The Day of the Dolphin (1973)

Article 3336 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-16-2010
Posting Date: 10-2-2010
Directed by Mike Nichols
Featuring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Paul Sorvino
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction thriller/drama

A scientist has learned to teach a dolphin how to talk, and is trying to keep the discovery a secret to keep his test subject from becoming the sensation of a media circus. Unfortunately, he encounters resistance from a nosy writer who blackmails his way onto the island where the experiments are conducted, and also from the company who is financing the experiments. Little does he know that he has even more to worry about…

You know, I try to keep my plot descriptions from giving away too much of the story, but sometimes I feel that it’s a lost cause, especially when every other plot description I’ve encountered of the movie and the actual tagline used in the advertising give away a plot point that doesn’t appear until eighty percent of the movie is over. Granted, I understand the logic of giving away that plot point; the advertising people have to try to sell the movie in the way they think will bring in the most viewers, and emphasizing the thriller aspects of this movie no doubt seemed like the best way to go about it. Still, I can imagine that early viewers, drawn by he advertising, might find the movie wastes an awful lot of time before it gets down to the meat of the story, and word of mouth would probably suffice to keep the movie from being a hit; it was a box office failure. But then, the thriller aspect of the story isn’t really the heart of the matter here; what really seems to matter to the makers of the film is the emotional bond that results between the scientist and the dolphin, and the thriller aspects of the story largely exist to drive the central characters into making some very difficult decisions concerning their relationships. Watch it for the thrills and you’ll be disappointed. Watch it for the emotional resonance and you’ll find it a lot more powerful. Good performances from George C. Scott, Paul Sorvino and Fritz Weaver help the movie quite a bit.

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