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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Horror > Thriller > Monster > Science Fiction > Deathsport (1978)/BattleTruck (1982/DVD) + Humanoids From The Deep (1980/Blu-ray + DVD) + Piranha (1978/Shout! Factory Blu-ray + DVD)

Deathsport (1978)/BattleTruck (1982/DVD) + Humanoids From The Deep (1980/Blu-ray + DVD) + Piranha (1978/Shout! Factory Blu-ray + DVD)


Picture: C/C-/B-/C+/B-/C+     Sound: C/C/C+/C+/C+/C+    Extras: C/C/C-/B-     Films:


Deathsport (1978) C

BattleTruck (1982) C

Humanoids From The Deep (1980) C+

Piranha (1978) B-



Shout! Factory’s roll out of deluxe editions of Roger Corman’s New World catalog continues with a DVD-only double feature and two key B-movies from the later years of the studio.  A while ago, we actually covered the 1978 laugh-fest Deathsport (1978) as paired with Death Race 2000 in an import DVD set from Australia’s Umbrella Entertainment.  You can read about it at this link:





The new edition here is not full screen 1.33 X 1, but anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 video and though it looks a little better than the import version, the problem is that too much picture image is missing, as if the person doing the transfer zoomed in too much on the frame when going widescreen.  This is not a bad-looking film and it would be nice if a Blu-ray were made, but certainly not with this transfer.  Shout! has paired the film with the long out-of-print Battle Truck (1982) about a deadly truck run by proto-fascists in a (you guessed it) post-apocalyptic world trying to run it by intimidating the people in it.  Playing like a dark satire of the TV series Ark II (reviewed elsewhere on this site), the film wants to be Mad Max and some other Australian exploitation films, but was actually made in nearby, underrated New Zealand.


Director Harley Cokeliss, who would direct Tommy Lee Jones in the mixed, odd would-be action film Black Moon Rising (1986) does a mixed job of making this film work.  Some parts are amusing, some good and some flat and dull.  Michael Beck plays the lead hero two years after being stuck in the infamous would-be musical bomb Xanadu with Olivia Newton-John, but this and Megaforce back to back could not revive any lead status despite the following of he had from Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1978, reviewed on this site), but this was issued the year John Ratzenberger debuted on the hit series Cheers. 


The film is enjoyable for what it is and it even looks good, despite the poor 1.33 X 1 transfer we get here.  Ken Loach’s Director of Photography Chris Menges, later known for The Killing Field and The Mission among others, does give this film a good enough look, while it also has an interesting score by Kevin Peek, who scored some early episodes of Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected (reviewed elsewhere on this site).  Too bad the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on both films in this double feature set shows their age and is so flat.


That leaves the big films here, starting with Humanoids From The Deep (aka Monster) which is Roger Corman’s best rip-off of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) for no other reason that he threw in a heaping of Creature From The Black Lagoon, outdoing Galaxy Of Terror and Forbidden World by default.  Of course, anything Jaws about it was not avoided and the film has some good moments, but it is not great, yet it at least is a decent genre piece if nothing else.


An experiment with a totally unrelated purpose has the intended living creatures gestate into full human-sized killers ready to compete with the human race.  This is not done very convincingly, but there is just enough interesting activity to keep one watching and Director Barbara Peters does not do a bad job.  Ann Turkel is a scientist who figures out what is going on and becomes a target of the new breed, while Vic Morrow turns up in a supporting role that would be one of his last in a major feature film before his accidental death a few films later.


A then-unknown James Horner did one of his first-ever scores for the film and it is not bad, while Director of Photography Daniel Lacambre (The Velvet Vampire, Lady In Red) delivers a better-looking film than expected.


Finally, there is Joe Dante’s best film, Piranha, a 1978 knock-off of Jaws that managed to be a hit simply by being more original and more amusing than most of the films that wanted to be the Spielberg blockbuster.  By changing from a single non-human antagonist, the film was a throwback to Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) in a way not often acknowledged, but that is part of its success.


Everything just comes together well for this film, which moves along very well and will remain one of the best film Corman ever produced.  An experimental lab has a pool and is a little too close to the local river when a school of the title fish is accidentally released and a doctor at the lab (Kevin McCarthy), he and two people (Heather Menzies from the TV version of Logan’s Run; Bradford Dillman) who made this disaster happen when looking for two teenagers who disappeared sets the film off and running.


Besides a solid supporting cast that includes Keenan Wynn in his later genre film glory, Barbara Steele (a queen of the genre) and Melody Thomas (in the middle of her big screen career that included The Beguiled, The Car and The Fury before becoming a soap opera superstar), you would never know this was just another B-movie and it turned out to be much more.  Later, a Piranha II was made (though James Cameron directed hardly anything on it) and this reissue comes out as Piranha 3-D arrived in theaters.


Also helping the film work better than expected (and it still holds up well) is a score by Pino Donaggio, in the midst of his classic work with Brian De Palma.  John Sayles of all people finished the screenplay started by Richard Robinson (Kingdom Of The Spiders) and Director of Photography Jamie Anderson (Malibu Beach, What’s Love Got To Do With It), A.S.C., does some of the best work of his career.


The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Blu-rays for both Humanoids and Piranha look better than their anamorphically enhanced DVD counterparts, but not always by much.  Humanoids has better color than Piranha, but you can see more noise and print issues on its Blu-ray.  It is still better to see these on Blu-ray because they are much closer to what a new print would look like in 35mm, but a little more work could have been done on both.  The Blu-rays have PCM 2.0 Mono sound, while all the DVDs have Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with the PCM having the slight edge.  It is a shame stereo upgrades could not have been made, especially if the music scores were recorded in stereo and sound effects stems could be located.


Extras on all four films include stills and feature length audio commentary tracks by the major participants of each film.  All but BattleTruck add TV Spots and Trailers.  Humanoids (which is here in its uncut version) adds Leonard Maltin interviewing Corman on the film, Deleted Scenes that were just discovered from the MGM/UA vault (some with no sound), New World Trailers and a Making Of featurette.  Piranha adds behind-the-scenes footage, a Making Of featurette, Bloopers & Outtakes, behind-the-scenes stills from Phil Tippett who made the killer fish, New World Trailers, additional scenes made for the Network TV version and commentary on the trailer for the film by Producer Jon Davidson.  You can also see the trailer with its original audio.  I also liked the lenticular slipboard case the DVD of Piranha had, which is one of the best such lenticular pieces we’ve seen in a while.


Once again, Shout! Factory has done a great job with deluxe reissues of these films and more are on the way.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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