Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Anderson|
|Produced by||Luciano Vincenzoni|
|Written by||Luciano Vincenzoni
|Music by||Ennio Morricone|
|Cinematography||J. Barry Herron
|Editing by||John Bloom
Ralph E. Winters
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures
Dino De Laurentiis Company
|Release date(s)||July 22, 1977|
|Running time||92 minutes|
Orca (Aka: Orca: The Killer Whale) is a 1977 horror film directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, starring Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, and Will Sampson. The film was poorly received by critics and audiences alike due in part to its similarities to the film Jaws released two years prior. Upon release the film received only minor theatrical success, but in recent years the film has achieved a cult following among fans of the natural horror sub genre. Richard Harris enjoyed his experiences during filming, and took offence at any comparison between Orca and Jaws.
The movie revolves around the exploits of Captain Nolan (Harris), an Irish Canadian who catches marine animals in order to pay off the mortgage of his boat, and return to Ireland. Nolan's crew is looking for a great white shark for a local aquarium, but a scientist named Ken (Carradine) is being targeted by the shark. A killer whale comes and kills the shark, subsequently saving Ken. This switches Nolan's target to the killer whale. While Nolan is on the journey with his crew, he tries to capture what he believes to be a male whale, but mistakenly harpoons a pregnant female. She tries to kill herself and is injured by the boat's propellers, but Nolan and his crew get the orca on board, where she subsequently miscarries. The crew hoses the dead fetus overboard as the male looks on screaming.
Later that night, seeking release of his near-dead mate, the male orca tries to sink the ship. One of Nolan's crew members, Novak (Wynn), cuts the female off the ship, but the male leaps and drags him into the sea. The following day, the orca pushes his now dead mate onto shore. Alan Swain (Walker) berates Nolan on his actions after finding the dead whale. Nolan denies responsibility, but Swain and the villagers eventually find out his involvement. The villagers insist that he kill the whale, as its presence is causing the fish vital to the village's economy to migrate.
The orca then terrorizes the village, first by sinking two fishing boats in broad daylight and then by breaking fuel lines at night, which causes a fire and subsequent explosion of the village's fuel reserves.
Dr. Rachel Bedford (Rampling), colleague of Ken and whale expert, shows him how similar whales are to humans and tells Nolan that, "If he [the orca] is like a human, what he wants isn't necessarily what he should have." Nolan confesses to Rachel that he empathises with the whale, as his own wife and unborn child had previously been killed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver.
Nolan promises Rachel not to fight the whale, but the whale attacks his sea-front house, containing an injured crew member of Nolan's, Annie (Derek) within it. The house starts slipping into the sea and the whale bites Annie's leg off. Nolan decides to fight the orca, much to the delight of the villagers, although with Novak dead and Annie maimed for life, he and Paul are now the only crew members left. Dr. Bedford and Ken go with him, as well as a native American man, Jacob Umilak (Sampson), who joins them to share his knowledge.
The crew begins to pursue the whale after it signals Nolan to follow him. Ken is leaning over the side when the whale surfaces and grabs him, killing him in the process. They keep following the whale until they start to reach the Strait of Belle Isle. Paul starts to get into a lifeboat, but the maddened orca knocks Paul out of the boat and drowns him. The next day, the whale shoves an iceberg into the boat and starts to sink it. Nolan manages to harpoon the whale just before he and Dr. Bedford escape from the boat, while Umilak is crushed beneath an avalanche of ice just after sending out an SOS.
Nolan and Dr. Bedford hide in an iceberg, but Nolan slips onto another. The orca separates the icebergs, trapping Nolan. The whale jumps onto the ice, causing it to tilt and send Nolan into the water. The whale lifts Nolan up with his tail and throws him onto another iceberg, killing him. Dr. Bedford looks on in shock as Nolan slips into the water in a cross shape. With his revenge complete, the whale swims under the ice Southward, while a helicopter is seen to rescue Dr. Bedford.
- 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
- Yaka and Nepo as Orca
Producer Luciano Vincenzoni was first assigned to give the film a head start after being called by Dino de Laurentiis in the middle of the night in 1975. Upon admitting that he had watched Jaws, Vincenzoni was instructed by de Laurentiis to "find a fish tougher and more terrible than the great white". Having had little interest in sea life beforehand, Vincenzoni was directed to killer whales by his brother Adriano, who had a personal interest in zoology. Filming took place largely in Newfoundland, Canada during the fishing season. Most filming took place in the town of Petty Harbour, about 15 kilometres south of the capital city, St. John's.
The main orca used for filming was a trained animal from the San Francisco aquarium, though artificial whales of rubber were used also. These models were so lifelike that several animal rights activists blocked the trucks transporting them, confusing them for real orcas. The shark used early in the film was captured by noted shark hunter Ron Taylor. The scenery meant to represent a remote polar region of Labrador was fabricated in Malta by designer Mario Garbuglia. Richard Harris insisted on performing his own stunts in the polar sequences, and nearly died several times doing so.
- Callan, Michael Feeney Richard Harris: Sex, Death & the Movies, Robson, 2004 ISBN 1-86105-766-0]
- "Remembering the Horror of Orca, The Killer Whale!". BloodyDisgusting.
- (Italian) Vincenzoni, Luciano Pane e cinema: il racconto di una vita straordinaria consacrata al mondo del cinema, Gremese Editore, 2005, ISBN 88-8440-391-X