Orca, The Killer Whale finally surfaces on Blu-ray from Aussie distributors Umbrella. We’ve waited a long time for this 1977 Jaws cash-in from Dino De Laurentiis to reach our shores, but sadly, the forty years or so since this movie hit our screens have not been kind.
It’s the tale of a vengeful killer whale who is injured by a fisherman who believes he can make a small fortune by capturing it and selling it to a sea aquarium. This is after the poor whale saves some lives by ramming the great white shark that was bearing down on them with a meal on its mind. (Whether it’s a great white shark or not is up for debate as the stock footage used shows different species from shot to shot.)
The fisherman’s acts lead the whale’s mate to commit suicide by ramming herself repeatedly into the ship’s propeller when they recover her body from the sea, she immediately gives birth to a pup, which dies on the deck, or is stillborn - again, it’s not quite made clear. But all this is seen by Orca, who wants his revenge.
Craftily, he sinks every boat in the harbour leaving only the craft of the guilty fisherman. He attacks and sinks the guy’s house, bites off poor newcomer Bo Derek’s leg leaving her as less than a 10, causes widespread fire and panic and lures the fisherman out to sea for a snowbound final showdown amid the icebergs.
As a nature vs. man film, it falls woefully into substandard ‘B-movie’ category with lacklustre performances all around, especially from Richard Harris as the annoyingly stupid fisherman and Charlotte Rampling overdoing the haughtiness as a scientist trying not to fall for Harris’s idiot redneck. It has to be said, though that the film has a gorgeously haunting score by Ennio Morricone.
The transfer to Blu-ray is good but shows up some pretty poor process shots where whales performing in an aquarium are matted on to the open sea with completely different lighting.
Overall, the film is far-fetched enough to make animal behaviourists weep, making Finding Dory look like a documentary on sea life.
ORCA - THE KILLER WHALE (1977) / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: MICHAEL ANDERSON / SCREENPLAY: LUCIANO VINCENZONI, SERGIO DONATE / STARRING RICHARD HARRIS, CHARLOTTE RAMPLING, KEENAN WYNN, BO DEREK / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW