Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Day at the Beach, A Night at the Lagoon

While Los Angles has been experiencing it's most un-seasonably cool summer ever, I recently watched three summery flicks to remind me what a fun Summer should be like. First up, the original PIRANHA (1978, directed by Joe Dante).
This JAWS-inspired aquatic concoction from producer Roger Corman and writer John (RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS 7) Sayles stars Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Belinda Balaski, Melody Thomas Scott and Paul Bartel. Is anyone else disturbed by a movie with a lot of blood in the water starring somebody named Menzies?
The film is a hoot, with all the requisite elements - skinny dipping teens, misguided military scientists, a water-skiing explosion and, of course, the upcoming summer camp swimming marathon that provides plenty of opportunities for the mutated, cold-water dwelling piranhas to gnaw at their victims. With the all-star 3D remake about to hit theaters, I'd highly recommend the original, newly re-released by Shout! Factory.
Meanwhile, from the diverse selection of The Warner Archive Collection comes ZUMA BEACH (1978, directed by Lee H. Katzin). This silly NBC movie-of-the-week (from a group of writers including John Carpenter!) tries to be your typical  R-rated sex romp except all the sex is cut out. Suzanne stars as a pop singer who tries to get away from it all to pen her new album, but ends up becoming entwined in the lives of a bunch of teenage beach bums (including future stars Michael Biehn, Rosanna Arquette, P.J. Soles, Tanya Roberts and Timothy Hutton). Peppered with corny dialogue, sitcom-ish situations and a soundtrack of Beach Boys knockoffs, ZUMA climaxes with a big sandcastle-building scene. How will it end??? Who cares, this cotton candy confection is as deep as a bucket of sand. One interesting note is that there's a non-judgmental and quite instructional scene detailing how to roll a joint!  On network TV, people!  Ah, the 70's....before Nancy Reagan took all the fun outta drugs.
So roll yourself a joint and return to Roger Corman territory with HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980, directed by Barbara Peeters), which is the best of the trio. Starring Doug McClure, Ann Turkel and Vic Morrow, this is another re-imagining of JAWS, this time by way of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, that re-casts the creature as a species of swamp-dwelling mutated salmon/rapists.  Yes, they're surfacing to breed with human ladies, who show their boobies and everything.  And things explode.  And, like always, the big annual carnival is only days away!!! It's a lot of icky inter-species horror fun, and the 30th Anniversary Special Edition DVD is out now via Shout! Factory.

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