S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r
(Joe Dante, 1978)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: New World Pictures
Video: Shout! Factory
Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 23,455,078,288 bytes
Feature Size: 16,635,113,472 bytes
Video Bitrate: 19.99 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: August 3rd, 2010
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
• Audio Commentary With
Director Joe Dante and Producer Jon Davison
Description: While searching for missing teenagers, novice skip tracer Maggie McKeown (Heather Menzies) and local town boozer Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman) stumble upon a top-secret Army laboratory conducting genetic research on piranha fish for the purpose of developing biological warfare. When the deadly eating machines are accidentally released from the compound, they are soon headed downstream and consuming everything, and anything, in their path.
Engaging tongue-in-cheek exploitation pic from the Corman stable, in which Menzies and Dillman stumble upon an army camp where mad scientist McCarthy has been developing a mutant strain of man-eating piranha fish for use in the Vietnam war. Things get worse when the finned flesh-eaters escape into a local river. John Sayles' witty script plays the action for laughs rather than chills, stealing wholesale from the plot of Spielberg's Jaws, while director Dante piles on the cinematic in-jokes and cheap shock effects.
Joe Dante's first solo feature, scripted by John Sayles, is a textbook
example of how to get the most out of a Roger Corman budget and a shoddy
premise. The effects money extends to a couple of impressive
mini-monsters and some nastily chewed corpses but is otherwise so meagre
that few mutant fish get screen time and have to be represented by
bloodily churning waters.
This fits in nicely with the other Corman Shout! Factory Blu-ray features (under the 'Cult Classic' label) that we've already covered - Death Race 2000 and Galaxy of Terror - it is very grainy and presumably true to source - looking surprisingly decent. I know there was a previous full-frame DVD released in 1999 that was way out-of-print and it's easy to see that this Blu-ray has had some effort put into the film cleaning and restoration. It probably looks much like it did theatrically way back in 78'. The textured appearance is consistent throughout and, predictably, detail never really rises to modern films rendered to the new medium. Many will appreciate the lack of digital manipulation. This is a strong representation of the original film as the screen captures below should indicate. It is in in 1.78 aspect ratio and colors are impressive. I'm convinced that this is as good as it will get for Piranha - another title I never thought would get a Blu-ray release.
NOTE: There is a Lenticular covered DVD edition released on the same date HERE.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Shout Factory remain true with a linear PCM 2.0 channel stereo track at a healthy 2304 kbps. Once again they avoid the fake bump and remix but the lossless transfer often sounds like it has separation... although it cannot. Screams and shrieks are buoyed with depth and bass to produce the required tension. Actually the score is effective as well when it is utilized. There are no subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.
This is the area that Shout! Factory should be most highly commended. They continue to showcase their Corman Blu-rays with valuable supplements. We have an occasionally amusing audio commentary with director Joe Dante and producer Jon Davison reminiscing on past efforts. They work well as a team - like two friends chatting - bringing Jaws into the discussion. I believe this was on the 1999 DVD. There is 10-minutes of Behind-the-Scenes Footage and a newer 20-minute Making of Piranha featurette that has new interviews with Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Dick Miller, Belinda Balaski and others associated with the production. This is rendered in HD. There are 7-minutes of dated bloopers and outtakes and a Piranha trailer with optional commentary by producer Davison. We get an awkwardly performing stills gallery with photos and international posters (see above) and another gallery - a Behind-the-Scenes selection of stills from Phil Tippetts 'Personal Collection'. An important inclusion will be the 12-minutes of additional scenes from the TV version. There are brief Radio and TV Spots (about 2-minutes worth) and more New World Trailers.Solid extras that many will appreciate.
Corman fans will relish this Blu-ray. I'm sure Piranha won't look or sound any better and the obvious attention to supplement detail and with the transfer is commendable if, for some, misplaced. It's hard not to recommend this disc for under $20 - it has solid value and worthwhile campy entertainment. Those keen shouldn't hesitate.
July 27th, 2010
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be
it, but film will always be my first love and I list my
favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze