Nominated for an Academy Award?, The Day of the Dolphin stars George C. Scott as a scientist who trains dolphins to speak, only to find them kidnapped for use in a vicious assassination plot. This beautiful production of... more » an exciting adventure was executed by one of the only creative teams that could pull it off: writer Buck Henry and director Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Catch-22). Based on the novel by Robert Merle, the film is a nostalgic favorite of the generation who grew up with Flipper. An effective and at times amusing action flick, the film is available for the first time in a special edition DVD featuring an astounding new digital transfer enhanced for 16x9 televisions and a slew of charming supplements.
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Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 08/01/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Day of the Dolphin was savaged by critics when it was released. They saw the film as nonsense that made an important issue trivial. While it isn't a perfect film, the adaption by Mike Nichols and Buck Henry (Catch 22) is an entertaining adaption of the popular novel. At one time it showed up fairly frequently on network television but has been forgotten over the years. In some respects, Dolphin is a far more successful film adaption than Nichols' and Henry's film version of Catch 22. They were trying to turn a popular satirical novel turned cultural icon into an entertaining film satire. Many fans of the novel were disappointed and critics were, at times, less than kind to it. Here at least the two were working with a lesser novel and there wasn't as much baggage to go with it.George C. Scott gives a passionate performance. In fact, one thing that you'll note about Scott is whether or not he appeared in trash (The List of Adrian Messenger) or treasure (Patton), his performance is alwasys powerful and committed. Trish Van DeVere also gives a strong performance. She was always underrated as an actress because 1) She was married to Scott and 2)she was always in his shadow. Her performance helps ground what was at the time a farfetched scenerio in reality.Buck Henry's intelligent screenplay does have some narrative problems but, on the whole, he cleans up the novel's unbelievable plot and jumpy narrative. His screenplay is crisp, clean and his characters strong. An interview with Henry is provided as an extra and his comments demonstrate that he doesn't hold his work on the film in very high regard. It's a pity as he does wonders with the material.Nichols always straddled the fence between being an actor's director and a film director. As in his past efforts, this pays off handsomely. His work with Scott and the strong supporting cast (including the marvelous Fritz Weaver, Paul Sorvino in one of his early film roles, Edward Herrmann among many other fine character actors)shines. The plot is fairly straight forward; Scott plays a scientist that has been able to teach Dolphins English and train them to do a number of compliated tasks. He's unaware, though, that the organization funding his efforts has plans to use his research in an assassination attempt on a highly placed political figure.Given what we've learned about the CIA and other organizations over the past decade, it's plot isn't so far fetched. After all, it's certainly more believable than using a powder to make Castro's beard fall out so as to undermine his political power. The superior DVD transfer surprised me given the age of the film. Virtually free of all analog artifacts, this enhanced transfers looks marvelous. It's a pity that Nichols couldn't provide a director's commentary (or Buck Henry for that matter). Since Scott is gone, it would have been fascinating to get Nichols' take on the film and the performances. While is isn't a 5 star film, it's an engrossing and enjoyable bit of entertainment with a cautionary tale at its core."
Eccentric But Powerful Conspiracy Thriller
cameron-vale | Seattle, WA | 08/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"DAY OF THE DOLPHIN (1973): In a Florida research compound, Dr. Jake Terrell (George C. Scott) and his marine biologist associates devote years secretly teaching two dolphins, Fa and Bee, how to speak a simple form of English. The sweet and loving dolphins are incredibly intelligent and have developed an intense devotion to Dr. Terrell. Word of the success of Terrell's project is leaked to the outside world, and the skills of the easily trained dolphins are eventually sought by a well financed, shadowy consortium with evil intentions. Arguably the last great film directed by Mike Nichols, DAY OF THE DOLPHIN is a classy, beautifully produced science fiction/political conspiracy thriller with a heart. Despite its potentially maudlin storyline, Buck Henry's serious, unironic screenplay and Nichols' graceful direction carefully avoid sentimentality at every possible turn. Initially the story concentrates on Terrell and his relationship with his coworkers as their long work with the two dolphins is revealed to have achieved truly astounding results. Fa and Bee are lovely and enchanting creatures with very sweet, babyish voices. Things become deadly serious in the film's relentless second half, but because the conspiracy theme has been introduced so gradually the change in tone and the orchestrated melodramatics are perfectly acceptable. George C. Scott plays the bad tempered Terrell with the actor's trademark intensity. Its a passionate and powerful performance, and its perfectly easy to see why the dolphins look at him like some kind of god who towers above the other humans. Scott is the main show here, but the superb supporting cast, led by Paul Sorvino, Edward Herrmann, Fritz Weaver, Severn Darden and Scott's wife Trish Van Devere ably bring a strong sense of realism to all of the fantasy on view.Georges Delerue's stirringly emotional music adds immeasurably to the effectiveness of the film; his sad, lovely score turns the deeply moving climactic sequence into a heartbreaking apocalypse of despair. This utterly bleak finale is one of the most potent and uncompromising endings in the fantasy genre. William A. Fraker's gorgeous cinematography makes the sparkling, shifting waters and deep blue skies breathtakingly luminous. Fraker's stunning imagery alone makes the movie a total pleasure to watch. The underwater scenes, shot by Jordan Klein, contain absolutely some of the finest such work ever seen.The Home Vision Entertainment DVD is highly recommended for fans of this wonderful film. Presented in the film's original theatrical release aspect ratio (2.35:1), its a spectacularly perfect transfer, with vivid, lush colors and no noticeable speckles or flaws of any kind. A skimpy assortment of extras include an interview with writer Buck Henry, who is clearly and bizarrely embarrassed by his association with this great film, additional interviews with cast members Leslie Charleson and Edward Herrmann, and a trivia gallery. The liner notes are incredibly silly and juvenile. Despite its disappointing array of mostly worthless extras, this DVD is a spectacularly worthy investment for any serious movie fan, the definitive presentation of one of the most exciting and thought provoking of all conspiracy thrillers."
But The Dolphin Seemed So Playful.....Until It Tried To Kill
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 04/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ever seen a political thriller that employs dolphins as potential assassins? Why the heck not? As a curiosity, it's hard to beat "The Day of the Dolphin." Bringing together a bizarre amalgamation of talent-- this 1973 film stars George C. Scott (a few years after his Oscar for "Patton"), was written by Buck Henry (known mostly for comedy), and was directed by Mike Nichols (yes, that Mike Nichols)! Nichols has done everything from "The Graduate" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" through to the more current "Closer" and "Angels in America"--and this bit of sci-fi seems at odds with most of his resume. Curiously, though, he took "Dolphin" over from Roman Polanski (Polanski dropped out when his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson family). Heck, the backstory alone is cause enough to check out this picture!
Telling the story of a dolphin research facility, Scott plays its leader. Financed by a large corporation, their work is largely unknown even by their sponsors. They have been working on communication techniques and their unorthodox secrecy starts to raise various suspicions. Paul Sorvino, as a mysterious intruder, starts to poke around menacingly and all that is of value to Scott and his team is threatened. Publicly revealing the truth behind their experiments to their bosses, they now find themselves pawns in a larger scheme. It's hard to determine who to trust as potential allies are shown to be villains and vice versa. And caught in the middle are the dolphins who are to be exploited as bomb carrying assassins.
While, in truth, "The Day of the Dolphin" advertises itself as a political thriller with a sci-fi component--I think you'd be better off going into the film knowing nothing about it. But it seems unlikely that anyone could do that. The film's plot is used to sell the picture, so any potential surprises are given away in its marketing. The assassination scheme doesn't manifest itself until the second half of the film and might have made a great twist, but, as is, it's actually something that the audience is anticipating. While the political element is prominently advertised, it is quite vaguely defined and relatively superfluous. "The Day of the Dolphin" works best as sci-fi. Not sci-fi as in aliens and different worlds--but in its truest sense, Science employed as Fiction. The research done with the dolphins incorporates reality and fantasy in a nice combination, and works because it is understated. "Dolphin" also shows man's influence over nature (both good and bad) and how our need for technological superiority can lead to unforeseen and harmful consequences. The dolphins trust that man is their friend, but that friendship is something that can ultimately be used for evil. This ends up being largely a relationship piece, and as odd as it might sound--the central relationship is between Scott and a dolphin.
Sorvino and Scott are both quite good and carry the weight of the film. And if the idea of seeing George C. Scott running around in very short shorts drives you insane with lust, then that's an added bonus. Overall an interesting film, if not a great one. Recommended because it works--but it's also something of an oddity! Just don't expect the rousing adventure the DVD cover might promise you, this is more quietly intriguing. KGHarris, 04/07."
C. A. Luster | Burke, VA USA | 03/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Three things make this movie great. The directing by Mike Nichols, the writing by Buck Henry, and the acting by George C. Scott. The soundtrack is also marvelous. The whole cast turns in excellent preformances. Remotely like the novel, it tells an espionage story that seems believable. Especially if you know that the story isn't to far from the truth of dolphin research by the private sector and the military.
When Scott does bottle nosed dolphin research he avoids as much publicity as possible. It his intent to further the communication between dolphins and humans without any outside intervention. When his accomplishments reach a level that would allow them to be exploited, the anonimity he once enjoyed becomes a thing of the past.
When his dolphins are kidnapped he must figure out if it is his own government or a foreign power that has done it and why. With the assistance of a mercenary he realizes the terrible plot that could topple a goverment. Plenty here for fans of dolphins and action fans alike. Some trivia questions and interviews with Buck Henry, Leslie Charleson, and Edward Herrmann make up the extras. Great quality DVD considering the age of the movie."
"Could Come True, in a Laboratory Near You"
Phoebe Stogstill | by the shores of Gitchee Goomie | 01/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great premise for a political thriller (Buck Henry). Scott and VanDevere are two marine biologists that have not only cracked the dolphin language code, they have taught a group of dolphins to speak and understand rudimentary English. They can obey complicated commands given to them in English, especially beneath the sea. What would happen if some evil elements were able to get their hands on the dolphins and command them to do diabolical deeds on seacraft? Submarines, Presidential Yachts, etc. At any moment the dophins' deeds could become suicide missions and of course the dolphins would be unaware. Besides being a great thriller with terriffic acting by Scott, we get to see the affection of the dophins for their human companions and verbalize it. It may be possible some day soon. Someday soon it may truly be the day of the dolphin."