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JAMES CAMERON


Cameron chokes himself rather
than
admit to directing Piranha 2


Selected filmography:

Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981)
The Terminator (1984)
Aliens (1986)
The Abyss (1989)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Strange Days (1995) - producer and screenplay only
Solaris (2002) - producer only


The Canadian-born James Cameron is a director who brings out strong reactions in cinema fans, especially since the release of Titanic (1997), which quickly became the most successful film in history. Even before then, there were those who considered him the greatest action/sci-fi director of recent times, while others dismissed him as an egotistical filmmaker whose movies emphasise spectacle and crowd-pleasing thrills over subtlety and art.

Cameron was born in Ontario in 1954, but moved to California in 1971, where he would indulge his early passion for filmmaking by visiting the film archive of UCLA at every opportunity.


William Wisher Jr. starred in Xenogenesis and would go on to co-write
and act in several later Cameron films

He made the short film Xenogenesis (1978) when he was still a student. The inventive twelve minute short features a battle between man and a machine - a theme the filmmaker would return to later in his career. You can view a low-res version of the movie here.

His first industry credits were for production design and effects on various films from Roger Corman, the infamous producer of countless low budget cult movies.

The most successful of these films was the outer space reworking of The Magnificent Seven, Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). Cameron also worked on the effects team for John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1981). His directing talent was apparently noticed when he filmed some pick-up shots on the little known film Galaxy of Terror (1981). This led to his first feature-directing job on Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981).

The film, a sequel to Joe Dante’s amusing parody of Jaws, was perhaps the least impressive debut of any director profiled in this section, and barely hinted at what was to come.

The acting was poor for the most part and the special effects even more so. Despite this, it can be enjoyed on the same level as most other 80's B movies.


Warning! This film features gratuitous boob shots!
The story features a rather creepy relationship between a mother and son, the former of whom starts to investigate a new strain of those pesky genetically-altered piranha from the first film. There's a long wait for the piranha attacks, the boredom only relieved by the ample female nudity. The numerous diving scenes are an early indicator of one of Cameron's major obsessions. There's a classic scene where a piranha has been hiding in a dead body and then suddenly flies out to attack a nurse.

Surely we're safe from piranha on land . . .

NOT!
There are also "comedic" supporting characters such as the sex-crazed old lady, the retarded young man who gets taken advantage of by bimbos (don't worry, they get their just desserts) and the mean (and possibly gay) boss who doesn't believe his tourist guests are at risk from piranha - just like the mayor in Jaws. The film ends with the piranha's undersea nest being exploded, though no one seems to worry about all the ones still on land.

In the exciting conclusion, Lance Henriksen crashes his toy helicopter . . .


Then realises he forgot to set the time on his watch!

Despite his credit, Cameron barely directed the film. Producer Ovido G. Assonitis reportedly took over control because he was unhappy with Cameron’s progress. Cameron was not allowed to see the footage that had been shot and was locked out of the editing room. This goes a long way to explaining why the finished film was so unmemorable. The only really notable thing about it (other than the fact that, this time, the fish could fly!) was that the film marked the beginning of Cameron's friendship with actor Lance Henriksen.

Henriksen plays the estranged husband of the heroine and Cameron would also cast him in his next two movies. Like many other sci-fi and fantasy filmmakers, Cameron has inspired loyalty in a key group of actors he works with time and again.

The film also features the late Captain Kidd Brewer, Jr. in a small role. His only other acting role would be in Cameron's later The Abyss.

Cameron’s next project, though another low budget film, would be radically different. It would make stars of both the director and the former bodybuilder he chose to play his villain.

NEXT CHAPTER: THE TERMINATOR

   

 

 

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