Cameron chokes himself rather than
admit to directing Piranha 2
Part Two: The Spawning (1981)
The Terminator (1984)
The Abyss (1989)
Terminator 2: Judgment
Strange Days (1995) - producer and screenplay
Solaris (2002) - producer only
Canadian-born James Cameron is a director
who brings out strong reactions in cinema
fans, especially since the release of
(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
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.
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 . . .
|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
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
the estranged husband of the heroine and Cameron would
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
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.
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.
CHAPTER: THE TERMINATOR