Stars: Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies-Urich
Directed By: Joe Dante
An original film I did not know existed until years after seeing what I thought was the original. I had initially seen the 1995 version of piranha on the sci-fi channel when I was younger thinking that was the original.
It was only years later that I found out this older version existed and that piranha 2 was the sequel to this one. Which you can tell just by the aged look of them, but i was young and it was on Bravo late one night lol.
So anyway lets get on with the actual movie, effects wise there's some decent practical effects for its time period. The what seems as constant use of the same jaws like following of the fish can get a bit jarring from time to time though.
So two teenagers typical of the time period stumble across a military base that's disused. Coming across a massive swimming pool of sorts they, as you do, decide to go for a dip, surely that water would be stinky and stagnant by now. They are of course eaten by the unseen thing that live in the pool.
A little while later a woman tasked with looking for the teens comes to the town named lost river lake to look for the teens. Maggie doesn't find much help other than from Paul Grogan, drunkard to take her looking for the kids.
They come upon the compound too which they learn was some kind of military fish hatchery, deciding to drain the main pool she goes looking for the switch. Inside they find many strange experiments in jars before coming across the drainage controls. A guy tries to stop her warning her, Paul knocks him out though then stupidly Maggie drains the pool unknowingly releasing the piranha into a local river.
They find some stripped skeletons in the bottom of the pool but the knocked out guy comes to and tries to steal Paul's jeep, which he fails to thanks to his groggy state. Paul takes Maggie and the guy back to his house for the night.
Down the river however we see a guy trying to fish, hes sat at the end of a jetty danging his legs over with his pet dog. His legs get stripped of flesh and he tries to escape. Later Paul, Maggie and (as we find out later) Dr Robert Hoak take a raft downstream. They find Paul's friend Jake and his dog, the latter who has bled out thanks to his wounds. The Dr explains he was working on Vietnam weapons and that the facility was working on weaponised Piranha capable of living in salt water and Maggie has now released them into the wild.
They quickly come to the realisation that if the local dam is opened it will allow the piranha to escape into the wider world which would be quite a bad thing for the ecosystem and people. Not only that before then is the children's lost river water park where Paul's daughter is at.
Further down the river they find a poor boy who's father has fallen into the river and been eaten, he's trapped on a capsized canoe. Hoak attempts to rescue the boy but in doing so gets mortally wounded by the fish in the process. In his dying breath he tries to tell them how to kill the piranha but dies before he can, however incensed by Hoak's blood in the water the piranha start attacking the raft loosening the rafts bindings. They make it to the shore just as the raft completely falls apart.
They stop the dam from being opened and decide to call the military for help, this ends up being a bad idea as the military wants to keep this hush, hush and deal with it quietly. They send in Dr Mengers, who we learn later was once involved with Hoak in a relationship. She tries to deny the existence of the fish and detains them in an effort to stop them blabbering.
They also realise that a small inlet allows the fish to travel to a nearby newly opened camping ground where Paul's daughter is actually at. They get away and attempt to make their way to the camp ground but Mengers reports them to the police to detain them if they are seen.
Even though Paul manages to contact the camp counselor, he doesn't believe him due him being known as an alcoholic. They are then caught and arrested but manage to escape a little later stealing the cops squad car.
Paul's daughter who actually afraid of the water watches in terror as the piranhas start to attack the camp, killing many kids and adults in the process. Despite her fear she manages to get a dinghy out and attempts to rescue some her friends. One of them however falls back in and gets devoured by the fish, despite arriving late Paul is happy to see that his daughter is fine.
they try to contact the water park but Mengers has beaten them there and advises the park owner not to answer the phone. Using the cop car they make their way there, on the way Paul remembers that there's an old industrial plant that has gallons of waste in tanks that he hopes may poison the fish and kill them before they reach open water (remembering these piranha can live in salt water).
While they decide to head towards the plant the piranha attack the water park and kill many many people, including Mengers superior.
When Paul and Maggie reach the facility they see that the control room to flush out the tanks has been submerged in water. He ties some rope to his waist then telling Maggie to pull him back up at the count of 100 he dives down to the controls.
The wheel is however very rusty and takes a lot of effort to move, not only that as he starts to move it the piranha show up. I wont spoil anymore as this is actually quite an intense ending, possibly one of Roger Coormans best films ever, in my views. It's a fun watch and definitely worth your time especially if you like tense jaws like action.
THN awards Piranha 1978 a strong 3 out of 5 stars and recommendation to watch.