Blu-ray Review: Piranha II: The Spawning

During film school, our Dean kept going on about director was in charge and the film was his vision. From preproduction until release, the director was the author of the work. During his tenure, the dean got back to his producer roots and made a film that seemed aimed at the home video market in Luxembourg. During the second week of production he fired the director. Instead of replacing the guy, the director of photography and first assistant director called all the shoots. At no point during our educational process did the Dean ever give a lecture entitled you can fire the director because he’s ultimately the most worthless part of the production. I bring this story up so we can relate it to the tale of a young filmmaker who had made a name for himself creating low budget special effects for Roger Corman. He had been hired to do that job for a remake of Joe Dante’s Piranha. But early into the production the original director Miller Drake was fired by the producer and that effects guy was battlefield promoted into calling the shots. Who was that craftsman? James Cameron as he moved up the food chain to create Piranha II: The Spawning.

A young couple decides to scuba down to a sunken ship to enjoy a little forbidden adult naughtiness. But they are not alone at the bottom of the sea. As soon as they strip down, their flesh gets attacked by piranha. Since they are deep below the waves, nobody at the nearby Hotel Elysium have a clue at the carnage. Chris Kimbrough (Lambada‘s Ricky G. Paull) is a kid growing up at the resort with his mom Anne (Gumball Rally‘s Tricia O’Neil). She teaches scuba diving to the guests. Chris lands a part time job helping an inept man get his yacht around the island, but also makes friends with his hot daughter. During Anne’s next dive expedition, they go to the wreck with the warning that they can swim around, but nobody can go inside. Well one person does and when Anne find the wayward swimmer, he’s missing most of his body. This leads to Anne reuniting with her ex-husband (Aliens‘s Lance Henriksen) since he’s the island’s sheriff and needs to find out what could eat a man. The resort wants to get this all brushed aside since they’ve got a massive crowd eager for the late night beach arrival of the grunion. But Anne fears there’s more to this attack than a stray shark or barracuda. She discovers she’s right when one of her students turns out to be a scientist who was part of the experiment to genetically modify piranha with various other creatures including a flying fish. Do you know what that mean? You’re not safe out of the water. Will anyone survive their luxury vacation?

Piranha II The Spawning is a fun goofy film as it mixes a goofy vacation flick with an animal attack genre. The guests are pretty hilarious as if they were auditioning for a dirty version of The Love Boat. You almost feel bad when a few of them get turned into fish food.

While it’s easy to say Piranha was a way to cash in on Jaws, Piranha II: The Spawning goes straight to the script recipe used for Corman’s Up From the Depths (1979) of the beach resort getting attacked by an unexpected creature. But this works a little better since there’s not just one giant fish attacking the guests.

James Cameron seems to have a mixed relationship with the film. Even though his name is on the credits as director, he claimed he was never really director. This is a weird thing since even production assistants will claim they really directed films. He said that producer Ovidio G. Assonitis took over and he went back to special effects. Cameron did talk about the film since he got seriously ill in Italy during post-production and had the nightmare that turned into Terminator. You really don’t have a complete James Cameron collection on Blu-ray until this is at the start of the shelf. Was this Cameron’s first feature film or not? Hard to tell since sometimes you don’t need a director. Either way, there’s nothing to be ashamed about since Piranha II: The Spawning is just wonderful goofiness about why you should never stray from the scuba trip.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The new transfer brings out the detail in the flying killing machines. Lance looks positively radiate in the new resolution. The audio is DTS-HD MA mono. You get a real feel for the attack with the levels set right. The movies is subtitled.

Interview with actor Ricky Paull Goldin (15:55) recollects his time at the resort with James Cameron. He says the newbie director was rather methodical in his shots. Goldin points out that nobody set out to make a bad movie. He had been a child actor who made tons of commercials and movies of the week in Los Angeles. He was excited to get to make a feature film on location in Jamaica. He cared about the fish actors. He enjoyed improving with Lance Henriksen. He talks about how they originally shot two versions of the film with more adult content for the European cut. Ovidio G. Assonitis directed these moments away from Cameron. Oddly enough, it sounds like Cameron was there from start to finish.

Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Brian Wade (14:09) has the effects man talk about working with Cameron on Corman’s Galaxy of Terror. He sculpted the man eating flying fish. He talks about what an incredible illustrator Cameron is so the two worked well together. He loved working on the film since he was a fan of the original. Wade recently worked on Black Panther and Stranger Things.

Theatrical Trailer (1:50) promises a new breed has arrived and it’s more deadly.

Scream Factory presents The Complete Sartana. Directed by James Cameron. Screenplay by: H.A. Milton. Starring: Tricia O’Neil, Steve Marachuk, Lance Henriksen and Ricky Paull Goldin. Rated: R. Running Time: 94 minutes. Released: July 31, 2018.

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