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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


Piranha [Blu-ray]


(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)

Runtime: 1:33:50.541

Disc Size: 23,455,078,288 bytes

Feature Size: 16,635,113,472 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.99 Mbps

Chapters: 25

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
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage (9:35 in SD)
• The Making of Piranha Featurette With New Interviews From Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Dick Miller, Belinda Balaski and Many More (19:44 in HD!)
• Bloopers and Outtakes (6:48 in SD)
• Piranha Trailer With Commentary by Producer Jon Davison Courtesy of Trailers From Hell (2:28)
• Stills Gallery With Photos and Posters From Around the World
• Behind-the-Scenes Stills Gallery Featuring Photos From Phil Tippetts Personal Collection
• Additional Scenes From the Network Television Version (12:21 in SD)
• Radio and TV Spots (1:38 + :33)
• New World Trailers





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.



The Film:

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.

Excerpt from TimeOut London located HERE

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.

However, Dante and Sayles fill in between monster attacks, traditionally the dull stuff, with cynical dialogue, visual invention and amusing tributes to old-time movies. One reason Dante's films are so engaging, often despite their nastiness (this is a rare horror film in which children are mutilated and killed wholesale), is that he fills them with performers he clearly loves to see work..

Excerpt from Empire Magazine UK located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

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.












Audio :

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.



Extras :

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.



Riding on the popularity of underwater 'unknowns' akin to Spielberg's Jaws this is one of more sought after titles in the prolific producer's vast oeuvre. The inclusion of the 12-minutes of additional scenes from the Network Television Version will be of paramount interest to some. Of course, this could never be considered even a 'good' film but it has evolved a strange nostalgic appeal. Dante is a great director and gets the most mileage from the, occasionally, awkward script and plot. The tongue-in-cheek subtleties are a pleasant diversion from the unacceptable brutality. Even with the glaring flaws the viewers fears and anxieties are preyed upon with adept stealth. It's a film that you wish a had a larger budget - to improve to a more polished edge - but then it would have, no doubt, lost the kitschy appeal.  


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.  

Gary Tooze

July 27th, 2010




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