1979 - 100m.
With a combination of a heist, piranhas, Lee Majors, Karen Black, and Antonio Margheriti, I knew this flick would be a winner before I even put it in my blu-ray player. I was not wrong and this is one of those movies that brought me back to a time when I was discovering all kinds of cool cult classics back in the early days of Anchor Bay's DVD releasing frenzy in the 90s. Somehow this movie has eluded me and it was a real treat to experience a flick that has all the campy elements I love and want to share it with like-minded people. While this isn't a great movie technically, it is an entertaining adventure with Majors in his prime between "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "The Fall Guy", married to Farrah Fawcett, and in full American hero mode as a jewel thief with a code of professionalism who has to keep his cool amidst double-crossing partners and a pair of women falling all over him.
The movie wastes no time by opening with a lengthy heist sequence at some kind of factory. This sequence is filled with miniature work, explosions, and a zipline as Lasky (Majors) and his crew make off with a case full of jewels. They proceed to sink their treasure in a body of water and lay low for a number of months until the heat dies down. Unbeknownst to the rest of the crew, Paul Diller (the man who arranged the heist) stocked the water with a large number of piranhas to protect the loot from outsiders as well as crew members who try to screw over the rest of the group and take the jewels for themselves. Meanwhile, Lasky bides his time by hooking up with a model (Margeaux Hemingway) who is staying at the hotel while doing a photo shoot in the area. It turns that Paul's girlfriend Kate (Black) also has a thing for Lasky and awkward dynamics ensue. Everyone comes together on a recreational boat that gets stranded in the piranha-filled water as Paul and Lasky try to outwit each other while finding a way out of the situation.
My love of campy 70s melodrama had me hooked as the dynamics of the characters are played out throughout the picture. The cheesy courting scenes where Majors gets cute with Hemingway as well as the jealous sniping between Hemingway and Black passed the time between the piranha attacks and the mounting tension as to where the jewels would end up. It was surprising to me as to how fast this movie clipped along considering the fact that not a lot happens. For some reason, the tone reminded me a lot of a Roger Moore-era Bond flick with action scenes combined with exotic locales, swimming pools, and memorable women. This was my favorite time for Bond so it is nice to see something that captures the spirit of these types of flicks while incorporating killer fish and a hurricane featuring special effects that seem like they belong in a cheap Irwin Allen disaster flick.
This movie has everything you want in a good b-movie and there is always something amusing happening onscreen whether it is James Franciscus (Beneath the Planet of the Apes) doing his best to be sinister as Paul or Roy Brocksmith (Arachnophobia, Total Recall) being super annoying as Hemingway's photographer (and a terrifying depiction of what can happen if you eat too many Twinkies without exercising). The piranha effects are fun and the they provided a diversion from this simply being a run of the mill crime thriller. The only weak link I found in this flick was Hemingway. I get that she was a hot model at the time trying to break into movies but she really was not a very good actress. She was o.k. in They Call Me Bruce? and Inner Sanctum but I found her voice to be challenging to listen to and acting was just not her thing. It's too bad because one wonders if she had tried to focus her energy elsewhere, perhaps she would not have had such a tragic life that ended with her alleged suicide at the age of 42. I don't want to end on a down note, though, as this is a silly time waster that should have cult movie fans smiling. There just aren't enough good piranha movies out there and this flick gets points for a clever use of the little razor-toothed flesheaters. (Josh Pasnak, 3/30/15)
Directed By: Anthony M. Dawson (Antonio Margheriti).
Written By: Michael Rogers.
Starring: Lee Majors, Karen Black, Margeaux Hemingway, James Franciscus.