Way back in 1978-79, the movie "Piranha" opened. My friend Glenn Locke and I went to see it, and came away less than impressed. I was working for the Cheektowaga Examiner at the time, and we were printing movie reviews in the feature section. That made everyone on the staff a critic, and in this case the staff's friends could come out and play too.
Glenn and I sat down at my house one day. We put a typewriter on the desk, and typed out comments about the movie, going back and forth. Then I did some editing, so that some of my comments became his and vice-versa.
Here's the review, just in time for today's release of "Piranha 3-D":
"Piranha," a film which recently opened at the Holiday Theaters, has sparked intense debate among reviewers throughout the country. We believe printing a dialogue between two critics is the best method to present our opinions of the movie.
Glenn Locke: This film is not only the worst movie ever shown in the Buffalo area, it is the worst usage of celluloid in the history of mankind. Consider the plot --if that's what you'd like to call it -- which features highly intelligent killer fish that terrorize a mountain community.
Budd Bailey: The shark in "Jaws" was rather bright although it didn't seem to have a college degree -- as these piranhas did.
Locke: This film had an incredibly simplistic screenplay as well. The script was rejected by a group of preschoolers for being too unbelievable.
Bailey: "Piranha" compounds that by having the sight of the fish eating their victims as its only "entertainment." And I thought it was odd that piranhas seemed to prefer attacking young women, which provided a few cheap sex scenes.
Locke: Not only that, but the fish took much longer to eat a main character than an extra.
Bailey: Maybe we should talk about what story there was in the picture.
Locke; O.K., just leave this space blank.
Bailey: A school of biologically-developed piranhas is accidentally let loose into a Texas mountain streak. The military is warned by the two "stars" (Bradford Dillman and Heather Menzies) about the potential disasters involved, but the Army's simplistic solution is to spread a little poison on the water. There is a "Jaws"-like cover-up to prevent a scare at the opening of a local swimming and amusement part downstream.
Locke: And there's a lot of eating, biting and spilling of red dye number two in the water along the way.
Bailey: I thought it was a bit odd that as soon as something was slightly bitten, "blood" would suddenly be gushing all over the screen. Anyway, the piranhas take a short cut through another stream to avoid the poison, swim amok among the park's patrons, and generally cause nothing but problems.
Locke: I liked how the fish tore apart a raft with all of the skill of mechanical engineers.
Bailey: Dillman finally destroys the piranhas with pollutants, which are sure to kill the fish as well as everything else in the river. Sort of an odd trade-off, don't you think?
Locke: Yes, we can only hope that all available prints of this movie are placed in that river very soon. Considering that the editing seems to have been done with scotch tape and scissors, the movie should disintegrate in no time.
Bailey: Most of the cast is probably hoping that will occur, considering the movie and their performances.
Locke: True, the acting was equal to the finest junior high school production.
Bailey: I'd like to know how director Joe Dante talked actors like Keenan Wynn, Kevin McCarthy and Richard Deacon into briefly appearing in this film. It's quite a stoop for them -- almost like being on "The Cross-Wits" or "Liars' Club."
Locke: They obviously never saw the entire script, or they're in such trouble that they needed the money badly.
Bailey: Even the fish resembled cardboard cutouts, a quality which matched the emotion shown by most of the performers. The piranhas weren't shown too often, though, so more time could be allotted for bleeding.
Locke: There haven been some bad films in the Buffalo area in the past few years -- "Jackson County Jail," "Deathsport," "The Mysterious Monsters," and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." But those movies had at least an amount of amusement. "Piranha" didn't.
Bailey: And this film has no redeeming social value whatsoever, which is the exact criterion for our dreaded rating of $0.
Locke: Don't you have something lower?
Imagine my surprise, then, when I noticed some good reviews of this movie a while later. Director Dante did go on to some good work, and the screenwriter was John Sayles, who has worked on many good movies over the years. One critic a good spoof of "Jaws." Even so, I'm unwilling to watch the movie again to see if I missed something. I'll let this review speak for itself.