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VCL 0804 1031

Artwork copyright (c) 2004 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Yes, we have no piranhas


An amusingly trashy rip-off of Jaws, the Roger Corman-produced Piranha marked the directorial debut of the great Joe Dante who has always infused his films with such wit and charm that any other shortcomings can easily be forgiven, and the same can be said here.  It was a few years before he would begin his collaboration with Jerry Goldsmith, but (somewhat incredibly) the composer he managed to entice to this ultra-low-budget affair was no slouch himself - Pino Donaggio had already written Don't Look Now and Carrie, so lord knows how they managed to get him onboard this rather silly film.

The film is trashy and it knows it and, while "trashy" would be a harsh word to use to describe Donaggio's carefully-considered music, it doesn't exactly steer clear of the clichés.  Perhaps surprisingly, there is no direct Jaws parody to the music, with the composer here opting for a slightly more sweeping approach.  The horror music is mostly of the suspenseful kind, with murmuring strings and the occasional pizzicato passage, but fortunately the over-the-top nature of the film allows Donaggio to go the same route, resulting in some truly wonderful music.  "Nightmare in the Sun / Betsy's Death" contains every cliché in the book, but is none the worse for it.  Some of the suspense music is a little more subtle, with the synth-dominated "Empty Tubes" being absolutely perfect "creeping around" music.  

It's not like that all the way though.  "Aquarena" is an enjoyably little sea shanty-type piece (perhaps vaguely equivalent to Jaws's "Tourists on the Menu"); and "Summer Dreams" a lovely, romantic guitar-led piece.  "Operation Razorteeth" is an amusing little militaristic piece; the brief "Escape in the Night" as close as the score really gets to action music (though it's cheesy stuff); the end title is a beautiful romantic string piece which is far more affecting than it should be; and finally, the amusingly-titled coda "Yes, We Have No Piranhas" is the hilariously awful sound effect used for the fish in the movie.

The album was originally released by then-fledgling Varese Sarabande on vinyl at the time of the movie in 1979, and has finally now been released on CD as part of their August 2004 CD Club releases.  Only 1,000 copies were pressed however and they sold out very quickly indeed - I can't believe all that many people were desperate to get their hands on the music from Piranha so one can only assume that Ebay vultures (or piranhas?) were at work - but never mind, it's difficult to know what to do about that new and irritating phenomenon.  Still, if you can find yourself a copy then it's well worth it.


  1. No Trespassing (2:03)
  2. Main Title (1:14)
  3. Aquarena / Homonculus (2:01)
  4. Piranhas Upon Us (2:17)
  5. Lost River Theme (1:17)
  6. Fatal Rescue (2:09)
  7. Summer Dreams (2:11)
  8. Dr Hoak (:56)
  9. Nightmare in the Sun / Betsy's Death (2:19)
  10. Empty Tubes (2:17)
  11. Operation Razorteeth (1:32)
  12. Escape in the Night (:49)
  13. Premonition / Beyond the Darkness (5:18)
  14. Restricted Area (1:16)
  15. End Title (2:14)
  16. Yes, We Have No Piranhas (:38)