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Bores the Revenge
on 19 October 2017
As is the way with all things, when something becomes successful others wish to emulate it. With this in mind, the late mega producer Dino De Laurentiis must have woke up one day in the mid '70s to discover some killer shark movie with a stupid name was scarin' up the box office like a boss and decided he too wanted a piece of that aquatic pie... As luck would have it, Arthur Herzog's novel 'Orca' came a floating up his stream and the rest as they say is history.
Embittered 'sharker' Captain Nolan (an excellent Richard Harris) is one mean motor scooter and spends his days hunting large fish for a local aquarium in a small Canadian fishing village. However, when an Orca takes his fancy instead - he harpoons the hapless mammal only to discover 'he' was infact a 'she' and a pregnant one at that. When she subsequently miscarries on his ship, Nolan hoses the dead fetus overboard whilst her mate - the male orca looks on powerless... and in rather upsetting moment, screams in distress. This sets forth a tale of retribution as the male Orca begins a rampage of violence and terror against the islanders, coaxing the disbelieving Nolan out into the ocean where the two meet in a no holds barred battle for survival... and vengeance.
I don't know where to begin with this one. Half of me firmly believes this 1977 effort is a dull 'Jaws' rip off that lumbers from one boring scene to the next, whereas the other (the stupid half) loves the movie - warts 'n all. Sure, its stupid and yes its quite boring - but for me, its central theme of loss overpowers any of its shall we say, less appealing moments. Its quite a sad picture (accentuated by a truly heartbreaking score by Ennio Morricone, which is pure cinema) and that sadness permeates not only the characters, but also the overall aesthetic look - J. Barry Herron and Ted Moore's cinematography is murky, never allowing the sun to truly break through. Director Michael Anderson ('Logan's Run', 'The Dam Busters' and 'Around the World in 80 Days') comes from a fine pedigree and knows how to shoot, but the screenplay by Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Donati never fully takes flight - with the adventure aspect so wonderfully realised in 'Jaws' (and to a lesser extent in 'Piranha') taking a back seat to people crippled by loss and sadness... Thankfully, lead Richard Harris creates an actual character that you believe in and [SPOILERS] when he confesses his empathy with the whale as his own wife and unborn child had previously been killed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver - the film reveals itself to be something other than a simple nature run amok type film.
Paramount's US Region 1 release sports an okay transfer with vibrant audio, yet no extra features. As I said, I'm not sure I can make a true case for this movie as on the surface it doesn't deliver and goes on way too long going nowhere... yet somewhere beneath its 'Jaws-ripoffery', lies a soulful work that operates on a number of levels with a finely tuned lead performance from Harris and a haunting story that has always stuck with me... and probably always will. With that, I have no option but to recommend the film. I think.