Orca (1977)


Dir. Michael Anderson
Premiered July 15, 1977

Orca is the last of the Jaws clones. And while not the worst of them– a low bar indeed– it’s still quite awful.

At a university in Newfoundland, a fisherman named Nolan (Richard Harris) has begun sitting in on marine biology classes held by Rachel (Charlotte Rampling), as he is intrigued by the supposed superintelligence of the Orca whale. Nolan and Rachel become quite close during her class– no need to show us this, though; Rampling merely narrates everything to spare the film any kind of heavy lifting. Anyway, Rachel’s lectures give Nolan the idea to capture and sell an Orca in order to pay off the mortgage on his boat. But it all goes wrong: rather than capture the male, he injures the pregnant female, who attempts suicide by propeller, miscarries, and eventually dies.

And that’s when this movie goes fucking crazy, because the surviving male orca vows revenge. Obviously he doesn’t talk, but “vow” is absolutely the right word, as he is shown to be capable of plotting revenge, sabotaging buildings, and holding the fishing village hostage until Nolan returns to sea for a fair fight, which he eventually does, taking Rachel, his crew, and the town’s token Native (Will Sampson) on a chase leading all the way to the Arctic.

Orca is basically Jaws: the Revenge meets Free Willy, but not as compellingly ridiculous as that sounds– though it makes Jaws: the Revenge all the worse for coming out ten years later. This is an oddly subdued film. And the theme song at the end, written by Ennio Moriccone of all people, is atrocious.

How Did It Do?
Orca grossed $14.7 million against a $6 million budget. Critics hated it. 15%. Compared it to Jaws. Yadda yadda yadda. Can I watch something interesting?

Next Time: The Hills Have Eyes


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