Lee Majors? The Six Million Dollar Man himself in a movie with a $6 budget? You betcha, and welcome to Killer Fish, a film truly worthy of its name. This Italian made crapfest was shot on location in Brazil, and should’ve stayed there.
It’s not just Lee Majors hamming it up here as we also somehow have Karen Black, Margaux Hemmingway and Planet Of The Apes‘ James Franciscus all somehow thinking this was a good opportunity.
Should I also mention former starting NFL quarterback Dan Pastorini of Oilers, Patriots, Raiders and Eagles fame? No? Well, he sucked as a QB AND an actor but did get a Super Bowl ring as a backup (after losing his starting job) with Oakland, so he knows how to steal jewelry!
Franciscus plays a bad guy who also plays backgammon, because as he so wryly describes the game, “The best way to attract lady luck my friend, is to act like you don’t need her-just like any other lady”. Ah, yes! Imagine the dialogue if he played a game as evil as bridge!
And here’s a trailer that is as cheesy as could be, and yet it made me want to see it anyway as a dumb 10 year old kid.
Majors, Black and some other hacks have set off a fire at an oil plant to distract the police to begin a jewel heist which involves the lamest safe-cracking scene you will ever see. You know they’ve opened the safe because a cheesy synthesizer plays a note that tells you so.
The credits don’t kick in until almost 10 minutes in to a wretched Disco beat. Those credits look like they were done for a PBS special on knitting by the way. By the 12 minute mark we have not 1, not 2, but THREE backgammon scenes! I am sweating with intensity at what happens next! Othello? Risk? Yahtzee?
Anyhoo…what I find especially clever is that it is now morning and our 4 thieves are still dressed in black and look like…thieves. Not too conspicuous! Especially in black leather jackets, black pants and gloves!
They have driven to a dock and dropped the jewels at the bottom of a river to hide them. Then it’s to the getaway boat after the policia are on their tail.
Ah, but soon they will have us all fooled, changing into dorky fisherman’s clothes that come in handy when pulled over by the Brazilian sea police. Soon we find out Franciscus is in on the heist (shock!) with our gang, but there is tension, mistrust, anger and disturbingly tight 70’s shorts involved! So, two of our hotheads (who are brothers) are told to cool out in Rio while the others stay put for 60 days (makes little sense, but this is Killer Fish after all).
One of our hothead brothers is leaving the hotel for Rio-claiming a sexfest is in the forecast. He tells us, “When we start to boogie tonight, that plastic Jesus up on the hill is gonna have to turn his back!”. Yeah, baby!
By the way, here’s the longer trailer making the film look even more…awesome?
These same boobs decide to check in on the jewels first and fuckin’ finally, we see someone die over a half hour in, as a moron gets eaten by something though we see nothing but water and blood.
“Let’s see ya boogie with those piranha in that suit!”
A pitiful subplot has Hemingway as a model with a gay, fat photographer (the guy from an early Seinfeld episode who insulted Kramer’s drunken Mom!) and is creepily being followed by a sexually deprived Majors. And, in possibly the WORST come-on scene ever, Majors struts up in his bell bottoms as Hemingway is doing a photo shoot at the hotel’s pool. As she spins for a shot, she knocks Majors in the pool.
She apologizes and he says, “That’s alright, it could happen to anyone”, any pulls her into the pool. He then says to her as they soak, “We’ve gotta stop meeting like this”, and she states, “Well buy me dinner then!”. Nauseating? Hell yes. Only positive? She’s not wearing a bra, and her dress is now see-through so we get much needed breastage.
“I have 6 million dollar nipples, and you don’t!”
It gets worse though. In another ineptly directed scene, Majors is called away from dinner but there is no call. It’s actually Black who wants to know where the two hothead brothers are. By now Majors knows what has happened as the one brother returned just before he went to dinner and informed Majors of the death of the other brother. ‘Ol Lee tells Black things will be fine and walks away.
Black doesn’t like this and she yells at him…just as Hemingway comes around the corner! Cat fight! Hemingway’s character then says (and I’m not sure to whom), “There’s a difference between bi-sexuals and two timers” as she disgustedly looks on. Then Black gets all feisty and proclaims, “Really? Which are you?”.
WHAT??? Not only does this make no sense and it’s terrible dialogue, but Hemingway sounds like Bugs Bunny crunching a carrot. If you don’t laugh hard at this scene, you upset me.
“Yeah, that’s right, you know I’m shexy you wascally wabbit”.
Majors decides to join Black for a visit to the scene to make sure the jewels are still and arrive to see Pastorini and the other idiot brother both die but yet again, we see NO killer fishies. But we do get aquatic water sounds whatever that’s worth.
When running back to her lover Franciscus, Black sees that he is feeding his fish as usual in his tanks, but wait… those fish are piranha! Yes, Franciscus with his bad explanatory dialogue informs us he placed a bunch of piranha in the river (wait-don’t they already HAVE those in Brazil?) to protect the jewels. The rest of our gang are now on a boat which looks very much like a Fisher Price toy and a storm has hit. What else to do but play MORE FUCKING BACKGAMMON?
“The stakes will intensify when we play Ants In The Pants, I promise you that”.
A twister comes out of nowhere and a dam bursts and our toy model somehow holds on although I am sad to report the backgammon table does fall over. A pitiful “skirmish” occurs between Franciscus and Majors that looks as fake as could be, but screams from the deck interrupt them as we see some idiot being eaten by the fish (fish not visible). Why is he in the water? Don’t know.
“This seemed like a good idea. Tons of piranha and me in the water. What could go wrong?”.
Of course another idiot jumps overboard to save him and there are only 2 problems:
1. The first moron is already dead and in a pool of blood
2. This jackass is diving into a school of piranha But, our hero comes back on board bloodied and chopped up-yet alive so he can stammer some dramatic words here and there for a while as he bleeds.
Back at the resort, the cleanup from the storm goes on and at least an annoying kid in a disturbing grape smuggler bathing suit gets attacked by the piranhas, and damn well deserved it.
Back to our stranded folk, the decision is made to get to shore by making a raft out of what looks like a fishing trap. Who goes first? The fat guy and a skinny girl. The fat guy gets eaten right away after getting bit and falling off. At least the fish had a significant meal. When the skinny chick falls over it’s more of an appetizer. By the way-she falls over for absolutely no reason.
“I, the gay fat man never stood a chance against the piranha did I?”.
A plane sees our stranded buffoons below, but crashes in the rainforest as if you care. The 2 on board survive. The big showdown sees Franciscus pull a gun out and hop on board an inflatable raft.
“I have a beard, so you know you can’t trust me and I will soon leave you stranded with the piranha. One last game of backgammon first?”.
Majors dives in to stop him and gets bit to pieces, but what’s especially hilarious is not once, not twice but THRICE our man Franciscus hits Majors over the head with a paddle and each time the $6 Million Dollar Man falls back into the water and gets eaten but keeps coming back for more. Majors gives up and swims back to the boat, bloodied and bitten, now worth just $2 million ha ha.
“I was told this film was going to be good by my agent. Damn-fooled again!”.
Ah, Majors was crafty though, as he pulled the plug on the raft and Franciscus will soon sink to his death at the teeth of the very piranha he himself unleashed.
“nom, nom, nom”.
In the end, the rest survive, still have the jewels, blah blah blah. Who the fuck cares? You will see worse films than Killer Fish, but it is pretty lame. A nice cast and decent cinematography make things tolerable, but the crappy dialogue, sluggish , bad miniatures and Disco songs make most of the film laughable. And laugh I did.
1. Killer Fish was aired on American television as Deadly Treasure Of The Piranha in 1982. That didn’t change how bad it was.
2. The late TV personality Gary Collins was in this film. Collins hosted Hour Magazine for years and won an Emmy and he hosted the Miss America Pageant from 1982-90. Really.
3. Director Antonio Margheriti also went under the name Anthony M. Dawson. Can’t blame him there.
Killer Fish (1979):
2 beagles out of 4 for awfulness
Q: Should you see Killer Fish?
A: It has piranhas and Lee Majors idiot-of course you should.