Piranha (1978)

R | 92 mins | Horror | August 1978

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HISTORY

       Piranha marked the first time executive producer Roger Corman’s independent New World Pictures and United Artists (UA) collaborated to finance a feature film production, according to a 23 Nov 1977 HR article. The companies co-funded the $1 million budget with New World retaining domestic distribution rights and UA handling the international markets. Principal photography was scheduled to begin Feb 1978 and release was set for Jul 1978. A 3 Apr 1978 HR news item announced that the picture was “now filming” in Los Angeles, CA, and San Marcos, TX.
       As noted in a 1 Aug 2010 LAT article upon the film’s DVD release, Piranha was director Joe Dante’s first solo directorial effort after editing trailers at New World Pictures; Corman previously promoted Dante to co-direct Hollywood Boulevard (1976, see entry) with Allan Arkush.
       Three weeks into its release, Piranha grossed $2,099,707 in 196 theaters, putting it in line to become New World’s highest earning picture since its 1970 inception.
       A sequel, developed by independent producer Martin B. Cohen, was approved with a budget of $1.5, million according to a 21 May 1980 DV article. The Spawning, or Piranha II: The Spawning (1983, see entry), marked the feature film directorial debut of James Cameron. Nearly thirty years later, the series continued with Piranha 3D (2010, see entry) and Piranha 3DD (2012, see entry).

      The film’s end credits include the following acknowledgments: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the San Marcos Aquatic Club, Aquarena Springs Resort, Scuba Pro, Suzuki ... More Less

       Piranha marked the first time executive producer Roger Corman’s independent New World Pictures and United Artists (UA) collaborated to finance a feature film production, according to a 23 Nov 1977 HR article. The companies co-funded the $1 million budget with New World retaining domestic distribution rights and UA handling the international markets. Principal photography was scheduled to begin Feb 1978 and release was set for Jul 1978. A 3 Apr 1978 HR news item announced that the picture was “now filming” in Los Angeles, CA, and San Marcos, TX.
       As noted in a 1 Aug 2010 LAT article upon the film’s DVD release, Piranha was director Joe Dante’s first solo directorial effort after editing trailers at New World Pictures; Corman previously promoted Dante to co-direct Hollywood Boulevard (1976, see entry) with Allan Arkush.
       Three weeks into its release, Piranha grossed $2,099,707 in 196 theaters, putting it in line to become New World’s highest earning picture since its 1970 inception.
       A sequel, developed by independent producer Martin B. Cohen, was approved with a budget of $1.5, million according to a 21 May 1980 DV article. The Spawning, or Piranha II: The Spawning (1983, see entry), marked the feature film directorial debut of James Cameron. Nearly thirty years later, the series continued with Piranha 3D (2010, see entry) and Piranha 3DD (2012, see entry).

      The film’s end credits include the following acknowledgments: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the San Marcos Aquatic Club, Aquarena Springs Resort, Scuba Pro, Suzuki International, Robert Hammond and Associates, Boat Town of Austin, Lone Star Breweries, Deck Boat Corporation, Catalina Swim Wear, Jacecraft Corporation and AMF Corporation.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
11 Sep 1978.
---
Box Office
8 Jan 1979.
---
Daily Variety
4 Aug 1978.
---
Daily Variety
7 Aug 1978.
---
Daily Variety
21 May 1980
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 1977
p. 1, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 1978
p. 3, 15.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 1978
p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
1 Aug 2010.
---
Variety
23 Nov 1977.
---
Variety
9 Aug 1978
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
New World Pictures Presents
A New World Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
Background dir
Dir, 2d unit
Prod mgr, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Key grip
Gaffer
Asst cam
Best boy
Underwater grip
Underwater grip
Stills
Stills
Grip driver
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Cam asst, 2d unit
Cam asst, 2d unit
Grip, 2d unit
Grip, 2d unit
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Props
Set dec
COSTUMES
Asst ward
MUSIC
Conducted by
SOUND
Loc mixer
Boom person
Sd eff
Sd eff
Dial ed
Post prod sd
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Creature des & anim
Spec prop
Spec prop
Photog eff
Photog eff
Photog eff
Mechanical eff
Mechanical eff
Spec opt
Eff asst
Eff asst
MAKEUP
Spec make-up
Spec make-up
PRODUCTION MISC
Loc mgr
Casting dir
Scr supv
Loc auditor
LA coord
Scuba instructor
Prod secy
Prod secy
Boat capt
Dog wrangler
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Laboratory
STAND INS
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stunt coord
ANIMATION
DETAILS
Release Date:
August 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 23 August 1978
Production Date:
began February 1978 in Los Angeles, CA and San Marchcos, TX
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
92
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25351
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Hiking outside the town of Lost River, teenagers David and Barbara find an abandoned military compound. They swim nude in what they believe to be a swimming pool, and are attacked by something in the water. Several days later, Maggie McKeown, a young investigator for a “skip tracing” company, travels to Lost River in search of the teenagers. When she questions recluse Paul Grogan and he mentions the abandoned military test site, Maggie convinces him to take her there. After they break into the facility, Maggie finds Barbara’s necklace beside the pool and they find a laboratory filled with strange, hybrid specimens of sea life. Discovering David and Barbara’s backpacks, Maggie believes the teenagers must have drowned and wants to drain the pool, but when she flips the drain switch, military scientist Dr. Robert Hoak attacks. He warns them against touching the drain switch and fights until Maggie and Paul knock him unconscious. As Maggie asks where the water drains to and Paul explains that it runs into the nearby river, Hoak escapes in Maggie’s Jeep, but quickly crashes the vehicle. Paul and Maggie take the scientist to Paul’s cabin, where he awakens in a panic, babbling about the threat of “razor teeth” before passing out again. That evening, Paul tells Maggie that he is divorced with a young daughter named Suzie, who is attending summer camp nearby. The next morning, Paul and Maggie restrain Hoak and float down the river on Paul’s raft to find the nearest hospital. Meanwhile, at Lost River Summer Camp, counselor Laura Dickinson tries to convince Suzie to swim in the river but ... +


Hiking outside the town of Lost River, teenagers David and Barbara find an abandoned military compound. They swim nude in what they believe to be a swimming pool, and are attacked by something in the water. Several days later, Maggie McKeown, a young investigator for a “skip tracing” company, travels to Lost River in search of the teenagers. When she questions recluse Paul Grogan and he mentions the abandoned military test site, Maggie convinces him to take her there. After they break into the facility, Maggie finds Barbara’s necklace beside the pool and they find a laboratory filled with strange, hybrid specimens of sea life. Discovering David and Barbara’s backpacks, Maggie believes the teenagers must have drowned and wants to drain the pool, but when she flips the drain switch, military scientist Dr. Robert Hoak attacks. He warns them against touching the drain switch and fights until Maggie and Paul knock him unconscious. As Maggie asks where the water drains to and Paul explains that it runs into the nearby river, Hoak escapes in Maggie’s Jeep, but quickly crashes the vehicle. Paul and Maggie take the scientist to Paul’s cabin, where he awakens in a panic, babbling about the threat of “razor teeth” before passing out again. That evening, Paul tells Maggie that he is divorced with a young daughter named Suzie, who is attending summer camp nearby. The next morning, Paul and Maggie restrain Hoak and float down the river on Paul’s raft to find the nearest hospital. Meanwhile, at Lost River Summer Camp, counselor Laura Dickinson tries to convince Suzie to swim in the river but Suzie refuses, believing dangerous creatures lurk in the water. On another part of the river, Paul’s friend Jack fishes. As Jack dangles his feet in the water, he is attacked. Meanwhile, Hoak tells Maggie that she and Paul accidentally unleashed genetically modified piranhas when they drained the pool; he created the creatures as a military weapon during the Vietnam War. Hoak explains that the U.S. government hired him for a project called “Operation: Razorteeth” to develop a strain of piranha that could survive in any type of water and breed rapidly. Moments later, their raft comes upon Jack’s partially eaten body along the river bank and Paul realizes the piranhas can swim downstream to Suzie’s summer camp when the local dam opens. Before they can warn the dam operator, they find a stranded young boy whose father was killed in a piranha attack. As Hoak jumps into the river to save the boy, the piranha attack, but the scientist manages to push the boy onto the raft. Although Maggie and Paul pull Hoak out of the water, he dies moments later. They continue to float down the river as piranhas chew at the lashes that hold the raft logs together. When the group paddles to the shore, Paul runs to the dam and stops the operator from opening it. The military is called and a large contingent of soldiers, lead by Colonel Waxman and Dr. Mengers, swarm the area. Waxman and Mengers order the river to be poisoned and quarantine the area, but Paul later warns Waxman that the piranha are intelligent enough to seek out the alternate route. Paul threatens to expose “Operation: Razorteeth” to the press. In response, Waxman places Paul and Maggie under military arrest but they escape later that evening by stealing a military vehicle. Paul telephones Suzie’s summer camp and warns head counselor Dumont about the piranha, but he thinks Paul is drunk and hangs up. Later, the police arrest Maggie and Paul for automobile theft. In the local jail, Paul and Maggie are not allowed any phone calls at the instruction of Waxman, who fears they will cause a panic. After speaking to the police, Waxman phones Buck Gardner, owner of Aquarena Springs Resort, which is scheduled to open the next day. Waxman, a silent partner in the resort, updates Gardner about the piranha issue but assures him they have been contained. The next morning, Maggie lures one of the police officers into her prison cell, knocks him unconscious, and steals his keys. Freeing Paul, they steal a police patrol car and race to the summer camp as Paul worries that the piranha will head to the ocean and breed uncontrollably. Meanwhile, at the camp, the children engage in an inner tube race on the river but Suzie, still terrified of the river, hides. As piranhas attack children and counselors, Suzie overcomes her fear and pushes a small boat into the water to save Laura. However, other counselors and many children die. After arriving, Paul takes care of Suzie as Maggie warns Buck Gardner about the piranha, but he ignores her. Elsewhere, piranhas attack two scuba divers and a water skier at the Aquarena Resort. Paul and Maggie race to the scene but a blood bath ensues as Gardner tells a reporter that the rumors about killer piranhas are a hoax. When Paul and Maggie arrive, guests stampede out of the water and piranhas eat Waxman. Jumping into a speedboat, Paul and Maggie race to a nearby smelting refinery where Paul used to work; he plans to release industrial waste into the water with the hope of killing the piranha. There, they realize the control booth is submerged, so Paul ties himself to a towline and dives underwater. As Maggie counts to one hundred, Paul struggles to open the controls, enduring a piranha attack. He opens the valves just as Maggie pulls him out of the water, alive but catatonic. As the press besieges the tragic scene at Aquarena Resort, Dr. Mengers downplays the events and claims the piranhas are contained. On a beach nearby, a couple listens to Mengers’s interview as killer piranhas swarm the ocean waters. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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