientist." ... and the best of them all, the crooked real estate fella's squirrely assistant who says, "The piranha -- they're EATING the guests, sir."

Timecodes: Phil Tippett's amusing stop-motion creature (16:45). Kids sing crazy camp song (26:00). Newspaper headlines, "Dogs tear up newborn baby," "Big rattler bites teen," "Shotgun killer invades home" (50:45). Scene from "The Monster that Challenged the World" shown on TV (54:00). Fat guy sets up lounge chair and falls on his ass, spilling his beer (1:13:25). Coed reads "Moby Dick" on beach (1:19:20).

DVD picture/sound: The DVD features all new digitally remastered sound and picture. In the print material, director Joe Dante says the movie was filmed in "full frame" ratio, meaning the entire image fits the screen without the need for panning and scanning. However, the main titles are widescreen (1.85) and Dante wonders aloud on the commentary track why they are. Regardless, the print is outstanding.

DVD Extras: Lots of fun stuff. Foremost is the commentary by director Joe Dante and producer Jon Davison. The interactive menus are amusing, as 3D-modeled piranha attack you with every screen change. Ten minute "Making Of ... " reel. Seven minute blooper reel. Cast biographies. Original theatrical trailer. Scene index. Two print booklets: one is a reproduction of the Theatrical Marketing Guide (pretty cool); and an 8-page "History of Roger Corman."

Best price: The disc retails for $24.98. However, the best deal I've found online is through CDNOW. With one of their $10 off $14.99 coupons, you can ship the DVD to your door for $9.94. An absolute steal. I'm sure you coupon ninjas out there can do even better.

------------------
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[This message has been edited by noelgross (edited January 24, 2000).]
Old 11-13-99, 10:22 PM
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Great review, thanks for putting so much time into it.

--Heather

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Old 11-13-99, 11:21 PM
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Now, when can we expect to see a Special Edition of "Piranha II" -- with a commentary by (first-time) director James Cameron?
Old 11-14-99, 10:10 AM
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DVD Express has the Piranha SE listed at an MSRP of $19.98. Their 30% off price, therefore, is $13.99.

If you have a $10 Buddy Referral coupon to use, you can snag it for $5.93 shipped (or $6.26, if you have to pay tax).

A great deal, and definitely worth it!

--Ken
Old 01-23-00, 05:08 PM
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Old 01-24-00, 04:34 PM
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Noelgross,

That had to be the best review I ever read. i t was fantastic and you made me laugh the whole way through.

Thanks for putting so much effort into it, do you by any chance write for any publications?

Old 01-24-00, 05:04 PM
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possibly the only time I've ever seen someone use "Gratuitous fat guy".

Old 01-24-00, 05:29 PM
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DVD666 ... Hey, thanks a lot. Really nice of you to say. I used to be a journalism major and wrote for my university newspaper (humor columns ... and interviews with Jim Carrey and Conan O'Brien). I'm on the design side now.

DodgingCars ... That fat guy was clearly gratuitous. Heh.

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