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.

Update 9/8/19 - 11/6/22: Sure, Update Week is for updating articles with older, missing discs.  But what am I gonna do when a new release comes out during Update Week?  Not add it 'till afterwards?  Madness.  Scream Factory's new UHD release of Piranha came out out and I've got it right here.
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.  But 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 Bradford Dillman (Compulsion, the Dirty Harry movies), 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 then, in 2019, they upgraded it again as a Scream Factory steelbook with a fresh 4k scan of the original camera negative and the most extras ever.  The most, that is, until 2022, when Scream released it again as an all new BD/ UHD combo-pack with an even fresher 4k scan, and more extras.  Or, at least, one more extra.
1) 2010 Shout; 2) 2019 SF BD; 3) 2022 SF BD; 4) 2022 SF UHD.

What we have here is a subtle but easily appreciated series of upgrades.  The colors are a little flatter on the 2019 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 2019 scan actually has additional picture information on all four sides, although the bulk of it is on the left and right.  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 the second version.  Grain (which is barely visible on the old disc) and detail were much more clearly captured; you could 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.

But now we get to jump to a whole new resolution: a 3840p UHD, with Dolby Vision/ HDR to boot.  And it should be noted this release boasts a new 2022 restoration.  I was expecting the 2019 version just slapped on a higher res disc with HDR, but no, this is apparently another, even newer scan.  Indeed, the 1080p BD included in the 2022 set is itself visibly different than the 2019 disc.  It's darker and the colors are ever so slightly more separated.  Minor damage, light the white fleck right behind Dillman's butt in the first set of shots has been removed.  The grain is better rendered.  And then of course, that's even better on the UHD, with edges benefiting the most, where jagged edges of pixelation on the BD are turned into smooth, natural curves.  And the colors are stronger, in a few scenes I thought perhaps a little too much; but for the most part they're perfectly natural and breathe more life into the film. 

Every edition covered here provides lossless versions of the original mono audio track, but the original blu lacked subtitles, which the subsequent editions add.  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.
And the new 2022 release?  It has everything from the previous releases, plus an all new on-camera interview with Dante.  Now, Dante already has his commentary, he's interviewed in the retrospective and he comments on the behind-the-scenes footage.  So he's already quite prominently featured.  If I could've picked one person from the film to wrangle up for an interview on this disc, it wouldn't be him.  But on the other hand, Dante's always fun to listen to, and this is a fun, well shot and tightly edited piece.  So it's a nice addition, just nothing amazing.  This release also comes in a slip cover and features reversible artwork.  And if you ordered directly from Shout's website, you could have also sprung for an additional 18"x24" rolled poster and a limited edition (1000 copies) set of 5 enamel pins.
So I hope nobody feels too put out double-dipping in 2019 and triple-dipping this year.  By 2018 or so, you have to expect almost every film remastered in 4k for 1080p BD will return in Ultra HD, and it's actually a sad thing that some won't.  You have to credit Shout/ Scream, too, for remastering the film another time, and commissioning a new interview with Dante, to give us a little more bang for our UHD buck.  Three versions across a twelve year span isn't so outrageous, and we come out with a new, definitive Piranha.  Who wouldn't want that?

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