Two Wildlife Photographers. A Homicidal Hunter. A Head Start.
Tough guy William Smith (b. 1933) has played Dracula, Conan the Barbarian’s dad, cowboys, cops, bikers, a soviet officer, the Frankenstein monster, a space alien, Batman’s last nemesis Adonis (1968) and Clint Eastwood’s advisary Jack Wilson (the same name as Jack Palance’s gunslinger in Shane, 1953) in Any Which Way You Can (1980). The guy has had a prolific career and at his best he is a terrific villain. At his worst, like in low-budget exploitation flicks like Piranha (1972), he’s still a terrific villain.
I first learned about this low-budget “The Most Dangerous Game” while watching a beat up 16mm print at the underrated Cinema Wasteland show in Strongsville, Ohio. Aguire the Wrath of God this film is not, but Smith will hold your attention as the unpredictable Caribe.
The story is simple. A wildlife photographer Terry Browne (Ahna “Ahria” Capri) and her brother (Tom Simcox) are accompanied by guide Jim Pendrake (Peter Brown) in the Amazon jungle. Along the way, at the dubious establishment el milagro the trio encounter the hunter Caribe. He buys them a few drinks. Caribe takes a liking to Terry. The usual cock fighting cliches ensue. Caribe and Pendrake race dirt bikes. Caribe wins. Caribe doesn’t like losing. Caribe celebrates and takes his new friends to a diamond mine.
Piranha was filmed on location (Venezuela?) and some of the hand-held jungle photography by Luis Jacko is pretty good. The bike race is exciting, with Gauchos overlooking, and has some fairly interesting perspective camera angles. I also like some of the photography of native people along the Amazon tributaries. With the exception of Smith, who clenches his teeth a lot (he reminds me of Jack Palance), the acting is horrid.
Later, Caribe kills a King Vulture for fun. We learn about his dark side. Caribe hunts people.
Except for a very short but key sequence, no Piranha actually appear in the film. Perhaps Piranha is a reference to the predatory nature of Caribe? By the end Terry is pushed too far.
Will Caribe return?
Piranha is fairly difficult to find. I had my DVD from Miracle Pictures (PMC Corp) on back order from Amazon, about $11, for about 6 months. I don’t know if it was worth the wait. If you’re looking for something different this is it.