Lasky (Lee Majors) is heading this criminal gang as they raid a Brazilian power station, which contains a secret vault where a safe lies. And inside the safe? Millions of dollars worth of diamonds and emeralds which Lasky is liberating for the true mastermind behind the crime, Diller (James Franciscus) who is staying by a nearby reservoir, biding his time until the gems are stolen and they can take them out of the country. After a night of explosions they get away to the lake - but hiding the jewels there might have been a mistake...
Killer Fish was often described as a rip-off of Joe Dante and John Sayles' Piranha, which in itself was a cash-in on blockbuster Jaws, but actually what this was more inspired by was a different cash-in, the Peter Benchley-derived The Deep. Just listen to Amii Stewart trilling that disco theme over the opening credits and you'll see where they were coming from: this was jetset glamour all the way, or at least that was the idea as the location photography in picturesque Brazilian climes and a bunch of celebrities populating the story were all cues for you to lap up the glitz.
Go on, it seemed to say, indulge yourself in the high stakes world of fashion photography, international jewel theft, backgammon and of course man-eating fish, as if this were an adaptation of one of those airport paperbacks which you could read on the beach and not bother about digesting anything remotely weighty. This was a Lew Grade presentation from ITC, around the time he was trying to branch out into big budget movies, but no matter how much he and the son of that other European media mogul Carlo Ponti, here producing, spent on Killer Fish there was something undeniably tacky about the whole affair.
Maybe it was the second hand nature to the proceedings, maybe it was the cast as Majors was still The Six Milion Dollar Man in many audience's eyes, and watching him on the big screen was more akin to going to see one of those U.S. television movies that somehow got released in cinemas, no matter that this was manufactured for theatrical showings. Backing him up were not exactly A-listers: Karen Black was the female member of the gang, also love interest to Franciscus' scheming bad guy, and as a fashion model - not a massive stretch for her considering that's how she sprang to fame - was Margaux Hemingway.
She was there as love interest for Majors, and also to provide a Jacqueline Bisset wet T-shirt scene (well, wet dress anyway), but what you would be wondering after half an hour of not very much happening is "Where are the piranha?" They do, after all, have their name in the title, and you might have wished a higher profile role for them from the start, but director Antonio Margheriti opted to keep them beneath the water for that bit too long, so when the supporting characters venture into the reservoir to get the hidden treasure you may well be thinking it's about time someone was gnawed to death. It turns out that Diller is such a devious fellow that he has actually introduced the beasts to the area himself in a hard to believe attempt to keep his haul safe from prying hands, but it's not till the final act that the remaining cast are trapped on a sinking boat with the fishies circling. Too much dithering, then, and not enough tension; average at best. Music by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis.