Movies From the Black Lagoon: Killer Fish

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Killer Fish - 1978, Rated PG
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer

A gang of jewel thieves have a falling out over a big score and that is only the beginning of what happens in this Italian genre mash that has horror, crime, and disaster movie themes.
This wild flick has a deceptively benign start as the camera alights on two guys playing backgammon. All of a sudden the screen shifts to an industrial complex where a quintet of thieves (rocking cool leather jackets and uncomfortable, though properly accessorized, matching pants). These cats are way hip as they blow up an entire building as a diversion for them to enter a locker room and break into the company safe.
Their getaway is pretty clever. They have one guy lead the police on a merry chase before the ditching their van in a huge explosion while the others drop the jewels off in a lake and set sail on a fishing boat, posing as tourists. Only two snags in this well executed scheme. The van driver miss-times his escape and incurs a major' ouch and, more importantly, the drop off point has been booby trapped with piranha.
The gang learns about the piranha but that is only after losing three guys to the ferocious fish. The third death could have been avoided had the guy realized you never reach out to a man being attacked by piranha if his only free hand happens to be holding a spear gun. Turns out nobody trusts anyone in this gang. The leader is Lasky and he is a square jawed dude who wants to share the loot but his surviving teammates, Diller and Kate, want the treasure for themselves.
Meanwhile a group from a fashion magazine shows up to shoot a spread and Lasky falls for their top model, Gabrielle. He even goes off on a shoot with them on the lake while Diller and Kate steal the jewels using bait and their oxygen tanks to frighten away the deadly fish. Unfortunately, their boat slips away but that is nothing compared to the disasters that follow. First a hurricane hits and grounds the Fashion Model Boat and then the dam breaks and floods the lake while releasing the titular fish.
Eventually Kate and Diller wind up on the fashion boat but now it is a floating junk heap. The only way to safety is to fashion a raft but that fails and winds up feeding the fish a taste of Fashion photographer souffle. A pilot drops a raft down and the race for survival is on. Diller gets away with the treasure and the raft but don't count out Lasky who swims out and donates a tenth of his body weight to the fish in order to take a swing at Diller. The fish take a bite out of the raft and that leaves us with the hilarious image of a raft deflating while Diller squawks like a wounded parrot and feeds the critters he put in the lake in the first place, talk about irony.
This one is silly but it totally works thanks to a veteran cast of performers too proud to work on 'The Love Boat." Apparently they thought no one would see this wrong. Lee Majors is the iron jawed Lasky and he is okay until he has too fall for Margaux Hemingway as the model who should have saved up for those acting lessons. James Franciscus is in top form here as the duplicitous Diller. He is smug, smart, and so cold you expect the fish to drop dead when they bite him. His character fakes a heart attack so his girlfriend will have to do all the heavy lifting. Probably cheats on his taxes too. You deserve a foolish movie in honor of April first and you could do worse than this one.
Best Lines: "People who don't trust people are people who can't be trusted."
"She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Helen Keller School of Modeling."
"There is a difference between bi-sexuals and two timers."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.