Piranha II: The Spawning (1981): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

James Cameron is one of the many students of Roger Corman who spent a lot of his early career cutting his teeth on doing smaller jobs for Corman and learning the basics. Finally given a shot with “Piranha II,” Cameron delivers a movie that’s terrible, but charming in its terribleness. It’s the beginnings of a blockbuster titan and his ability to serve something up on a grand scale.

A scuba diving instructor, her biochemist boyfriend, and her police chief ex-husband try to link a series of bizarre deaths to a mutant strain of flying piranha fish whose lair is a sunken freighter ship off a Caribbean island resort. As they race against time to stop the flying piranha, they must contend with obstacles like a hotel manager who refuses to close the local beach and keep his patrons safe.

Director Cameron has almost disowned “Piranha II” but Shout Factory reminds us happily with a sticker on the cover. For Cameron completists, “Piranha II” is an experience that shows what Cameron can accomplish as well as his pitfalls with a low budget shlocky bit of horror—even if it’s never been clear if he filmed the entirety of the movie himself. It’s also a glimpse in to his love for the sea, even if he never re-visited ocean based horror after the eighties. It’s hard to believe that it’d be only a few years before he would serve us one of the greatest science fiction horror movies of all time.

There isn’t a lot of explanation for the flying fish save for vague explanations about their mutations. Much of “Piranha II” struggles with being its own entry, while also connecting threads to the original shlock classic, and it never quite hits that balance enough. Considering Cameron was a special effects supervisor for Corman, he pulls off the monster effects pretty well, and it’s suited for what is such a low tech follow up to a low tech rip off. “Piranha II” should be appreciated more for its context than the overall substance and lack thereof. For that value, it deserves to be placed in your collection, especially if you’re a fan of nature run amok flicks.

The release from Scream Factory includes the new feature “One Moment in Time: Ricky Paull Goldin on Piranha Part II: The Spawning,” a great fifteen minutes interview with star of the film Goldin, who celebrates that he got a month off of school to go to Jamaica and act in a feature film. Goldin shares his observations and memories of Cameron’s directing method. Next, there’s the new “The Sky Has Teeth: Brian Wade on Piranha Part II: The Spawning” a fourteen minutes talk with special effects artist Brian Wade who talks about the joy working with Cameron so early in his career. Wade designed the piranhas and gives a few insights into that creation. Finally there’s the original upscaled theatrical trailer for “Piranha II.”