Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) finds out that one shouldn’t mess with a killer whale’s wife, especially if she is pregnant. Charles Brosnan stars as Orca, the killer whale, on a quest to avenge his family.
Director: Michael Anderson Actors: Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Bo Derek Genre: Horror Year of Release: 1977
The first thing that comes to mind when you look at the poster for Orca? I’ll wait… Okay, so naturally I’m talking about the blatant attempt at a Free Willy prequel. I mean, how dare they. Free Willy wasn’t even out yet, and here they are trying to bank on its inevitable success. Dino De Laurentiis should be ashamed. Why he didn’t bother trying to rip off Jaws instead, which came out a few years earlier, we may never know.
I’m no marine biologist, but I like to pretend to be one, so I’m going to assume that the film’s portrayal of the avenging killer whale is entirely accurate. Otherwise, the premise of the movie falls apart rather quickly.
In Orca, Richard Harris plays an ocean hunter, by the name of Captain Nolan, who is looking for his next big break. Nolan is broke and needs to pay off his boat and mortgage, so he can get the hell out of Newfoundland and back to his home country of Ireland. Nolan sees dollar signs flashing in front of his eyes when he comes across a group of killer whales, knowing that if he brings one in alive, he’ll be rich. A marine biologist by the name of Rachel Bedford (Charlotte Rampling) tells him that whales are smart, can think, communicate and are committed to one mate for life. You break up that power couple, and you got a profoundly depressed and suicidal whale on your hands, and no one wants that.
Nolan doesn’t heed the warning and ends up accidentally murdering a male whales wife who was also pregnant, which we find out in a scarring display of gore. The whale, who we might as well just call Willy, starts to come after Nolan, first by pitting the townfolks against the poor Captain, either by sinking their boats or blowing up the town’s oil silos (this is one conniving killer whale). After a few people end up dead or hurt, Nolan figures he must hunt down his Moby Dickhead and end it once and for all. All of this just means we get to watch what I can only describe as a slow ass boat/whale chase through icy waters.
Orca is a far-fetched killer animal on the loose flick, which has branded by pretty much everyone with the stigma of being a Jaws ripoff. However, the film tries to do its own thing and deviate a bit and not just resort to hitting the same beats of the vastly superior film. Still, it’s pretty clear that the whole point of this movie existing is to bank on the success of another movie, but you know what, I don’t care. This shit has been happening forever, and as usual, the two films can happily coexist.
Orca is entertaining, thanks in part to the movie not giving a damn about who it kills, and I should also point out that having Bo Derek costar makes it win a considerable amount of points. It certainly won’t surprise you, but it will probably amuse you. Give it a shot.
There is some whale violence pretty early on that is disturbing. Also, lots of people get munched on, but it’s mostly just bubbling red water that the viewers see on screen. The highlight for me was a nasty leg chomp.
I’m not sure how they got the rating they did with all the hardcore whale on whale sex scenes that are in this film. It borders on gratuitously disgusting at times.
I kid, there ain’t nothing here except a fully dressed Bo Derek to drool over.
A poorly put together dummy in fisherman’s clothes won’t trick Willy, the killer whale.
Sometimes the ocean looks an awful lot like a 10-foot deep pool.
RUNNING TIME92 MIN
AUDIO FORMAT5.1 DTS-HD MA & MONO DTS-HD MA
Audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin
MOBY DICK ala DE LAURENTIIS: Martha De Laurentiis remembers ORCA
Orca is readily available on BluRay in both Italy and Japan, but this time around it’s Australia’s turn thanks to Umbrella Entertainment. I’ve checked out some comparisons on the other two releases and Umbrella’s release is pretty much the same as the Japanese release, which is to say perfectly acceptable (the Italian version has some pretty lousy compression issues at times). I didn’t notice any dirt or debris, plus there was no screen damage present. It’s a beautiful watch.
Included on the Blu-ray is the choice between DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS HD Master Audio Mono. I listened to the 5.1 track and noticed no issues. If I were to go back and watch it again, I would probably choose mono as I didn’t hear much surround use to warrant not watching it with the original audio track.
Special features are a bit on the light side with a 4-minute interview with Martha De Laurentiis who discusses memories of her late husband working on the movie and the possible sequel with King Kong hunting down the whale (why was this never made?!?). Also provided is a very informative audio commentary with film historian Lee Gambin who knows his stuff, and finally a trailer.
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