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Orca is the greatest movie of all time. I'm sure most people say that
favorite movie is the greatest of all time, but they are all
Orca brings together some of the finest actors. Richard Harris, who unfortunately will be remembered for some trivial movie about a boy wizard and a throwaway musical about King Arthur, does his finest work in Orca. His portrayal of Captain Nolan, an emotionally torn fisherman coming to terms with the fact the marine animals have feelings, deserved the Oscar. Did he win? No, that is not a strike against this fine film. Charlotte Rampling brings texture to the marine biologist in love with a whale baby killer. The romance between the two is subtle. While most modern Hollywood movies would just throw in a gratuitous sex scene, Rampling accomplishes just as much with confused looks and having her shirt zipped down in one scene. Will Sampson, who is sadly better known for some movie about flying over a cuckoo's nest, also does a fantastic job of playing the Native American guy who says cryptic things and has ice fall on him. Robert Carradine, famous for Revenge of the Nerds, shows great range in not being around much and then being eaten by the whale. Bo Derek never equaled her success in this film elsewhere. I really believed her leg was bit off. She sold me.
The effects were great for the time. Many forget what special effects were like in those days, myself included because I was not born yet, but the point remains. The strange fisheye lens used to represent the whales point of view was genius. And I challenge everyone to find a more realistic looking whale fetus in a movie. You can't, you just can't. The dramatic fight between Captain Nolan and the whale could have easily become silly, but it doesn't. The Arctic Circle is accurately represented as a cold place with many iceberg, some of which whales can thwack themselves upon catapulting middle-aged Irishmen forty feet in the air. Keep in mind, also, this was done without the use of computer graphics. Steven Spielberg did not even put the shark in Jaws until over halfway through the film. Why? To hide a machine so fake that I can only assume one of his children made it at camp. The mechanical killer whale in Orca is almost indistinguishable from the stock footage of killer whales continually played throughout the movie.
In 1977, how many directors were brave enough to shoot a killer whale jumping from one side of the boat, eating actor Robert Carradine, and landing on the other side? Just one, Michael Anderson. His bold choices along with screenwriters Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Donati (who both show an above average command of the English languages for native-born Italian speakers) make the film a statement not only about whale hunting and whale forgiveness seeking, but also about humanity. Charlotte Rampling's appeal to Nolan not to go fight the whale just because the whale wants revenge is not just about social protocols of how to make it up to the father of a whale baby you accidentally killed, but also an argument against the death penalty. Will Sampson's pointless death is an indictment of the senseless slaughter of tens of millions of Native Americans. When the whale knocks down Captain Nolan's house without any explanation of this whale became such a genius that he can not only knows to knock down structural supports but also can look up addresses in the phone book, it directly shows how our incursion into the world of nature is two-fold. Robert Carradine's tragic death in the film is social commentary on the probability of being eaten if you stand around on a boat being followed by a crazed killer whale. And probably also something about Vietnam, I assume.
And while most in Hollywood choose not to admit it, many have ripped off Orca. The dead baby scene in Trainspotting is suspiciously reminiscent of the dead whale fetus scene in Orca. The creepy quasi-romance between an intelligent female and a somewhat crazy violent child murderer is directly stolen by George Lucas for Star Wars: Episode II. The use of icebergs is blatantly co-opted by Titanic, and I have never heard James Cameron so much as thank Michael Anderson. And don't even get me started on Free Willy. Orca is a complicated story. If you only enjoy movies with obvious heroes and villains, this is not for you. The characters are conflicted. Very conflicted. Take for instance how the killer whale jumps for joy after biting off Bo Derek's leg. The whale shows both glee in his jumps, but also the pain of having lost his family and never being able to bring them back no matter how hard he fights those who took them from him. Like Batman. You see, the only thing black and white in this movie is the killer whale itself. While Orca does not now get the respect it deserves, in time people will realize its genius. Just as people did not understand gravity or continental drift, in time they will come to recognize Orca as the greatest cinematic achievement of all time.
"ORCA" must be one of the most undervalued films ever made.Always regarded as a lame rip-off of "JAWS",there are few who champion its cause.The truth is that "ORCA" has a truly mythic feel about man versus beast that "JAWS" doesn't even come close to."ORCA" is a vastly superior film and its grim and relentless story of a whale pursuing the killer of its mate until it has him trapped on an ice floe is grippingly told.The score by Ennio Morricone is as hauntingly evocative as anything composed for the cinema. Richard Harris gives one of his finest performances as he reigns in his normal histrionics to portray a man who defies the gods themselves to face a date with destiny which can only have one outcome.The rest of the performances hardly matter although Bo Derek scores points over the ever lifeless Charlotte Rampling in one of only two female roles.The opening and closing scenes of whales swimming the oceans are touching in a way difficult to explain but the most haunting image in this fine movie is the shot we see of Harris as he leaves the port on board his boat for a final battle with the orca.His face is grave and determined,he knows that his fate is unavoidable and it is this image coupled with the Morricone music that accompanies it that enables journeyman director Michael Anderson to beat Spielberg at his own game.Forget comparisons and judge this remarkable film on its own merits.
I've seen this movie at least a dozen times since it's release. The first time I saw it, I was very young, perhaps 8 or 9, and while I found it upsetting and sad at parts, as an adult I can look back and say it speaks so much more to me than say, "Free Willy." The movie follows the events in a fisherman's life following the capture of a killer whale. On the surface, it can appear grim and gory, but underneath there is a stirring tale about a man who has lost everything he held dear, has given up all feeling because of past events and leads an almost hostile towards life existence and then gradually comes to understand that because he was hurt, does not give him an excuse not to feel. Yes, the premise does dabble in the fantasy world, however the point isn't whether this could happen but the growth of the central character. Not once have I been able to watch this movie and not been moved by it.
Orca is better than your average horror film. It's not a masterpiece , but it offers considerable depth in terms of human values and those values that apply to nature. The Killer whale simply takes revenge against the man(Captain Nolan) Richard Harris, who accidentally killed his mate and aborted fetus. His personal vendetta is taken to great lengths as he prods Nolan into a duel by wreaking havoc on the poor village, thus incensing the townspeople to have the matter absolved. Poor (Nolan) Harris you know that in the look on his dissipated face from the moment he heard the female whale's shriek that he was destined for demise. And we even sympathize with him. Although ignorant and callous he still evokes enough charm and humility to espouse our curiosity. However, our initial sympathy is directed towards the Orca, because of his tragic loss due to man's greed and ignorance. And the funeral scene is probably the most touching and allegoric animal scene ever filmed since 'Old Yeller'. It's sad, beautiful, and eerie. But unfortunately Orca has no forgiveness in his aquatic heart and as Nolan progressively shows more remorse and guilt due to the causation of his action, Orca persists in terrorizing and confronting his enemy. I was hoping for a more peaceful resolution, but this film takes the darker journey. Orca should not be labeled as a Jaws ripoff at all. The reason people say that is because it took place in the same era. But Orca is actually a better movie than "Jaws". "Orca" emotes more sympathy and personifies the strife between beast and man, resulting from our injustice toward beast. It expresses the values we consider for nature and creates a heirarchal balance on how we judge man and beast. Unfortunately, the characters are not very likable. It's an admiral film that attempts to promote human feelings and sadness in a film that could have easily fallen into the "Nature goes amok" genre, e.g. "Jaws", "Grizzly", "The Day of the Animals", "Prophecy", etc. Kudos to Richard Harris for bringing deeper dimensions to his character that could have easily been played on a one- note by a less experienced actor. Harris brings forth his anguish, guilt, personal pain and fears in a role that enhanced the meaning of the film.
A somewhat cheesy tale of man versus beast. Leave your sad pills alone, because this film will do it for you. The photography is perplexing: at times we see troubling "cheap" shots detailing bloody scenes and wounded creatures (reminder: "Jaws" was released two years earlier) but the overall cinematography is captured quite nicely, showing the vast, cold maritime coastal region that provides the both the setting and the mood. The disturbing theme song is unforgettable, as it mimics some of the sad, vocal tones emitted by the orcas themselves. The story line is somewhat juvenile (think "Road Runner" cartoons) but where the film grabs us is that rarely has a "man versus beast" tale been told with such tragic emotion. Most of us are aware of the high intellect of the killer whale, but very few have dared to show their emotional side. Sad, gripping, and difficult to watch, this film's reward is to become more acquainted with these amazing sea mammals.
Well, here's an interesting twist: in this revenge film, it's not a
human but a whale wreaking havoc after a seaman killed its mate and
unborn baby. Orca goes after those responsible.
Yes, it's a bit far-fetched making a whale almost human-like but most revenge films are satisfying so the filmmakers figured, what the heck, let's cash in on the popular theme. It's also the decade of "Jaws," so I guess man-eating sea creatures were "in." Actually, it wasn't 'Jaws," but it wasn't bad, either. It was a pretty interesting film.
Notes on the movie: the scene where the baby comes out of the mother is NOT pleasant to watch......Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling star, but a young Bo Derek is here, too, in a supporting role.
I watched this twice and that was enough.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
1977's "Orca", starring Richard Harris (Gladiator, Harry Potter), is
one of the more difficult films I believe I've ever tried to
categorize. Also, I'm uncertain exactly how to rate it, given that it
stirs up a number of mixed emotions.
"Orca" tells the story of Captain Nolan (Harris), a fisherman who is trying to set himself up for a financial windfall (and thus pay off the mortgage on his boat) by capturing a Great White Shark and selling it to an aquarium. When two divers become involved, the situation nearly leads to tragedy; however, a killer whale intervenes, killing the shark and firing the imagination of Captain Nolan. Enlisting the unwitting aid of a female marine biologist named Rachel Bedford (Charlotte Rampling), Nolan decides to change course and pursue the capture and sale of a killer whale. The capture attempt is a dismal failure. In the process, a male Orca is wounded, its mate is killed, and the female's unborn calf gruesomely miscarries on the deck of Nolan's ship, "Bumpo".
By this time in the film, we've already sat through a crash-course on killer whales, most notably two ideas: 1) killer whales may have an intelligence level on par with man's, and 2) killer whales are vengeful creatures. These ideas, combined with Captain Nolan's unintentional killing of the female whale and her calf, set us up for the main body of the film, which concerns itself with the male Orca doing whatever it can to lure Nolan back to sea for a final confrontation.
Many people seem to feel that "Orca" is a "Jaws" rip-off, and while it may have been made to capitalize on the success of "Jaws", I don't see it as a true rip-off. For one thing, other than the story of a fisherman challenging a powerful animal at sea, "Orca" doesn't really follow the pattern set by "Jaws", and emulated countless times since in lesser films. In "Jaws", a Great White Shark simply shows up in New England waters one day and embarks on a killing spree, leading to the film's climactic hunt for the animal. There is no explanation for the shark's actions save for animal instinct, and while powerful, the shark is not portrayed as intelligent; nor do we feel any sympathy for the animal. True "Jaws" rip-off films merely change the animal in the title role (or not, in the more blatant examples), substitute another location and a different cast, and supply a different ending. See "Tentacles", "Piranha", "Night of the Grizzly", "Kingdom of the Spiders", etc.
"Orca", on the other hand, doesn't truly emulate the pattern of any of these films. The Orca has a reason for its actions, displays intelligent manipulation to get what it wants, and is somewhat sympathetic. For a true comparison to another film, try reversing the plot elements of "Moby Dick". With a few tweaks, you basically get "Orca". In fact, as opposed to being a rip-off, I'd argue that "Orca" is a rather unique film. It's a revenge story with an animal in the lead, and I don't believe I've ever seen another example of that.
As for the film in terms of production, I wouldn't say that "Orca" is an awful film, but it certainly tries to be more than what it ultimately becomes, and thus may seem worse than it is. I enjoy watching it myself, but I hesitate to recommend it to others.
Richard Harris is a surprisingly complex Nolan. He doesn't always react as you'd expect him to, and thus rises above the one-dimensional range this role could easily have been for him. Charlotte Rampling plays a cool-headed intellectual type who doesn't know whether to love Nolan or hate him, so she settles for something in between. Her acting isn't the most inspired, but it's adequate to what she's asked to do here. She could be called wooden, I suppose, but most cool-headed intellectuals seem that way in real life. Admittedly, the rest of the cast, with the exception of Will Sampson as Umilak, are display material. Bo Derek is very attractive, but looking simultaneously attractive and helpless is really all she's asked to do here.
The best aspects of "Orca" are its rich photography and Ennio Morricone's mournfully haunting score. Both are absolutely beautiful. The film is a viewing and listening pleasure. Michael Anderson's direction is also quite good. There were a few scenes that appear to have been cut (for time, perhaps), but other than that the flow is very good and the chosen shots work well.
The storyline is "Orca's" weakest point. The idea of a killer whale trying to avenge the death of its mate is workable, but some of the Orca's feats in this film are unintentionally amusing. The dockside fire scene is definitely the most over-the-top of all, as others here have already pointed out; and the Orca signaling to Nolan to follow is probably the runner-up, at least for me. Some stock aquarium footage also got annoying.
The recent "Orca" DVD release has no extras, but does feature a beautiful transfer and excellent sound. I can understand why they didn't go to too much expense with "Orca", but it would have been nice to at least get a trailer.
Bottom line: Unbelievable storyline, but surprisingly well-made and likable. This may be the best "bad" film I've ever seen.
Rating: 5 out of 10
First off, i saw this film over a decade ago, so don't expect a full autopsy
on how 70's the film was, or the plot holes. Looking back at these reviews,
i must say that my memory of the plot is pretty good. Personally, when i saw
this film I thought it to be pretty intense. The plot was not entirely bad.
Sure it was inplausible that richard harris picked on the one genius killer
whale in the whole atlantic. But am i to believe that non-human animals
don't have emotions that include vengeance? No, i don't believe that at all.
We hairless primates should learn not to ascribe any moderately complex
emotion solely under the category "human".
To me, the real strength of this film was its allegory to the destruction of nature. I don't think it entirely inplausible that the writer wanted to symbolize the strife between man's greed, and the annhilation of this planet's animals and ecosystems. The point could have been, that our own planet at some critical point might strike out at us.
And come on you guys, after watching "JAWS" you want killer animal flicks that conform to modern day science? You're telling me that great whites do, in fact, stalk tourist filled beaches as if they were seal colonies? Now look who's living in the 70's.....
On the surface, this film could be a tacky rip off from Jaws. Both contain sea creatures that causes havoc to small communities and are killers. But the stories are very very different. Orca is by no means as good as Jaws, but if Jaws had never been made, or if it had been released before Jaws then it may of stood a better chance. Orca tugs on the heartstrings. It's a story about the death of a killer whales and the havoc and disaster that one mistake, made by a man, caused to several people. The special effects are good, and the 'fake' whales are very convincing indeed. Some of the acting is a bit hammish but I think Richard Harris and Charlotte Rampling do a good job. I would recommend this film but as long as the viewer can forget about Jaws and see it in it's own right!
Most of the reviews about Orca that I have seen say that, essentially, it
belongs in the garbage can, with an unrealistic plot and terrible acting.
Yet I must confess I quite enjoyed this film. It's been a number of years
since I saw it, and I've actually forgotten most of the violent scenes.
Probably what held much of the attraction for me was the theme of moral
uncertainty which it maintains until the very end.
This is a much more humanely stimulating movie than Jaws. In this film there are no real bad guys, either human or otherwise, and we feel compelled to feel pity for both the orca, and the character Nolan.
The "We are One" song, the music of which features throughout the movie, is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, and the scenes which show the orcas slowly swimming together to this music are quite entrancing.
The chilling scene in which the female orca aborts her unborn foetus is, of course, unforgettable, and it is this scene that begins the tragic theme of the story. This is a different movie altogether from Jaws, and the dramatically different endings of the two films perhaps show this difference most of all.
Watch Orca - you won't regret it.
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