Piranha (1978) Retrospective

SUMMARY
Two teenagers come upon an apparently abandoned military installation at night. They take advantage of what appears to be a swimming pool to skinny dip. The teenagers are attacked by an unseen force in the pool and disappear under the water.

img

A determined but somewhat absent-minded skiptracer named Maggie McKeown is dispatched to find the missing teenagers near Lost River Lake. She hires surly backwoods drunkard Paul Grogan to serve as her guide. They come upon the abandoned compound, which functioned as a fish hatchery before being militarized. They discover bizarre specimens in jars and indications of an occupant. Maggie locates the drainage switch for the outside pool and decides to empty it to search the bottom, but the moment she activates it a haggard man appears and tries to stop her until he is subdued by Grogan. The two find a skeleton in the filtration trap of the empty pool, and learn it was filled with salt water. The man awakens and steals their jeep, but crashes it due to his disorientation, and is taken to Grogan’s home where they spend the night. They take Grogan’s raft down the river, where the man wakes up and tells them that the pool in the facility was filled with a school of lethal piranha fish, and that Maggie has released them into the river. They are skeptical until they hear a dog barking and they come across the corpse of Grogan’s friend Jack, who has bled to death from an attack on a fishing dock.

37

The man reveals himself to be Doctor Robert Hoak, lead scientist of a defunct Vietnam War project, Operation: Razorteeth, tasked with engineering a ravenous and prodigious strain of piranha that could endure the cold water of the North Vietnamese rivers and inhibit Viet Cong movement. The project was shut down when the war ended, but some of the mutant specimens survived, and Hoak tended to them to salvage his work. Grogan realizes that if the local dam is opened, the school will have access to the Lost River water park resort, and the nearby summer camp where his daughter Suzie is in attendance. They encounter a capsized canoe with a boy whose father has been killed by the piranha. Hoak rescues the boy, but suffers mortal injuries when the school attacks him; he dies before he can reveal how to kill them. Blood from Hoak’s corpse causes the piranha to tear away the raft’s lashings, and they barely reach shore. Grogan stops the dam attendant from opening the spillway and calls the military.

30

A military team led by Colonel Waxman and former Razorteeth scientist Dr. Mengers feed poison into the upstream section, ignoring the protests that the piranha survived the first attempt. When Grogan discovers that a tributary bypasses the dam, Waxman and Mengers quarantine them to prevent the agitated pair from alerting the media. After they escape, Waxman alerts law enforcement to capture them. The school attacks the summer camp during a swimming marathon, injuring and killing many children and Betsy, one of the camp supervisors. Suzie escapes due to her fear of water, and aids her camp mates in escaping.

31

The school continues downriver. Waxman and Mengers arrive at the water park to intercept Grogan and Maggie, but the piranha attack the resort and kill many vacationers and Waxman. Grogan and Maggie commandeer a speedboat and rush to the shuttered smelting plant at the narrowest point of the river. Remembering the empty facility pond, Grogan realizes the fish can survive in salt water; if the school passes the delta, they will reach the ocean and spread over the world. He intends to open the smelting refuse tanks, hoping the industrial waste will kill the piranha. They arrive at the plant ahead of the piranha, but the elevated water level has submerged the control office and Grogan must go underwater; he ties a rope around his waist and instructs Maggie to count to 100 before pulling him out. Grogan struggles to move the rusted valve wheel when the school arrives and attacks him. He manages to open the valves just as Maggie pulls him to safety. Maggie takes Grogan back to the water park, where a massive MEDEVAC is tending to the victims; his injuries are severe and he is seen in a catatonic state.

32

Mengers gives an on-site television interview, providing a sanitized version of events and downplaying the existence of piranha. Her voice is heard carrying out over a radio on the shore of a West Coast beach. As she says “there’s nothing left to fear”, the piranha’s characteristic trilling sound drowns out the waves on the beach.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

DEVELOPMENT
When a former producer’s assistant named Jeff Schechtman and a onetime Japanese movie star called Chako Van Leeuwen approached the exploitation maestro with a script about folks getting eaten by piranhas, he was all ears. “I had been working for Warner Bros. for a number of years,” says Schechtman. “And as everybody else does in Hollywood, I struck out on my own, and tried to put some projects together. Piranha was one of the earliest things I produced. Originally, I developed the script, with a screenwriter named Richard Robinson (author of the Kingdom of the Spiders), then shopped that around. Chako van Leeuwen provided a bunch of the development money, and that is how she came into the picture.”

“Schechtman already had a script by Richard Robinson, but it needed work,” Dante continues. “There were piranhas in this lake, and when people found out about them, they wouldn’t go in. So there had to be a bear to chase people into the lake. Then there had to be a forest fire that chased the bear that chased the people.”

Frances Doel, then Corman’s assistant, was on the lookout for new talent. She’d read John Sayles’ novel Pride of the Bimbos, and concluded that the realist Sayles was the perfect writer for a horror thriller about fish eating people. “Doel hired him to write the script for $10,000,” Davison recalls. “He reportedly wrote the first draft on the airplane from Los Angeles to New Jersey-he’s the fastest writer I know.”

Joe-Dante-Piranha-1978-Vintage-Photo-Original

Sayles set about writing a tongue-in-cheek script in which mutated piranhas menaced a riverside entertainment park. “The thing I tried to bring was a little bit of self-consciousness,” he says. “Some of the fun is: ‘Okay, this is a dollar ninety-eight version of Jaws.’” According to one of the many legends that surround the making of the first two Piranha films, Sayles also wrote a “shadow” script in which the military—who could hardly be more villainous in the finished movie—are the heroes of the piece. Supposedly, this script was sent to the appropriate authorities at the National Guard who agreed to lend soldiers and equipment to the production. “I think what happened is they showed a different version of the script to the military,” says Sayles. “Certain things may have disappeared.”

There’s a legend that Corman offered Alan Arkush and Dante their choice of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Piranha to direct. The story goes that they tossed a coin and Joe Dante lost, so he had to helm the fish movie. A talented cartoonist, Dante drew his own storyboards for Piranha. “I was more interested in the science fiction aspects of the story,” he says, “so I wanted to goose those up. John Sayles was more interested in the political side, so he turned it into a pseudo-science fiction-cum-political allegory, where fish that were developed for use in Vietnam have come home along with the rest of the War to roost in America. These were atom bombs coming home and eating campers.”

The locations were scouted by Dante himself. “I was at the Telluride Film Festival, and Roger said, ‘Why don’t you stop in a few states on your own time and see where you would like to shoot?’ There was a drought that year, and there weren’t any rivers in California, so we ended up making the picture in Texas, a right-to-work state, which meant we could make it non-union.” Production began in Los Angeles, however, and the night after we shot our first scenes, Roger canceled the movie. He looked at the budget, and felt there was too much money for 2nd unit,” Dante says.

“Chako broke down and cried in Roger’s office,” Davison adds, and she cried so long that the only way Roger could get her out of there was to promise to make the movie.” The picture was a co-production with United Artists, and Davison reveals, “Roger always made sure that the pictures were somewhat cheaper than United Artists thought they were, which was about a million-one. But there was no way to make it quite as cheap as Roger wanted and have it be any good. I ended up calling Barbara Boyle, Corman’s business affairs person, and I think I cried on the phone for more money.”

Sayles’ script called for a state-of-the-art water park, but Aquarena Springs was a rather more quaint complex. Its chief “attraction” was a pig named Ralph that swam and performed tricks. Dante persuaded Sayles to come down to Texas and play the small role of a soldier so that he could perform unpaid surgery on the script to accommodate the somewhat antique nature of the resort… and an appearance by Ralph. “Ralph the swimming swine had been an attraction at Aquarena Springs for years,” chuckles Sayles “I went to a Mexican market in the town and they were selling whole pigs heads. And I tried to convince Joe that at some point we should see the pig’s head floating around after the piranha attack. He said, ‘People will put up with humans being eaten, but not pet animals!’”

roger-corman-interview-6

So why then, did you—the king of capitalizing on a profitable idea—take so long to greenlight Piranha? Was that film made to ride the coattails of the same year’s Jaws 2?
Roger Corman: No, someone brought me the script for Piranha and I liked it, so I hired John Sayles to do a rewrite. That was Sayles’ first screenplay, and Joe Dante, who had just made Hollywood Boulevard with Allan Arkush, was hired to direct it. I was very aware of the success of Jaws, but if I was really planning to capitalize on it, I would have worked right away to do so and not have waited a few years. Because really, the idea of Jaws was similar to my first film from 1954, Monster from the Ocean Floor. It wasn’t that Jaws was original, it was just really well-made.

Can you recall the first time you met Dante?
Roger Corman: I met Joe because of Martin Scorsese. We were about to do the film Private Duty Nurses, and Marty was a teacher at NYU and I asked him, out of his students, who would be best to direct it. Marty said Jonathan Kaplan. So Jonathan came out, and with him came Dante, Allan Arkush and Jon Davison, and I hired them all on the spot in various capacities. Joe, I hired as a trailer editor originally.

Today, a Joe Dante film is immediately recognized for its sense of humor, evident in even Piranha’s most intense and violent sequences. Was the film always intended to be a romp?
Roger Corman: Yes, I always thought about it as a serious picture with a great deal of humor. It was not intended as a parody, however. It was simply a science fiction/ horror film with lots of humor.

And it was a huge success.
Roger Corman: Yes, it was. An enormous one.

PRODUCTION

Meanwhile, Davison was proceeding with casting: Mike Medavoy, then president in charge of production, sent him a list of suggested leads, with actors indicated as 1s, 2s and 3s, apparently in order of desirability. Davison still has the list among his Piranha souvenirs. “The ls were Nick Nolte, Peter Fonda, James Caan, Robert Shaw, Joe Don Baker, Peter O’Toole and Michael Sarrazin,” the amused producer reveals, “but I don’t think anybody ever took those very seriously. We basically had two cast lists-one of dead people who were not available, and people who were still living that we wanted to put into the picture. I remember that we had Richard Deacon for only one day, and promised we would use him only until noon. We couldn’t afford him, so Joe and I paid for Richard.”

Dillman, the biggest name in the cast, says, “I was very impressed by the screenplay John Sayles had written. He came to my home in Santa Barbara, and we sat down and talked about it a little bit. I had done other horror-type films-Bug, The Mephisto Waltz, The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler, Chosen Survivors, that type of thing,” so he had no problem with the script’s content.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another little-known fact, Dante says, “is that Kevin McCarthy’s part was originally played by Eric Braeden. I was a fan of his from Colossus: The Forbin Project; I thought he was great-still do. He came down to the set at the swimming pool, and saw us kids and our jerry-built effects. He may have seen Belinda Balaski getting fake piranhas attached to her. He did his work for that day, which involved floating in the pool while the piranhas came after him, while we see him from underwater.”

“We managed to convince Kevin McCarthy to do it, somehow,” Dante continues. “He was in New York when his agent offered him the part. We called back, and the agent said, ‘Well, he’s walking around Central Park thinking it over.’ For whatever reasons-he wanted to go to Texas, needed money for an ex-wife-he decided to do it. I never met him until he showed up on the set.” McCarthy, of course, has been in many of Dante’s movies since.

00000

When he was first approached about Piranha, Kevin McCarthy was leery. “My vanity had something to do with it,” he admits with a smile. “Joe admired my work. I didn’t want to work on these cheap little Roger Corman things. I’m an actor. I wouldn’t want to be in a non-union situation. The only union he pays is the Screen Actors Guild. The cameramen work under assumed names. But Corman gave many of these people, like Dante, their break. He helped them get started, develop themselves and find their own answers.

“So, when Dante told me how much he wanted to work with me, it was flattering. He sent me a script which sounded like something I might like to do: play a mad scientist, an ichthyologist who’s working on some sort of crazy fish which would eat up most of North Vietnam. I had some interesting scenes in the film and I got to swim the river in Austin, Texas; have karo syrup released underwater as my blood and all.”

McCarthy pauses a moment to consider making the fish fear film. “Joe was open to suggestions. “What if I do it from here or turn around?’ He would say ‘Sure.’ When you get that feedback from a director, it’s great.” film-otherwise, I don’t want to do it, and he doesn’t want to do it. So, it has been a great relationship.”

“Keenan Wynn was hired for one day, one of those color parts that give you a name for television, the director recalls. “I had suggested John Carradine, but Keenan had more of a TVQ. He showed up the day before his scene, and started intimating that he might forget his lines if he didn’t get an extra day, that he really should have been hired for two, that it’s a lot of work to do in one day, that he just couldn’t guarantee he was going to remember anything. So we paid him for two days.

“It also turned out that he was deaf as a post from riding motorcycles,” Dante continues. “Most of the stuff he did was sitting on a riverbank with a dog, while we were out in the water. He was screaming, ‘You better yell “cut” pretty loud! He didn’t suffer any unprofessionalism gladly. I never saw a crew work faster than when Keenan was working. And woe betide the unlucky crew member who happened to be in his eyeline when he was being dead and looking anywhere. He was a cantankerous old fellow, but a great guy, full of great stories.”

Steele, of the pale skin, big eyes and great Italian horror movies, played a scientist in Piranha. “It was a dream come true to be making a movie with Barbara,” Davison claims, and she is almost as weird offscreen as she is on, but interesting, and real smart.” Davison pulls out the contract • he wrote himself for Steele’s services. “There was obviously some sort of thing where she was trying to get a little more money, so in order to get her to agree to be in the movie, we had to hire her to also be a still photographer. I don’t know if I ever saw any photos she took, but the contract does say, ‘Piranha Productions agrees to engage player as location still photographer for not less than one week consecutive with her employment. Piranha Productions will pay film and processing and the munificent sum of $200 per. She worked for a week and a day, with two of those days probably used for travel.”

MV5BNWEyYTBjNDgtYzRhNS00NDE1LTg1YTgtMTI0MmQzZThkZWU4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTc5MDI5NjE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1250,1000_AL_

“The trouble with Barbara,” Dante adds, “was that she had a habit of wandering into scenes she wasn’t in. We’d be shooting and suddenly, ‘Hey, that’s Barbara! What’s she doing there?’ She had her little boy with her, and they would just be wandering around. If you brought up her Italian movies, she would laugh and say, ‘Ohhhhh my God!’ and that would be just about as much as she wanted to talk about them, but she did say some nice things about Mario Bava.”

John Sayles

You started off working with Roger Corman and wrote the screenplay for “Piranha.” What did you learn from Corman about the economy of independent filmmaking?
John Sayles: One of the things that Roger did that was interesting was he would test market titles. “Piranha” was a title that test marketed very well. And within the genre, he might test market a couple science fiction titles. Another movie I wrote for him, “Battle Beyond the Stars,” marketed very highly. With “Piranha,” it was obviously capitalizing on the success of “Jaws,” and so it rated very high. So he felt that, generically speaking, there’s an audience that wants to see this movie. They don’t even know who’s in it or any of the details about it, but they like the genre. So if we delivered that, there was enough of an audience for us to make the movie.

How did the challenge differ for the movies you directed?
John Sayles: With independent movies that are just straight dramas, you just don’t have that. Occasionally maybe there’s a movie about vampires or something, so you have a little bit of a genre going for you, but usually you’re selling a totally new product. If you were a low-budget production, you used to rely on getting lucky and getting some great reviews.

When we started out, Siskel and Ebert had a TV show and one of the great things for independent filmmakers is they would review those movies. They only reviewed the ones they liked, whereas the Hollywood movies, they always wanted a dog of the week — I think “Piranha” got their first dog of the week, ever. They would unload on those movies, but they weren’t going to bother to say bad things about an independent movie. So you got a national show, and you got free national publicity, and there was just no way you could pay for that.

Piranha (1978) Rob Bottin

SPECIAL EFFECTS
“We shot some stuff at a summer camp in Griffith Park,” says Dante, but the underwater scenes were shot at the Olympic-sized pool at the University of Southern California. “We happened to luck into a conglomerate of really great (FX) guys, the top of their profession-Phil Tippett, Jon Berg, Rob Bottin, Chris Walas-all these guys who were about to work on big movies.” Actually, as Tippett reveals, most of them had just come off another film made for less money than the director wanted, also shot under arduous conditions by people who were simply in love with the idea of making movies. That film was Star Wars.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“We looked at other movies that had piranhas in them,” says Dante, “but there weren’t very many. And the few that did were things like Pirates of Blood River, where it was all done on the surface–you never really saw anything under the water. They just sprayed buckshot to disturb the water. The most interesting footage was something Bill Burrud, or someone like that, had of real piranhas eating a cow. The interesting thing was that they moved very, very fast.

“We came up with these piranhas on sticks that, when photographed at eight frames a second, could look like they were moving through the water quickly, the way piranhas really do. Coupled with prosthetic limbs and pieces of flesh that could be bitten and float around in the water, it started to look pretty promising. So we did a number of days of shooting, and brought in naked girls and had piranhas try to eat their breasts. We also had prosthetic breasts with nipples that pulled away.” Dante sighs. “The things you do when you’re younger that you’d never do now…”

The fish in the movie are all rubber, and don’t entirely resemble the genuine article. For one thing, you can barely see real piranhas’ wedge-shaped teeth; mounted ones sold in novelty shops have had their lips pared away to expose the dental work. The fish in Piranha were modeled on such stuffed specimens. “The only thing we couldn’t figure out how to do,” Dante admits, *was to get masses of fish together. We could do great shots of three or four of them at a time, but to get them to come toward the camera, go away or do right and left shots, chases, was really difficult. Pete Kuran ended up doing these scenes on a stage, dry, with smoke and silhouettes and stuff, keeping the piranhas still and moving the camera past them.”

Dante shot some water footage with future Young and the Restless star Eric Braeden, who had been cast in the role of the scientist responsible for breeding the movie’s strain of genetically engineered, super intelligent, mutant fish which are accidentally let loose into a river. They all took this dive course, which was a lesson for a couple of hours. Dressed the pool put tarps on the bottom, and added all these plants, built sets and sunk them, and dumped in lots of Fuller’s earth and dirt. Dante and his special effects team dumped so much foliage and fake blood into the pool they themselves brought to life a new creature of sorts. “We created this fungus that was apparently hard to classify,” says the director. “They had scientists down from Sacramento to try to figure out what it was. It was apparently some sort of new life form. It was in the water—and of course in our lungs as well. They had to sandblast the pool to get rid of it.” Given this, it is not surprising that Braeden decided to back out of the film. “I think Eric was just horrified by the primitive conditions we were shooting under,” says Dante. “He called me one night very politely and said, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t do this.’”

Rob Bottin on the Piranha set adding some extra gore to actor Keenan Wynn
Rob Bottin on the Piranha set adding some extra gore to actor Keenan Wynn

Finally, Dante had around two hours of footage featuring fake piranhas, and gory mayhem. “We [planned] on showing it all to Roger in a mammoth session,” says Dante. “About 15, 20, minutes in, he said, ‘Okay, it’s not bad. We’ll do it.’ He was about to leave the screening room and I said, ‘Roger, don’t you want to see the prosthetic breasts getting eaten?’ And he looked to me and he said, ‘Do I have to?’”

After Dante and Davison visited Berg and Tippett at Tippett’s home-he didn’t have a studio in those days—they were hired for the majority of the piranha FX. “We had some excruciating hours in that pool,” Tippett recalls. In addition to the diatomaceous earth and Karo syrup, he says, “we used milk and cream. I think when we started, there wasn’t enough time for the heaters to work, so the water was something like 50 degrees. Jon (Davison) ordered wetsuits that were a size too small, so we all ended up getting terrible diaper rashes. There was a stray dog we adopted who would shit in the changing room every morning, so it smelled like dog shit. We were too poor to afford dryers for the suits, so they were wet as well as too small. And because of the concoction that sat in the pool for something like three and a half weeks, it turned into this vile soup that gave everyone horrible ear infections.

“A lot of this came from us just being stupid kids and not knowing any better, and trying to make up stuff we thought would work,” he continues. “There’s one scene where Belinda Balaski gets pulled into the deep with piranha all over her. We figured the way to fasten the fish to her was to grip-tape them all over her body. Then she had to sit out in the hot sun, and the tape just adhered to her body. She was covered with yards and yards of the stuff; getting it ripped off was very painful.”

Fangoria_187_1999_House_On_Haunted_Hill_HQS_c2c_0036

“Phil Tippett and his lovely wife Jules ran the fish factory in downtown LA,” says Davison. “They sculpted a clay model and made molds, and together with Jon Berg they made lots of fish, and were in charge of the effects. I think it was Rob Bottin’s first professional job; he sculpted the head that bobs up in the water. He would do it only if he got to be the 2nd unit director, and went on and on about this. So we let him be 2nd unit director for one day, as it turned out. We didn’t have any sound for the 2nd unit, which is not unusual, so he shot a scene on the beach about deaf-mutes being eaten by piranhas. That was the end of his directing career for a while.”

“We tried a lot of things that did not work.” Tippett admits. “We had these elaborate rigs of fish on wires between two gantries that were strung up. Then we had people on shore who pulled the lines, and the fish would run underwater. There were so many fish!” he sighs in amazed tones.

Phil Tippett Lab Creature
Phil Tippett Lab Creature

“Also, I had fish on poles with little triggers that made them snap and bite at the fake flesh. We had other rigs that Jon Berg built, big garage door springs with pieces of metal welded to them that could be adjusted underwater so the fish could break the surface and disappear.”

The laboratory sequence has several strange creatures in jars and tanks built by Walas, shot later in inserts. Dante was amazed by the chances everyone took. “Jules Tippett was underneath this fishbowl with her hand in this puppet with the water dripping out and pouring all over her, while other people filled the tank so it wouldn’t drain out during the shot. She was totally drenched, and could have been electrocuted.”

Phil Tippett Lab Creature
Phil Tippett Lab Creature

“I did some stop-motion on it, too,” Tippett adds, “a little creature in the lab. We wanted another ending for the picture, where the little Ymir-ish creature has reached the ocean and grown to 30 feet high. He was supposed to come out eating a surfer. But the executive producer didn’t want to pay for it, so we didn’t do it.” When Dillman was brought in to loop some dialogue, he saw the stop-motion beast (which may have been animated by Bill Hedge in place of the very busy Tippett), and was surprised, feeling this would harm the movie—that the audience simply wouldn’t buy it. Later, Dillman saw the finished movie in San Francisco, and sent Dante a very nice letter,” the director recalls. “He said he saw it with an audience, and now understood how it was supposed to work. He said he was very happy to be in it, and that it worked out great.”

011_1_22

This was your first movie with Joe Dante. What was he like, and what was your initial reaction to John Sayles’ script?
Belinda Balaski: Working with Joe was a joy! First of all, he allowed everyone their creative freedom. I had just finished doing Cannonball! with Paul Bartel, and here we were on the Piranha set together in San Marcos, Texas. Paul and I had no scenes together, and we were joking around with Joe, saying we wanted to be in a scene with each other. Joe said, “OK, just write one.” So that night, I wrote the lakeside bit with Melody Thomas, Paul and I, and the next day! gave it to Joe, who loved it and we shot it! That’s actually one of my favorite scenes in Piranha. As far as John Sayles and his writing, I consider him an absolute genius. He told me on the set of The Howling that he loved my Betsy character from Piranha so much that he created my Terry Fisher role based on her! That was the day we shot the morgue scene, where he got to be in it as the mortician. John is a great writer, who had all these wonderful scripts up his sleeve just waiting for a break! I’m a playwright and screenwriter myself, and John taught me to write screenplays ”

What were one of the most fun and one of the most difficult scenes to shoot on Piranha?
Belinda Balaski: The underwater scene, where it looks like the piranha are pulling me down. There were 10 crew guys at one end of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, holding onto a rope tied around my waist. They pulled me across the pool underwater, and it looks like I’m going down deep!

What do you remember of Rob Bottin’s nasty fish mockups, and did you get to keep one as a memento?
Belinda Balaski: They used gaffer’s tape on my skin to tie the rubber piranha to. Then I’d get underwater and the fish would bobble around me, and I would push them away and because they were tied to me, they’d come right back! All this was good and fun till they went to take the gaffer’s tape off-ouch! And sadly, I didn’t get to keep one to remember it all by!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

PROMOTIONAL/ADVERTISING
Davison also wrote the film’s pressbook, the advertising and promotional brochure sent to theater owners and newspapers. For the most part, it’s the usual material phony “news” stories, biographies of the leading players and so forth. But in the suggestions for promotion, which include what you might expect-tanks of piranhas in the lobby, goldfish-swallowing projects, tie-ins with sporting goods stores-Davison offered an idea that was probably not meant to be taken too seriously: “Create some exciting pre-publicity by leaving dead piranha at various strategic locations along the banks of your local lakes and streams…Give enterprising kids in your area a few bucks to make themselves scarce for a couple of days. Watch your grosses soar!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

RELEASE/DISTRIBUTION
But the movie was released in 1978 during a newspaper strike, and there were very few reviews and chances for advertising. “It did better in Europe,” says Dante, “and in places like Rio de Janeiro, it played tremendously-faraway places where people don’t speak English. Roger was a little upset that it made more money overseas, but United Artists’ campaign there was so much better than his.”

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK
Piranha (1978) Pino Donaggio

CAST/CREW
Directed
Joe Dante

Produced
Jon Davison

Screenplay
John Sayles

Story
Richard Robinson
John Sayles

Bradford Dillman as Paul Grogan
Heather Menzies as Maggie McKeown
Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Robert Hoak
Keenan Wynn as Jack
Barbara Steele as Dr. Mengers
Dick Miller as Buck Gardner
Belinda Balaski as Betsy
Bruce Gordon as Colonel Waxman
Paul Bartel as Mr. Dumont
Melody Thomas Scott as Laura Dickinson
Barry Brown as Trooper
Shannon Collins as Suzie Grogan
Shawn Nelson as Whitney
Richard Deacon as Earl Lyon
John Sayles as Sentry

Special Effects
Rob Bottin
Douglas Barnett  … mechanical effects (as Doug Barnett)
Jon Berg … special effects
Dave Morton  … mechanical effects
Robert Short … special properties
Chris Walas  … special properties

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
indiewire.com
ew.com
Fangoria#187
Fangoria#296

Starlog#79

5 thoughts on “Piranha (1978) Retrospective

  1. Winner and still champ of greatest Jaws cash in. Great direction, very witty script, wonderful performances from a fan pleasing, near perfect cast. And even some surprising moments of pathos (like Paul Bartel leaning over the dead child). One of those films that everything was right for,

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s