Piranha 1, People 0

Ever since doing Halloween 3, I've been eager to take a look at another one of Scream Factory's 4k steelbook reissues.  I already explained it there, but in brief, Scream's been re-releasing a lot of their titles in steelbooks, and most of them are the same discs in new packaging.  But a couple times, they've used the steelbook as a happy excuse to also create a fresh 4k scan of the film.  Double-dips can be a pain, unless you're "money is no object" rich, but restorations are always a good thing, and restorations of one of Joe Dante's horror classics are even better!  Plus, it has been almost ten years since the previous edition, so that's not too excessive.
1978's Piranha is, obviously, a Jaws rip-off.  But it's also distinctly its own thing.  There are actually more films in Roger Corman's official Piranha franchise (five) than in Jaws' (four).  Certainly, it apes a lot of Jaws' selling points, i.e. it's selling the unsettling scares drawn from the lethal sea-life that's lurking beneath the surface while we swim.  And the conflict between the protagonists trying to get the business man to cancel the grand opening of his water park, but who refuses despite the risks to the public is a total rehash of Roy Scheider trying to get the mayor to close the beach on the fourth of July weekend.  it has a draw and appealing aspects that Jaws doesn't.  It has Dante's unique sense of humor, a rambunctious plot by John Sayles and a delightful cast of character actors including Dick Miller, Paul Bartel, Barbara Steele, Kevin McCarthy, The Dick Van Dyke Show's Richard Deacon and Keenan Wynn.  It certainly references and echoes Jaws in a lot of ways, just like a billion other knock-offs have done, but this is also a very different viewing experience.  This is a Joe Dante movie.
Piranha's had plenty of home video releases on disc.  Even limiting it just to the US, there was an initial DVD in 1999, which was already replaced by 2000, and has been repackaged in several variant covers in a short amount of time.  There's the "plain" Roger Corman Classics cover, the burgundy band Roger Corman Classics cover, the Director's Series gold-framed cover, and then in 2003, a Roger Corman Classics boxed set that includes Piranha alongside three other films.  They all seem to be the same 20th anniversary special edition disc, however, released by New Concorde with a nice collection of extras but a fullscreen presentation.  We didn't get a real, substantive change until 2010, when Shout Factory took it into the HD age.  This was before they had the Scream Factory, so they just released this under a Roger Corman's Cult Classics collection.  This edition was finally widescreen and included additional features.  And now, in 2019, they've upgraded it again as a Scream Factory steelbook with a fresh 4k scan of the original camera negative and the most extras ever.
2010 Shout Factory BD top; 2019 Scream Factory BD bottom.
This is a subtle but easily appreciated upgrade.  The colors are a little flatter on this new edition, but they look more natural than the older disc, which looks like they just artificially boosted the saturation.  Still, I could see someone preferring and even making a decent case for the older disc's colors.  But that's the only area where it can compete.  The aspect ratio has been corrected from 1.78:1 to 1.85:1, and that's just not adding mattes.  The new scan actually has additional picture information on all four sides, although the bulk of it is on the sides.  The hazy over-exposure in some of the exteriors (think of McCarthy on the lake) are to some degree just baked into the film itself, but it's definitely toned down and looks better in this new version.  Grain (which is barely visible on the old disc) and detail are much more clearly captured now; you can finally read the "US" on the Colonel's lapel.  Considering they're both technically the same resolution BD discs, it's a very satisfying boost in clarity.

Both editions provide lossless versions of the original mono audio track, but the original blu lacked subtitles, which this new one adds.  So that's a welcome touch as well.
The original DVD provided some of the best extras, and thankfully they've all been ported over to both blus.  We get a terrific audio commentary by Dante and producer Jon Davison, who thankfully remember everything.  They're very funny and not afraid to acknowledge the film's shortcomings, but they also have a ton of information about all aspects of the production and an appreciation for all the finer points.  Never a dull moment.  These guys also then provide some additional commentary over some behind the scenes footage.  Then there's some deleted scenes and outtakes and of course the trailer, plus a booklet.  Then, Shout added some nice additional bonuses in 2010, including a slicker retrospective featurette and extra scenes shot for the television version.  They also add some extra galleries, a TV spot, radio spot and even the Trailers From Hell version of the trailer by Jon Davison.

Now, the 2019 steelbook unfortunately ditches the booklet, but more than make up for it with a new, second audio commentary by Roger Corman himself.  This isn't as good as the Dante/ Davison one, and disappointingly, he doesn't really comment on Piranha at all.  Instead, this is an in-depth career overview where the moderator interviews Corman about himself, walking him chronologically through every step of his career.  Fortunately, Corman's a fascinating guy and a charming talker, so it's an interesting listen (especially if you've never seen the Corman's World documentary) even if they neglect the film at hand.  Anyway, I don't think Corman could've added much to the thorough features the film already had.
So, this is easily the definitive release of the film now.  Even if you don't care about steelbooks, this is edition of the film to get.  The question for most of you, though, which is a little trickier is if it's worth double-dipping.  And I'd say it depends on how into this film you are.  If you just like it enough, you're probably fine hanging onto your Shout Factory blu.  But if you're a big Dante fan (or if you're just reliant on the subtitles), the new transfer is worth it, with the Corman commentary not really being much of a draw in itself, but at least an extra little treat.  Personally, I'm glad I sprung for it and never intend to look back.

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