Director: Michael Anderson
Stars: Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Will Sampson
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
After 1975 everyone want a slice of that sweet, sweet pie that Jaws had baked up. Suddenly there were a bunch killer animal flicks. Either they were “Jaws on land” movies like Grizzly or the truly weird Blood Beach, or more often than not they were other aquatic terrors like Piranha, Tentacles, The Last Shark, Mako: the Jaws of Death, and on and on they went. One of the earlier ones was also one of the best: 1977’s Orca, about a killer whale…uhm…killing people. Chances are you’ve heard of this one, if not already seen it, so you know if it’s your cup o’ tea or not. If it is, rejoice, because Umbrella Entertainment just brought out a new, region-free Blu-ray of it and it looks amazing. Easily the best this movie has ever looked. If you haven’t seen this one, keep on reading and let’s jump right into the jaws of Orca, the killer whale.
Richard Harris plays the captain of a ship that catches live sea animals for fun and profit. He goes after a great white shark but then an orca whale ends up killing the shark, no doubt a not-so-subtle jab at Jaws regarding which fishy is more badass. After seeing that display of awesomeness, Harris decided to go after an orca, but he mistakenly catches a pregnant momma orca and in the process not only kills her but also her baby. Daddy orca, the titular Orca of the film, sees the whole thing and vows revenge. Literally. He burns Harris’ visage into his whale mind, tracks him down to his home port, and starts to terrorize the little fishing village by sinking everyone’s boat but his, and also, somehow, causing a huge explosion that burns most of the town to the ground. That’s one smart whale. (Yes, I know that killer whales are actually dolphins. Please no comments pointing that out.) This campaign of revenge and terror is all to force Harris back out to sea for some one-on-one confrontation between man and Orca.
Orca has some ridiculous parts, some awesome fish attack parts, and some surprisingly well-acted and emotional parts. The scene of the baby whale dying always makes my wife cry. It is a Jaws rip-off, but it is a good one, with real actors doing good work and more-than-solid direction. It has more than a few memorable scenes with Bo Derek in her first film role and a cool conclusion to her character.
Let’s get to the extras that Umbrella has given us for this new Blu-ray release. There is an audio commentary with film historian Lee Gambin that, while a little dry, was pretty informative about the history and making of the movie and the impact it had on the culture. Then there is a featurette where Martha De Laurentiis shares her thoughts and feelings about the movie her late husband, the famous and infamous Dino, produced. Sadly this only runs for five minutes as I would have liked to have had more from her. Then last and maybe least is the theatrical trailer. And that’s it. So this new release isn’t exactly bare bones, but it’s not what I would call jam-packed, either.
Orca is a great little movie. It’s not as well-made or as ground-breaking as Jaws, but it’s more than good enough to stand on its own two flippers. Stars Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling are more than capable of carrying this movie and the titular animal sure is a lot more sympathetic than old Bruce in Spielberg’s film. So if you love when animals attack movies, give Orca a try if you haven’t already. Consider it well recommended.