Orca (1977)

ORCA (1977)
Article 3241 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-4-2010
Posting Date: 6-29-2010
Directed by Michael Anderson
Featuring Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Will Sampson
Country: USA
What it is: JAWS-inspired fish story

When a captain kills a pregnant killer whale and her unborn child, he becomes the target of the vengeance-driven mate of the one he killed.

This is perhaps the most famous of the various ripoffs that came in the wake of JAWS. To its credit, it takes a different tack on the subject; here, we’re obviously supposed to sympathize with the wronged killer whale rather than just see it as an object of terror. It also doesn’t try to make a villain of the captain, and attempts to provide some parallels between the captain’s life and that of the killer whale’s. Still, in order to pull this kind of story off, you need a strong script, and that’s just what this movie lacks. One of the problems is that it makes the killer whale just too damn clever; he seems to know just what to do to cause the most damage, and he seems to know where everyone is at every moment. Yes, I can understand the desire to anthropomorphize the beast, but here it approaches silliness. Furthermore, it’s so obsessed with its various themes (the intelligence of the killer whales, the relationship between the captain and the killer whale, the possibility that this may be some mystical destiny) that it fails to really develop the characters and the situation. I noticed that though I found the movie watchable enough (thanks in part to some good performances), I never really felt much tension or fear, and that’s because I never felt this was happening to real characters in a real world. Nevertheless, despite its flaws, I’ve always liked the movie a little. But I do have a serious issue with any movie that has the good sense to cast Keenan Wynn and the bad sense to kill him off in the first reel.

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