Cats are fabled to have nine lives, but really, being a pooch is where it's at. Especially out in Hollywood where dogs are dern near IMMORTAL. Remember that furry fella who narrowly avoids becoming a crispy critter in Independence Day? The whole planet is getting pounded back to the disco age by space alien rayguns, but for Lassie's sake, make sure man's best friend survives without even a singed whisker. Supposedly, audiences just won't ALLOW canine carnage. Now, if Chuck Bronson machine guns 15 jaywalkers and bazookas a double-parked Pinto we giggle like school girls. Something's AMISS here. Same goes for kiddos. Take the baby carriage scene in The Untouchables. Blood's splattering all over in glorious slow-mo, but all we really care about is that screamin' nose miner. That's what makes a convention busting B-picture like Humanoids From The Deep (1980, 82 minutes) so refreshingly raw with its equal opportunity butchery of valiant puppy dogs and even a dim-witted brat.
The movie: Evolution all of the sudden cranks back up and spits out these sea monsters who sorta look like a rumble-seat mating of Edward G. Robinson and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. They stagger out of the murky depths into a sleepy fishing village leaving slime trails and canine carcasses as grim reminders of their nocturnal visits. Resident racist Hank Slattery (Vic Morrow) decides its best to blame this strangeness on a Native American fella (Anthony Penya) who keeps coming around to rain on the pale faces' parade. While that distracting subplot plays out, the creatures' appetite soon grows to include bosomy babes when a young couple is attacked while frolicking in the surf. After feasting on the face of her beau, the fishman forces its carnal attentions on a squealing coed by ripping off her top and awkwardly diddling her on the beach. Doug McClure is the weenie fisherman and Ann Turkel is the foxy marine biologist who ride around in his boat looking for trouble until they find it, kill it and drag it back to the lab to poke it with scalpels and then watch dirty nature documentaries. But the carnage is far from over and soon they're scrambling to cater the world's largest fish fry when the mutants decide to crash Salmon Fest. CineSchlockers still cringe when they think about Mr. Morrow's untimely death by helicopter blade -- along with two children -- on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. He was an actor of unparalleled onscreen smarminess who is sorely missed. B-King Roger Corman remade Humanoids for Showtime in 1996, but forgot to leave in all the good stuff.
Notables: Six breasts. 23 corpses. Four dead dogs. Peeping monsters. Banjo picking. Sucker punching. Ventriloquism. Molotov cocktails. Gratuitous shower scene. Exploding boat. Merry-Go-Round of Death. Firesuit stunt. Indian inferno. Fishman cam. Multiple brawls. Gratuitous disc jockey.
Quotables: Pint-sized Romeo gives it his best shot, "Hey honey, wanna see my woodpecker?" Doc Drake may be mysterious, but she ain't no wilting flower, "Oh, get off your antique manners, Bill! I'm a PROFESSIONAL SCIENTIST!!!"
Time codes: Three-legged seagull scavenges some grub (3:57). Irrefutable proof that Bigfoot exists! (26:25). Slime monster has its way with a screaming coed (30:55). Photo op with Sigmund and the Sea Monsters goes horribly awry (50:00). Humans rally with a good ol' fashioned hiney whuppin' (1:11:50). Watch for members of the crew fanning stage smoke into this scene (1:15:31).
Audio/Video: Presented in a fullframe print that shows its age, but the hazy, dreamlike cast of some scenes are intentional. The abysmal Dolby Digital mono track has as many pops and buzzes as a Radiohead album.
Extras: Leonard Maltin "interview" with Mr. Corman. Wait a minute, does THREE MINUTES of two guys smirking at each other really constitute an INTERVIEW? This and other "Corman Classics" deserve better in the way of extras! Piranha is loaded to the meat-eating gills with a commentary, deleted scenes, toothy animated menus and even a reprint of the press kit. But these quickie Q&As are an utter disappointment even with the set decorated with those wild movie posters. Trailers for Death Race 2000, Big Bad Mama, Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto. An eight-page "History of Roger Corman" printed insert.
Final thought: This drive-in classic's inter-species copulations and flowing rivers of gore are just as shocking and twisted as ever. However, poor audio quality and the lack of much-deserved supplements earn this disc a lower rating. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.