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Killer Fish (1979)

Next to Joe Dante’s minor exploitation classic, this is already the second “Jaws”-rip off that revolves on piranhas, but the comparison stops right there with the mutual choice of killer fish as the sea monsters. Dante’s film is of course better and more relevant, but “Killer Fish” is a typical Italian exploitation product and thus delivers too many grotesque story lines, some neat gore and an unusual cast. Heck, I’m not even sure this film fully qualifies as a “Jaws”-rip off since the main plot involves a diamond heist instead of a besieged tourist resort. Although… it has that, too! A well-organized bunch of thieves successfully complete their diamond robbery and lower the loot to the bottom of the lake for safety reasons. After 60 days – if the police give up their search – they will collect the diamonds again and split. In order to guard his precious jewels, criminal mastermind Paul Diller infested the lake with ravenous piranhas that can regularly nibble from the double-crossing team members. Meanwhile, one of the crooks falls for a model with a speech-defect and a tropical hurricane busts a large dam, allowing the piranhas to spread themselves all across the touristy waters. Antonio Margheriti’s “Killer Fish” suffers from a slightly tedious and hesitant opening half hour, but it get more adventurous once the first victim is devoured under the water. The piranha effects as well as the underwater cinematography are a bit disappointing but this film has an irresistible 70’s charm, complete with cool soundtrack and stereotypical characters. Lee Majors is excellent as the macho with more hair on his chest than brains in his skull and Karen Black is a great shrew. Not as good as I hoped, but a fun piece of Italian trash nonetheless.