By Christopher Null
Jaws may have had a profound effect at the beaches, sending vacationers out of the water in fear of their lives... but it had the opposite effect for the hack filmmakers of the world, sending them in to the water to make cheap knockoffs.
In addition to the Jaws sequels, Orca stands at the very nadir of these "nature's killers from the sea." In its opening scenes, Orca tries to tell us that Jaws was a wuss: A killer whale smashes into a great white shark, sending him shooting 20 feet into the sky and devouring him in a foaming mess of blood. Ooh, that killer whale's one to be reckoned with, ain't he?
Captain Nolan (Richard Harris in a shameful role) doesn't much care. He wants to capture a whale for an aquarium, which will pay a quarter of a million dollars for him. Only a few minutes pass before he's shot a whale with a harpoon, killing her and their unboard whale child (a rubber prop which plops to the deck in one of the most laughable parts of the film). Nolan doesn't get his quarter million, and he gains a nemesis too: The whale's mate, who immediately goes on a rampage of smashing boats, smashing pilings, and destroying the lives of the village where Nolan has been working. The implication: Orca wants the villagers to give up Nolan and send him out to sea.
Orca posits killer whales as vengeful and hyper-intelligent, just like the whale hunter Nolan. So who's the villain here? The guy that killed the whale's mate and kid or the one that wants revenge? Don't expect anything so interesting as a morality play between the two characters; what we're left with is Charlotte Rampling as the voice of reason, explaining the mind of the whale and assuring Nolan he has no chance if he ever goes on the water again.
What we end up with is a sloppy mess from the director of Logan's Run, a collection of random scenes of violence, cut together haphazardly with what appears to be Jacques Cousteau outtakes. Bo Derek drinks a bottle of Meteus wine before the whale bites off her leg. The Orca leaps through the air repeatedly, taunting all around. The special effects are beyond awful. In the end you'll be begging for the Orca to eat everyone involved with this production.
Aka Orca: The Killer Whale.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 22nd July 1977
Box Office Worldwide: $14.7M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica
Rotten Tomatoes: 15%
Fresh: 2 Rotten: 11
Cast & Crew
Starring: Richard Harris as Captain Nolan, Charlotte Rampling as Rachel Bedford, Will Sampson as Umilak, Bo Derek as Annie, Keenan Wynn as Novak, Robert Carradine as Ken, Scott Walker as Al Swain, Peter Hooten as Paul, Wayne Heffley as Priester, Vincent Gentile as Gas Station Attendant, Don Barry as Dock Worker