JAWS rip-offs were all the rage in the late 1970's. If you were a film producer of any ambition at that time the massive financial take of Steven Spielberg's world wide hit drew your attention. You can almost imagine the conversations in which moneymen demanded their own killer fish film, "script be damned!" And most of those rip-off scripts were damned - damned bad! It's easy to point to a couple of genuinely good descendants of JAWS (PIRANHA and ALLIGATOR ) to claim that high quality was more common in this narrow Danger in the Water sub-genre but the list of terrible efforts far outnumber the impressive. Who has good memories of TENTACLES (1977) , UP FROM THE DEPTHS (1979), ORCA (1977), TINTORERA: KILLER SHARK (1977), BARRACUDA (1978) or MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH (1976) the clear winner in the 'Not Even Trying to Hide Our Intentions' contest? Really - who? If you have some love for TENTACLES we need to know why!
So where does a film like KILLER FISH (1979) fall on this good/bad scale? As always, merit is in the eye of the beholder so allow John Hudson and I take the opportunity to convince you of our clear-eyed vision as we make the case for Antonio Margheriti's entry in the Pissed Off Fish genre. Given the tag line 'The adventure that drags you in, pulls you under and tears you apart!' the film is obviously trading on the allure of deadly fish munching on human flesh to get bums on seats. But this animal attacks tale throws at least two other genres into the mix to keep the story from becoming too predictable. The film begins with a jewel heist set to the tune of dozens of distracting explosions (cue Margheriti miniatures) and eventually slips in a bit of disaster film silliness to keep things off balance (cue embarrassing funnel cloud special effect). The film is packed with tasty humans known mostly from television stardom including Lee Majors, Karen Black and James Franciscus as well as model turned actor (?) Margaux Hemingway and football player turned guest muscle flexor Dan Pastorini. And what the hell is Gary Collins doing in this film? Anyway .....
Join us as we take a look at another Antonio Margheriti film to see where it fits into his long career. Do the Brazilian shooting locations add to the film's charms? Do the jewel thieves adhere to the code of criminal conduct we expect from all screen no-good-niks? Does Margheriti get the chance to work miniatures into the film on multiple occasions? Is the cool bionic sound effect used when Lee Majors makes out with Margaux Hemingway in the shower? Listen and learn! Or watch the film yourself. That's certainly an option.
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