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During the Vietnam War the US government started genetic experiments on tropical piranha in order to make them adapt to both salt water and fresh water at a much colder than normal temperature. This was so that they could drop them in the sea and they would swim up the rivers in Vietnam and devour all the Vietnamese. Due to all the cross breeding and radiation, the piranha also got smarter. Well they would do, wouldn’t they? Anyway, the war ended the facility used for making these creatures was shut down, however a doctor who was part of the original project still maintained a large swimming pool full of them. One thing leads to another and these monsters end up in the local river system when a “sharp and beautiful investigator” (quote from the DVD sleeve) drains the pool. People get eaten, women cry and kids scream.

Why go swimming in a fenced in, deserted, murky pool at night?

There are some excellent moments in this movie, such as the proprietor of a local water park (Dick Miller) being told he has a call to take, and is presented with a brief case containing a “mobile” phone. Or when, on needed to escape our two heroes (one male and one female) discuss how to distract the guard –

“You distract him”
“I don’t know, come on to him”
“What if he’s gay?”
“Then I’ll do it! Come on, lets go..”

There are several classic comedy moments like this in the movie which make it enjoyable even today.

This can't be a good thing

MGM have kept the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 of this movie, and presented it anamorphically. The print is quite grainy and there are artefacts present on screen during play. Some of the underwater scenes have a line down the screen a third in from the right, and so it is easy to assume that not much work went into this aspect of the DVD. To be quite honest you can guess why: it’s an old movie entering the market at a budget price of around £12.99 (well done MGM, its good to see classic titles priced cheaper than new ones) and it is not going to have much more than a cult following.

Even so, if you can appreciate it’s an old movie it is nice to have it presented in widescreen and anamorphically enhanced.

A veritable buffet selection

The back of the sleeve reads “Every effort has been made to restore the original audio track to the highest level of fidelity possible with modern mastering techniques”. It’s a pretty lame way of getting around upmixing it to 5.1 surround but as I said, it’s an old movie which has limited expected sales revenue so I can forgive them for this. However I did find the soundtrack a little quiet, especially when compared to the enormous roar of the MGM lion in 5.1 surround at the start of the DVD. Two presses on the volume control soon fixed that though. Dialogue was pretty crisp, as were the constant screams of people getting munched on so while I would have loved 5.1 screaming death, Dolby digital mono sufficed. The disc also contains German, French, Spanish and Italian soundtracks, as well as six different versions of subtitles.

This is going to be a short section. The only real extra is the theatrical trailer which is presented in 4:3. It’s worth watching, if only for the reference to Jaws and the amusing cartoon fish at the end which eats the movie title. Also listed are interactive menus and scene selection. To be honest, these things should be as standard as wheels on a car, however production houses still insist on listing them as extra features.

Attack of the killer shadow fish!

I have always liked monster movies, and seeing Piranha has not changed my mind. It’s an amusing romp of funny hair cuts and ridiculous mobile phones. The special effects are actually not too bad however the piranha themselves are not really seen other than shadows and heads (even if they do show themselves on the DVDs cover). I am sure online this can be picked up relatively cheaply and so if you like your anacondas, sharks, dinosaurs and giant monkeys then I’d say consider this. At ninety minutes it really is a fairly short movie by todays standards, however I found myself laughing at the jokes and getting into the tension during the feeding frenzy that is Piranha.