Ring of Bright Water (film)

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Ring of Bright Water
Ring of Bright Water poster.jpg
DVD cover (2004)
Directed by Jack Couffer
Produced by Joseph Strick
Written by Jack Couffer
Bill Travers
Based on Ring of Bright Water
by Gavin Maxwell
Starring Bill Travers
Virginia McKenna
Music by Frank Cordell
Betty Botley
Theme song performed by Val Doonican
Cinematography Wolfgang Suschitzky
Edited by Reginald Mills
Distributed by Cinerama Releasing Corp.
Palomar Pictures International
The Rank Organisation
Release date
  • January 1969 (1969-01)
  • 18 June 1969 (1969-06-18) (New York City)
Running time
107 min.
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $915,000[1]
Box office $2,400,000[1]

Ring of Bright Water is a 1969 British-American feature film starring Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. It is a story about a Londoner and his pet otter living on the Scottish coast. The story is fictional, but is adapted from the 1960 autobiographical book of the same name by Gavin Maxwell.[2] It featured the stars of Born Free, another movie about a close relationship between humans and a wild animal. The film has been released to VHS (1981) and to DVD (2002).[3][4]


Graham Merrill (Bill Travers) passes a pet shop on his daily walks about London and takes an interest in an otter (specifically, a male river otter) in the window, eventually buying and naming the animal Mij. The otter wreaks havoc in his small apartment and together they leave London for a rustic cottage overlooking the sea on the west coast of Scotland. There they live as beachcombers and make the acquaintance of Dr. Mary (Virginia McKenna) from the nearby village, and her dog Johnny. Mij and Johnny play in the water and bound across the fields together.

Mij's inquisitive and adventurous nature leads him some distance from the cottage to a female otter with whom he spends the day. Ignorant of danger, he is caught in a net and nearly killed. The humans find him and help him recover. Graham spends a significant amount of time drawing Mij but realises that to show the true agility of the otter he must draw it underwater. He builds a large tank out of old windows so that he can do this.

Not long after, Merrill goes to London to look after some affairs and leaves Mary in charge of Mij. While being exercised afield, Mij is killed by a ditchdigger, who did not realize he was a pet. Merrill returns and is crushed to discover the death of his beloved otter. Some time later, Merrill and Mary are surprised by a trio of otter youngsters, accompanied by their mother otter, approaching the cottage. He happily realizes they are Mij's mate and their children who have come to play in their father's swimming pool.

Graham had been trying to write a novel on the Marsh Arabs for years; however, after seeing the baby otters playing, he takes pen and paper and begins to write about Mij and what the otter has taught him about himself.

Cast and characters[edit]


Part of the film was shot in Ellenabeich on the Isle of Seil.

Reception and critical response[edit]

The film earned rentals of USD$1 million in North America and USD$1.4 million in other countries. After all costs were deducted it recorded an overall loss of USD$615,000.[1]

The National Board of Review placed Ring of Bright Water on its list of the Top Ten Films for 1969.[6] In 2005, The Daily Telegraph called it "one of the best-loved British films of all time."[7]

Comic book[edit]

Dell Comics published a comic book adaptation of the film drawn by Jack Sparling in October 1969.[8]


The 1995 documentary film Echoes of Camusfearna contains previously unseen footage of Gavin Maxwell with the otters and is introduced and narrated by Virginia McKenna. It was released to DVD in 2007.[9]

Home media[edit]

The film was released as a region 2 DVD in 2002,[4] and as a region 1 DVD in 2004 (see cover art).[10] It had been released as a VHS tape in 1981 and 1991.[3][11]


  1. ^ a b c "ABC's 5 Years of Film Production Profits & Losses". Variety. Los Angeles. 31 May 1973. p. 3. 
  2. ^ Maxwell, Gavin (1960). Ring of Bright Water. Illustrated by Peter Scott, Michael Ayrton and Robin McEwen. London: Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd.  Paperback reissue: (1984) ISBN 0-14-003923-6.
  3. ^ a b Ring of Bright Water (VHS). Palomar Pictures International. 1981. OCLC 7620649. 
  4. ^ a b Ring of Bright Water (DVD). Fremantle. 2002. 
  5. ^ "Mabel Beecham". Price County Review. Ashland, Wisconsin: APG Media of Wisconsin. 8 July 2010. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. She and her family spent half a year in Scotland while she managed the otter for the movie Ring of Bright Water. 
  6. ^ "1969 Award Winners". New York City: National Board of Review. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  7. ^ Hastings, Chris (11 September 2005). "The dark love behind A Ring of Bright Water". London: The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 28 May 2014. 
  8. ^ Ring of Bright Water at the Grand Comics Database
  9. ^ McKenna, Virginia. Echoes of Camusfearna (DVD). Beckmann. ISBN 9780792860242. OCLC 754475575. 
  10. ^ Ring of Bright Water (DVD). MGM Studios. 2004. ISBN 9780792860242. OCLC 54884363. 
  11. ^ Ring of Bright Water (VHS). MGM Studios. 1991. OCLC 24178122. 

External links[edit]