Directed by Michael Anderson
Produced by Luciano Vincenzoni
Written by Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergio Donati
Director of Photograpy J. Barry Herron & Ted Moore
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cast: Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Will Sampson, Bo Derek & Peter Hooten
1977/92 mins/Color/Dolby Mono
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Paramount Home Entertainment DVD
The film industry is just that -- an industry -- so many decisions are based on financial matters. Therefore, rip-offs of successful films are inevitable. JAWS was a runaway hit in 1975 and forever changed the way that movies were made and marketed, and it also inspired many knock-offs. Coming off of his "monster" films KING KONG and the JAWS-like WHITE BUFFALO, executive producer Dino de Laurentis was clearly looking to further cash-in on the JAWS craze and brought us ORCA, the tale of a killer whale who seeks vengeance on a fisherman and who also seems to have plans to punish the audience as well.
Screen-legend Richard Harris stars in ORCA as Captain Nolan, a mercenary-like fisherman who will pursue any creature that comes with a big payday. While hunting a great-white shark (hmmm...I wonder where they got that idea...) Nolan witnesses the power of the killer whale and decides that he must capture one. During his hunt, Nolan accidentally kills a pregnant-female killer whale (in a needlessly gross scene) and injures her mate. Of course, this means war, as the male whale begins to relentlessly pursue Nolan and his crew. Nolan seeks the help of local whale expert Rachel Bedford (Charlotte Rampling) and learns useful facts like "killer whales mate for life" and "killer whales are very intelligent". As the whale wreaks havoc on the seaside community, Nolan decides that he must face the creature head-on.
I hate to sound mean, but I honestly don't know who the makers of ORCA thought they were fooling with this trash. Actually, I do know who they were fooling -- the poor saps who fell for this film's hype, thinking that they were going to see another film as good as JAWS. While ORCA may lift some of its story from JAWS, this is a bargain basement version of Spielberg's classic, despite the presence of a name actor like Richard Harris and director Michael Anderson, who was fresh from his success with LOGAN'S RUN.
The truly sad thing about ORCA is that it doesn't seem to be trying very hard to hide its shoddiness. From the outset, it's clear that many of the shots of the whales which are supposed to be taking place at sea were shot in a Sea World-like tank. (I mean, for God's sake, you can see the sides of the pool!) Viewers won't have to wait long for the movie to reach its low point, as at the 8 1/2 minute mark, the whale attacks what is clearly a shark puppet (and knocks it out of the water). It was at that point that I wanted to call Crow and Tom Servo to help me rip this turkey apart. But, ORCA was far from over. We are constantly reminded in the film that whales are intelligent, but this one is a frickin' genius, as he performs feats of sabotage on the harbor which would make Solid Snake jealous. And the special effects never improve, especially the miniature buildings. A movie this dumb should at least offer some good exploitation goodies, but the PG-rated ORCA is fairly tame (save for that awful whale killing...I don't want to know how they did that) and one attack on a leg. The on-screen shenanigans would be easier to stomach if the film had any kind of story, but the script (from writers who would go on to write CUT AND RUN and SCREAMERS respectively) is simply a mish-mash of JAWS and MOBY DICK and offers no character development. (We learn that Nolan is Irish and that his boat isn't paid for and that's about it). ORCA may have been distributed by a major studio and have some recognizable actors, but this is simply another Italian rip-off of a successful American film (complete with unmotivated zooms!)...and it doesn't even offer the sex and violence that these films are known for.
ORCA swims onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Given this film's age and origins, the picture looks pretty good. The image is sharp and shows very little grain, although there are some noticeable black and white spots from the source print. The image is a little dark, but the colors look good and the picture has a nice amount of depth. Artifacting is kept to a minimum and the flesh tones look realistic. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital mono audio track which provides clear dialogue and strong musical cues, courtesy of Ennio Morricone. There are no extras on this DVD, and the front cover art is very generic, eschewing the original bombastic one-sheet.
No points were allowed because there is no extras on the disc.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©