2013 Drive-In/Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge! PART 6

by kdlough

17. Piranha * (1978) Genre: Jawsploitation

Is that opening shot a Citizen Kane reference? Do I really have to ask? Joe Dante’s first solo directorial credit, written by John Sayles, is both an effectively horrific Roger Corman-produced Jaws rip-off and an ironic commentary on itself as such. An example: we’re first introduced to our heroine as she plays Jaws: The Arcade Game, an apt metaphor for the games Dante will play with his cash-in assignment. If you haven’t seen this one before, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh boy, a META killer fish movie, wink wink, nudge nudge,” as you prepare to blow your brains out. But stay your hand: it’s not as bad as you might think.

Sometimes I do feel a little hesitant to fully give myself over to Dante’s movies, since his movie nerd obsessions are similar enough to mine that it can start to feel like pandering. For example: the supporting cast here features Barbara Steele, Dick Miller, Kevin McCarthy, and Keenan Wynn. Stack the cards much, buddy? That said, there’s always legitimate satire to be found and the pop culture immersion often leads to semiotically rich sequences that combine TV screens, posters, and “real” action in a way that’s genuinely smart – not smarmy, self-aware “smart,” either.

I think I should also point out that SHOUT! Factory’s release of this movie is incredible, especially for the inclusion in the special features of several sequences that were only present in the TV edit of the film. Honestly, I wish they had edited the scenes back into Piranha proper, or at least given the option to branch between the two versions, because the extra scenes (mostly exposition and character development-based) fill a lot of plot holes in addition to giving a bit of extra screen time to Dick Miller, which is never a bad thing.

18. Orumcek (aka Turkish Spiderman) * (1972) Genre: Turkish Cinema

I’m not too completely clear on what the story here is, but I don’t think it matters much. This is a movie about punching, pop songs, and inexplicable (to me) Turkish comic relief. Orumcek is a masked, motorcycle-riding ass-kicker with a spider drawn on his chest; everytime he cartwheels in to punch a bad guy, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” plays.


I’ve read from other sources that this one is fairly mild as far as these gonzo Turkish action movies go, but it’s still pretty out-there. I love the weird Musak version of Cat Steven’s “Wild World” that plays over and over again in the junkyard scenes. I love the way the music drops out everytime there’s a gunshot sound effect. And I love the fight scene where Orumcek beats a villain to the ground, bashes the guy’s head in for a full minute (this is long after the dude has stopped fighting back), and then STRANGLES HIM for good measure. Orumcek is kind of a jerk.

19. Espionage in Tangiers * (1965) Genre: Eurospy

A dull and dumb James Bond rip-off that at least isn’t totally unwatchable. Someone steals a vital part of a new ray-gun super-weapon, and boring superspy Mike Murphy is out to find it. The ray-gun and its disintegration beam are INCREDIBLY cheapo, and unfortunately they only have about a minute of screentime.

The only thing particularly interesting about Espionage in Tangiers is that all the superspy agents seem to know one another, and essentially all work free-lance. So the only reason agent 077 is our hero is that the good guys happened to hire him. Alas, that was far more interesting to type than it was to watch. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit too harsh; there’s a few enjoyable moments spread here and there, but you’re more likely to drift off into la-la land than get particularly involved in any of it.