ORCA: THE KILLER WHALE stars Richard Harris and Bo Derek in her screen debut in an epic struggle between a strong and determined fisherman and an equally determined whale. When the whale's pregnant mate is killed, it goes... more » on a rampage, seeking revenge on the man by smashing boats, collapsing buildings and causing extreme destruction by fire.« less
"They killed his wife...they killed his child...they took everything away from him and replaced it with a thirst for justice...a thirst for revenge...sounds like a set up for the 1974 Charles Bronson film Death Wish...but it's not...it's actually for Orca (1977) aka Orca: The Killer Whale. Now one can say Orca is a completely original film and has nothing to do with the De Laurentiis group (Dino was the executive producer) trying to capitalize on the phenomenal success of the Spielberg film Jaws (1975), the first film to break the 100 million dollar mark, but they would be wrong. Spielberg's popular and wildly successful giant shark film spawned legions of copycats, all eager to suckle on the cash teat, including films that featured wanton whales (this one), ornery octopuses (okay, it's octopi), savage squids, beastly bigfoots, antagonistic arachnids, barbarous bears and just about any other kind of creature that walks, crawls, swims, or slimes its' way across God's green Earth that you can imagine.
Orca, directed by Michael Anderson, who had just come off directing the sci-fi classic Logan's Run (1976) features Richard (A Man Called Horse) Harris, and perennial 70's film star Charlotte Rampling. Also appearing are Will Sampson (the big Indian from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), popular character actor Keenan Wynn, Robert Carradine, and in her first on screen appearance, Bo Derek. As the film opens, we see many good-looking underwater shots of killer whales swimming around, and we see two people, presumably scientists, Rachel (Rampling) and Ken (Carradine), doing some sort of scientific research involving the whales. We also meet Captain Nolan (Harris), and his crew, as they're trying to capture a great white shark in order to sell it to an aquarium for great profit. In an effort to show just how much tougher and impressive killer whales are than great white sharks (and a hollow attempt at one-upmanship with the Jaws film), we witness, along with Captain Nolan, a spectacular attack on a great white by a killer whale. This encourages Nolan to change his goal to giving up on sharks and focus on capturing a killer whale, a decision he will end up regretting. His attempt turns out badly, as the whale he captures, not only a female, but also a pregnant female, dies in a very bloody fashion. Now, we soon learn that the whales, being highly intelligent mammals, not only mate for life, but that they also have a capacity for revenge that meets, maybe even exceeds, that of humans. As Nolan begins to realize the consequences of his actions, regret and remorse creep into his consciousness, and tries to come to terms with what he's done. Thus begins a slow and deliberate attempt by the whale to draw Nolan out to sea, so that it may give the once haughty captain his comeuppance.
I did like certain things about this film. I thought the underwater shots of the whales were done well, and exhibited a calm gracefulness that certainly goes against the whale's size and weight. The story was pretty interesting, and, even though it's riding the coat tails of a much more popular and famous film, as a great number did, it stood out against most of those as being a better overall movie. Also, I did like Ennio Morricone's very ethereal musical score throughout the film, as it especially accompanied the underwater scenes well. What I didn't care for in the film was the entire `eco' conscious theme ingrained into the story, a popular cause de jour that was prevalent throughout the late 70's. I've never advocated the mass slaughter of any species, but to constantly have the notion that all men are evil and destructive thrown continually in my face didn't endear the film to me all that much (maybe I exaggerate, but it did feel that way at times). The message came across rather heavy-handed and patronizing at times, as I felt like a little kid being lectured by his parents. I love it when Hollywood tries to teach as well as entertain (remember kids, just because it's on the screen does not mean it has to be true). The character development in this story seemed weak, especially the element where Nolan `identifies' with the whale (beware, as a severe case of eye-rolling will ensue). I did feel Nolan floundering back and forth, wrestling with the little voice in his head to be very human. Rampling's character lacked any development whatsoever, and was only presented as a means to an end, to provide scientific information to Nolan. There was a glimmer of her character being a romantic interest to Nolan, but that was never pursued. Sampson's character of Umilak, a Native American of the area, appears only to provide Nolan with the spiritual and mystical aspects of the whale, and nothing else. The other characters? Well, you can call them whale fodder, as that was all they were good for...there are a couple of scenes in the film, as others have mentioned, that may not be suitable for young viewers. I got the feeling two forces were at work in this film, one trying to get across the gentle and warm aspects of the whales, and another intent on trying to include spectacular elements along the lines of those within the Jaws film. These two ideas seemed to work against each other, creating an odd dichotomy.
The transfer to DVD provided here in wide screen format looks very good, despite minor wear, due to age, to the source material. There are no special features available, not even a trailer, but that was hardly surprising to me, as Paramount Home Video, when it comes to DVD releases, lacks not only in their output, but also in understanding the value of the inclusion of extras. All in all, a lack-luster release of a better than average film that owes its' existence to another, much more popular, much more successful, and a much better all around film.
More scary than you think !
Fireball | Toronto | 08/24/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The angry mate of a slaughtered pregnant killer whale becomes so enraged, that he begins a reign of terror on a fishing village and their community. Even though this movie follows on the heels of Jaws, and while it's not golden filmmaking like the great white shark classic, it is better than you think and gives more creeps than you presumed. Also gives you a true impression that orca's are more intelligent than most whales or animals/mammals. Bo Derek, and Richard Harris give the film more than average acts, while poor Robert Carradine and others get whipped by the black sea wolf's tail or eaten by him. I vote Orca as a more dangerous and smarter animal than a killer shark-he's faster, smarter, and he's gota good reason to kill. The music, by Ennio Morricone is a little eerie and provokes your nerves that more terror is to come. So, although the film isn't a milestone, don't look at the poster of this movie and brush it off as a Jaws rip off. Better than it looks."
Woe betide Captain Nolan!
Andrew Beaton | Venice, CA | 03/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you can't appreciate how awesome and hilarious this movie is, then you have no sense of humor whatsoever. I feel that strongly about "Orca".
From the very first scene, this Dino DeLaurentiis classic will flatten you with its authentic 70s drama, awesome cast, and the unintentional comedy that makes so many films ripen with age. We first meet marine biologist and college professor Charlotte Rampling in a classroom, where she describes the complex communication of orcas and then says that to an orca, the speech of humans would be considered "retarded." Cut to scenes of orcas frolicking.
This sets the stage for the ghastly, over-the-top atrocity perpetrated by the crew of the Bumpo: arguably the awesomest scene in the entire film. Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) decides to catch him an Orca to sell to an aquarium. Oops, his incompetent crew screwed it up. As a female orca writhes from the ship's crane, mortally wounded, its mate freaks out like an overwrought player on a daytime soap opera. Things reach their peak when a malformed, dead fetus orca spews from the dying female. The male orca cries out in pain and anguish in an exact facimile of the most cliched line in cinema: "Nooooooooooooooo!" Then he takes a picture of Captain Nolan with his eye, and from that point forward we're only counting the days until the Captain goes down.
Like so many other classics of this nature, the supporting cast brings a key element to the table. No sooner has Nolan discovered the dead body of the orca he killed deposited in his harbor, than Chief from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest appears, dispensing empty 'Native wisdom' along the lines of "The elders of my tribe say, when an orca washes up on your beach, it means that Mother Earth is mad at you". The gorgeous Bo Derek is the eye candy of the film, until she either does or does not get chomped (I'm trying not to give too much away here). The vengeful orca himself has a lot of personality. After a spirited round of destroying houses on stilts and somehow setting them aflame, the orca does joyous flips in the air.
Ultimately, all the characters end up on a suicide mission that seemingly leads them towards the North Pole. On this mission, a basic Hollywood rule applies: if you start talking about turning back, the Orca is coming for you next! Captain Nolan pleads with the orca to feel empathy for him, since his family was killed by a drunk driver, but the orca isn't having any of it. Their showdown amidst ice floes is epic, as is the melodramatic tune that rolls over the closing credits.
Embrace all that is Orca. One of the best movies out there."
It's no "Jaws", but it's wonderfully entertaining just the s
Steven Hedge | Somewhere "East of Eden" | 06/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The success of Spielberg's 1975 first to crack the 100 million mark landmark film Jaws spawned a whole series of "us against it" genre films of which several were water-based like the dreadful Tentacles and the rest were equally poor only taking place on land such as the campy Day of the Animals. However, a few were standouts and "Orca" was one of them.
Wonderfully and sensitively acted by the late great Richard Harris (A Man Called Horse and Camelot), the always convincing Charlotte Rampling (The Verdict), and the ever noble Will Sampson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Poltergeist II: The Other Side). It is also memorable as the first film for Bo (10) Derek who manages to actually keep her clothes on in this film.
The storyline is intelligent and believable. There are no memorable cliches or unimportant scenes. The film is compact and to the point at a brief 92 minutes. The direction and editing is sturdy and skillful. The photography is absolutely brilliant. Every shot is beautifully filmed. The music is, unfortunately, forgettable and uninspiring.
Don't let the comparisons to "Jaws" scare you off. This film may not be in that ballpark, but its field is only a block or two away."
Cinematography and Score Make this Movie Beautfiul
T. Fortner | Mineral Wells, WV USA | 07/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Much like Battlestar Galactica wouldn't have been made without Star Wars, Orca would not exist if it hadn't been for Jaws. But that really doesn't matter. The movie has its merits. It has a great cast: Richard Harris, Keenan Wynn, Charlotte Rampling, Will Sampson, Robert Carradine, Bo Derek (well, she looks good!). Most importantly, it has Gorgeous cinematography and Ennio Morricone's haunting score. What a great piece of music he created for this film. There are very few creatures as amazing as the killer whale. When you see them swimming and swooping magnificently about in the ocean to Morricone's music you will see what is so great about this movie. I've loved it since I was a child and I'm glad that it's breathtaking visuals and sound will be given DVD-quality presentation. It isn't the most original script to come along, but it's a beatiful film."