Orca (1977) / Thriller-Drama
aka Orca: The Killer Whale
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and language
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Bo Derek, Will Sampson, Keenan Wynn, Robert Carradine
Director: Michael Anderson
Screenplay: Luciano Vincenzioni, Sergio Donati
Review published October 29, 2005
One of many blatant attempts to cash in on the Jaws craze, Orca is an embarrassment for everyone in front of the camera, behind it, and sitting in the audience.
How can you read the following plot summary without laughing? Richard Harris (Patriot Games, Unforgiven) plays Capt. Nolan, a poacher that makes the mistake of killing a pregnant killer whale, only to have the whale's mate cry out for revenge. Nolan wants no part of it, but the whale persists, following him to a small fishing village where it destroys all other fishing boats except for Nolan's in a blatant attempt to get him to sail out and fight like a man (or whale, or mammal, or whatever). Nolan still hesitates, knowing he is outmatched, but the whale won't let up easily, but without fish in the area, the village will soon perish if Nolan doesn't face up to his misdeeds.
Orca is a far better comedy than a thriller, although it is very clear that no one involved with the production of this film thought it should play for laughs. Not only does it blatantly attempt to replicate the masterwork that became a blockbuster hit, Spielberg's Jaws, but the screenwriters actually have the audacity to wrap this wholly commercial venture around Melville's classic whaling story, "Moby Dick". Sorry, but this one can't pass the snicker test, and the more things ratchet up for the big final showdown, the more tears you'll be wiping away from the inanity of it all.
The only thing the creators of this bad action movie get right is actually making us feel sorry for the damn whales, with the first kill especially tragic. Much is made of how the brains of killer whales are so developed that human beings might be considered retarded by comparison. Looking at what species created a movie this bad, it's a difficult point to argue against.
©2005 Vince Leo