Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)

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Released 4-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Trailer-Anaconda; Men In Black II; Spider-Man
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 90:46
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By James Cameron
Studio
Distributor
Ovidio G. Assonitis
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Tricia O'Neil
Lance Henriksen
Steve Marachuk
Ricky G. Paull
Ted Richart
Leslie Graves
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Steve Powder


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Spanish
Arabic
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, Occasional
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Piranha II: The Spawning is an early 1980s B-Grade Jaws rip-off. It is sometimes unintentionally funny and contains one major shock. The shock is that it was directed by the mighty James Cameron. I guess we all have to start somewhere, but it is amazing that Cameron managed to get any other work after creating this unmitigated lemon. According to www.imdb.com, in "..."Dreaming Aloud," a biography of James Cameron by Christopher Heard, Cameron did do the shooting for this movie, but was not allowed to see his footage and was not involved in editing. He broke into the editing room and cut his own version, but was caught and Assonitis re-cut it again".

    The Caribbean holiday island resort of Club Elysium is an idyllic place to stay - honeymooners, soft-porn stars and ugly Euro trash seem particularly attracted to it. Sheriff Brody - I mean Sheriff Steve Kimbrough (Lance Henrikson) is the local copper - a diver, boatman and helicopter pilot who keeps the streets free from crime. His almost-ex wife Anne and young gormless son Chris are living in a suite at the local hotel, where Anne (Tricia O'Neil), a marine biologist, takes the tourists on diving expeditions to the local reefs and wrecks. One such wreck is a (surprisingly barnacle encrusted) two-month old US Navy research vessel. Unbeknownst to Anne, the ship sank whilst carrying four canisters of genetically modified fish eggs - only three of which were ever recovered.

    It soon becomes clear that these are no ordinary genetically modified fish. Oh no. These are a cross between Piranha, air-breathing Grunions and Flying Fish. On hatching, these babies can strip a man of flesh in seconds - and if you are one of the (obligatory) topless chicks, then even sooner. They leap out of the water, break through plate-glass windows and glide about for minutes at a time (with the aid of almost invisible wires) as they stalk their human prey. Not content with catching unwary divers, Winston Churchill would be proud to know that these little beauties have also vowed to "fight them on the beaches". Interestingly, they can also warble loudly as they fly towards your jugular vein - must be a little bit of Latvian Yodelling Goldfish in the genetic soup, too. The death toll soon mounts as various dumb caricatured characters are turned into human colanders by the pesky Pisceans. Almost as badly realised as the fly-by-wire fish, my favourite special effect is where the helicopter turns into a very, very obvious model before crashing into the sea at 82:49.

    This film almost makes it into the so-bad-its-good category, but cannot quite manage even that. The plot is ridiculous, the acting is consistently poor, there are several gratuitous breast shots, the script is laughable and the fish are bloody hilarious. The only conceivable reason for watching this movie is if you are a fan of Cameron, and want to see just how far his directorial skills have come. Oh, I almost forgot, the opening titles are quite well done too.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The overall video transfer of this disc is quite poor, and is probably no better than a VHS copy.

    The film is presented letterboxed in a ratio of 1.85:1 which I assume is the original theatrical aspect ratio. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is very very soft, and almost feels out-of-focus for most of the movie. There is quite a lot of grain present. Shadow detail is surprisingly acceptable and blacks are fairly solid with only minor low-level noise evident.

    Colours are washed-out generally, but the underwater film footage seems to have stood up to the ravages of time a little better. The location (Jamaica) certainly lends itself to some atmospheric beach and bay shots, so it is a shame that the colours are so muddy here. There is no sign of colour bleeding and skin tones are adequate, if occasionally a little rich.

    The transfer suffers from some MPEG artefacts including minor pixelization and low-level macro blocking in several scenes. Film-to-video artefacts crop up very occasionally with minor aliasing present but, due to the extreme softness of the transfer, edge enhancement was not noted as a significant issue. Film artefacts are almost constantly present. Vertical lines, scratches and specks crop up frequently, but are almost expected given the overall state of the transfer.

    Amongst the seventeen available subtitle tracks, the two of most use to me were the English and English for the Hearing Impaired. They follow the dialogue reasonably closely with some minor editing for brevity.

    This is a single sided, single-layered DVD 5 disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The overall audio quality of this disc is fairly poor - it sounds thin and frequently muffled.

    There is a choice of English, French, German or Spanish audio tracks. These are all recorded in Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) at a paltry 192 kbps. I listened to the English track in full, but would recommend trying the German track too because the seriousness of the accents makes the film seem even more hilarious.

    Dialogue was mainly clear but was often also very quiet indeed - this sometimes meant lines were hard to make out. I noticed a few minor issues with audio synch, most noticeable during the opening scene around 00:30 - over-dubbing from another language is probably to blame for this. Many of the voices actually sound dubbed, although this is not readily apparent from the audio synch.

    The original music is credited in the titles to Steve Powder, and sounds strangely familiar. It has plenty of strings and is suitably suspenseful where needed. To be frank, it did have an air of "European soft-porn" about it, but then again so does the movie. Looking at the list of cast and crew, I would guess that this was an Italian production. Interestingly, the IMDB website attributes the original music to Stelvio Cipriani.

    The soundstage is flat with all audio coming through the front speakers. The surrounds are unused and the surround flag is not enabled on this disc.

    There is no activity from the subwoofer at all.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are minimal extras on this disc.

Menu

    The menu is presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. It features a static painting of the fish in all their glory, but is slightly inaccurate as you cannot see the wires. Selections available include the movie, audio set up, subtitles, one of twenty-eight chapter stops or the following trailers.

Trailers

    There are three trailers on the disc:

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this DVD is presented in a ratio of 1.33:1 pan and scan. The trailers appear to be for Anaconda, Creature Features and The Forsaken. Given this, the Region 4 is the preferred option.

Summary

    Piranha II: The Spawning is a stark reminder of just how great a movie can be. Not this movie - but the other, great ones. Canned ham, perhaps worth a watch for a laugh. Alternatively, watch it to marvel at how James Cameron has been able to rise above this mediocre nonsense and become one of the best directors of his generation.

    The video quality is very soft and generally poor - VHS standard at best.

    The audio quality is fairly poor.

    The extras are negligible.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Monday, June 09, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationONKYO TX-DS484
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

Other Reviews
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AllZone4DVD - AdrienneB

Comments (Add)
The inspiration for The Terminator (I'm talking about Piranha II) - Christopher
Aw, c'mon.... -
This DVD is Cropped from the Pan and Scan VHS. - Derek K.