Killer Fish (1979)

This movie mixes together two sets of characters at a Brazilian lake-resort: a gang of jewel-thieves fresh from a heist and a company of people involved in photographing a fashion layout. The tensions and turmoils which occur when these two groups come together are not without interest but they create too much clutter. To correct this, some of the characters, (such as those played by Marisa Berenson and Gary Collins), might have been eliminated. A few of the incidents in the first half of the movie might also have been shortened or cut entirely in order to concentrate on the movie’s strength — a long but suspenseful sequence in the last two reels in which a number of people are trapped on a boat which is sinking in the middle of a piranha-infested lake.

At least the clutter provides room for a large and rather bizarrely-diverse cast. Where else can one find, on one marquee, Lee Majors, Karen Black, Margaux Hemingway, Marisa Berenson, James Franciscus, Gary Collins, and Dan Pastorini?

Lee Majors has a brief and disappointingly modest shower scene and James Franciscus gets to take his shirt off for a weight-lifting shot but most of the movie’s “beefcake” is provided by 27-year-old football-quarterback Dan Pastorini of the Houston Oilers. There’s a scene on his hotel-room bed in which Karen Black examines his bare chest for injuries following a car crash. This scene serves as kind of a warm-up for his appearance, two years later, in a Playgirl Magazine photospread set inside a shower room. While most of these photos showed Pastorini in a wet, filled-to-capacity jockstrap, others featured him in poses which suggest that his position on a football team should not have been “quarterback” but rather “tight end.”

The Brazilian backgrounds provide a bit of scenic interest, though not as much as one might wish, and there are some passably-good special effects when a dam breaks, creating a tidal wave of havoc.

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