Orca (1977)

orca poster 1977 movie
3.5 Overall Score
Story: 2/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 5/10

Some decent looking scenes, fun if you grew up with it

Dull storyline, too close to Jaws

Movie Info

Movie Name: Orca

Studio:  Dino De Laurentiis Company

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s):  July 15, 1977 (Premiere)/July 22, 1977

MPAA Rating: PG

orca killer whale eye

Yeah…he sees you too

Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) learns of the high payout for a killer whale and decides to attempt to capture one.  When he mortally wounds a pregnant female, Noland finds the whale is out for revenge.  With razor-focus, the whale is beginning to kill and push Noland into a confrontation, but a marine biologist named Rachel Bedford (Charlotte Rampling) tries to convince Nolan otherwise.

Directed by Michael Anderson, Orca is a “when animals attack” horror movie.  The film was released to negative reviews, but it has gained a small cult following over the years.

Orca has a soft spot for me.  Not only are Orca posters all over the backs of comic books from a great period in comic book history, but we had a taped copy of Orca from my aunt.  I watched Orca multiple times (I’m sure more than I’ve seen Jaws), and though Orca is not very good and a Jaws rip-off, it still is a fun watch.

orca killer whale fetus

As traumatizing as seeing a killer whale “killed”, this nasty killer whale fetus is worse

Orca has all the pacing of Jaws but is missing a lot of the redeemable qualities.  The story kind of moves at a snail’s pace, and it seems to have had the idea of “let’s copy Jaws” without much of a plan on how to do it.  The movie is filled with the overly smart whale leading people into the ocean where it is king.  It is a bit more Moby Dick and Ahab driven than Jaws with the focus on the Nolan character, but I do kind of like the ending on the ice scene which scared me as a kid.

The movie does have a great cast.  Richard Harris is a better actor than this movie deserves and the same can be said for Charlotte Rampling.  The underappreciated Will Sampson of course plays the wise native who knows the revenge the whale seeks (but he still weirdly joins them).  Robert Carradine and Keenan Wynn have small roles as celebrity victims of the killer whale.  Bo Derek literally gets her feet wet in her first film role (and breaks a leg in the process).

orca ending killer whale ice

No way this is like a man sliding into the mouth of a great white shark…

The movie both looks good and looks bad.  Some of the cinematography involving the ocean and the ocean town is good, but it is mixed with stock footage and footage of whales from Marineland of the Pacific and Marine World Africa in California (Yaka and Nepo).  It is a cold and dismal looking world.

The creators wanted a “villain” smarter than a great white and the orca succeeds.  The whale is overly smart (it can pop gas lines, start fires, and knows real estate around the small town by knowing what ships to sink and houses to tear down to get the town to eject Nolan).  Orca is no great film by any means and the poster’s excitement is never matched…but if you grew up with it, it has some of its own merits.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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