Orca – The Killer Whale (1977) – By Mark Hite

I’m
sure many of you have gone to Sea World and marveled at the killer
whales. Maybe you saw Free Willy and were inspired to put a huge
swimming pool in your back yard for a new pet. You may want to rethink
that because according to the 1977 movie Orca, they can be quite testy.

The movie starts off with two whales swimming along happily in the deep
blue sea. Shortly thereafter we are introduced to the movie’s main
players. Captain Nolan, played by the late Richard Harris, is out with
his crew looking to capture a great white shark. While chasing it they
come across a diving team led by ocean life expert Rachel Beford
(Charlotte Rampling). Her colleague almost becomes lunch for the shark
but is saved when a killer whale smashes into the predator.

Witnessing this, Nolan becomes fascinated with the idea capturing a
live orca. Rampling informs him of how mysterious and brilliant the
creature is and how whales can be vengeful. Nolan also finds out that
whales pick only one mate. Ignoring all of this, Nolan heads out on the
open sea on a mission to capture a live male orca.

This goes horribly wrong when he comes upon a group of whales. He
shoots nicking the male and hits his mate instead. Immediately the
female starts screeching and heads for the boat. She slices her stomach
open on the boat’s prop and shortly after is hauled aboard. In a
disturbing scene, a small whale fetus falls out of the mother’s stomach
on to the deck. Nolan immediately orders that it be washed over the
side. All of this happens under the male orca’s watchful eye. While
hauling the female in the male orca attacks the boat almost sinking it.
Nolan’s cuts the female free but her wounds are to much and she dies.
Quickly the film switches gears focusing on the male’s quest for
revenge.

Where many could write this off as a Jaws rip off, nothing could be
further from the truth. The cast pull things together nicely and gives
the film its own identity. Harris offers up a great performance as
Nolan and the supporting actors do a phenomenal job as well. Also
featured in the film is the late Will Sampson (Poltergeist II) as a
tribesman among others. Not to be missed is a young Bo Derek in a minor
role as one of Nolan’s shipmates. This is before she went on to one of
her most famous roles with Dudley Moore in “10".

The beauty of this film is that all the main characters, even the orca,
have a great deal of depth. At first the viewer may want to hate Nolan
for his sins against nature. However instead of taking the cold villian
route, the film expresses that he carries an extreme guilt for what he
has done. It turns out that him and the whale have much more in common
then we see at first. Nolan as well had a wife who was pregnant and
killed by a drunk driver.

On the contrary, most viewers can feel the pain of the male orca.
Although he lives in the sea, the same motives drive him such as love
and hate. All of these themes add a wonderful sentiment to the film
making us rethink and look deeper into nature’s mysteries.