ORCA THE KILLER WHALE (1977) (PG)
Dir. Michael Anderson
When an ambitious fisherman, Captain Nolan (Richard Harris), has an encounter with an orca at sea, he becomes convinced he and his crew can capture one to sell. Against the protests of whale expert Rachel Bedford (Charlotte Rampling), Captain Nolan and his shipmates depart in search of their latest cash cow. Having tracked a pod of orcas, Nolan attempts his capture, but only succeeds in clipping the dorsal fin of a male orca, and fatally wounding its pregnant mate.
Dejected and horrified by his own behavior, Nolan and company return to port whilst defending against the male orca's grief-ridden attacks on his ship and crew. Meanwhile, the orca has followed their trek back to their small town, and begins to wreak havoc on the town's fishing economy, as not only does the orca drive away the fish, but begins destroying their infrastructure as well.
The townspeople are notably angry with Captain Nolan for the orca's attacks, and the Captain is struggling with his own depression and tragic past. With public pressure surmounting and with a bit of coaxing from the poorly-dubbed Umilak (Will Sampson), Nolan sets sail to finally confront the murderous whale.
Orca the Killer Whale has oft not been lumped in with the other Jaws knockoffs that began to appear in the latter half of the seventies. Unlike movies like Grizzly, however, Orca really isn't a Jaws retread, rather it is more of a modern retelling of Moby Dick. Nolan is very much an Ahab-type whose slow decline into madness is equaled only by the grieving whale he's hunting. Although much of the pseudoscience of the movie begs for nitpicking (orcas are not monogamous animals, for one), these minor flaws are outshined by the lush cinematography, the psychological narrative and an excellent performance by Richard Harris. It is by no means a perfect movie, and cannot compare with the almighty aquatic horror of Jaws, but it is an entertaining, and at times, a surprisingly grim watch. Oh, and Bo Derek is in this film for about five minutes.
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