Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 11th, 2018
Theatrical Release Date: USA / Netherlands / Italy, 1977
Director: Michael Anderson
Writers: Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Donati
Cast: Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Will Sampson, Bo Derek, Keenan Wynn, Robert Carradine
BluRay released: December 6th, 2017
Approximate running times: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: M (Australia)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Mono English
BluRay Release: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.99
Orca was directed by Michael Anderson whose other notable films include, Around the World in 80 Days, The Wreck of the Mary Deare and Logan’s Run. Key collaborators on Orca include, screenwriters Luciano Vincenzoni (The Mercenary, Duck, You Sucker) and Sergio Donati (The Big Gundown, Once Upon a Time in the West), cinematographer Ted Moore (The Trials of Oscar Wilde, A Man for All Seasons) and legendary composer Ennio Morricone.
Successful films have always spanned imitators and in the mid-1970’s the box office phenomena Jaws, spawned the Eco-horror film sub-genre. And though many of these type of films, have gone on too obtain a cult status. Most notably films like, Grizzly, Kingdom of the Spiders, Day of the Animals and Piranha. There are handful of diamonds in rough, that are not as celebrated as those aforementioned films. Case in point, Michael Anderson’s Orca.
Content wise, though Orca has all the ingredients that we have come to expect from an Eco-horror film. The end result is a film, that takes on a much more serious tone, than other Eco-horror themed films. And nowhere is this more evident, than how this film portrays the whale. Instead of following the all too familiar approach of portraying the animal that has been offended by man, as strictly a killing machine. This film strengthens the pathos of the whale by humanizing its loss.
From a production stand point, this film achieves all of its goals. With the visuals doing a superb job reinforcing the mounting tension. Standout moments visually include, the scene where the hunter kills the whales mate and unborn child. Other standout moments include, a scene where the whale attacks a house by the sea that the hunter is staying at by ramming its wood beam’s and the film’s finale, which provides an extremely satisfying coda to the events that have just unfolded.
Performance wise, the cast are all very good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance being the killer whale and Richard Harris (This Sporting Life, Camelot) in the role of Captain Nolan, the hunter who has become the prey. Other notable cast members include, Bo Derek (10), Robert Carradine (Massacre At Central High, Revenge of the Nerds), Keenan Wynn (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Pretty Maids All in a Row) and Charlotte Rampling (Zardoz, Swimming Pool) in the role of a marine biologist named Rachel Bedford, who joins Captain Nolan in his head on collision with a killer whale.
Orca comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The source used for this transfer is in very good shape and any print related debris is very minimal. Colors and flesh tones look natural, details look crisp and black levels remain consistently strong throughout. It should be noted that some of the underwater scenes look softer, then the bulk of this film’s transfer.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and DTS-HD mono mix in English. Both audio mixes are in great shape, dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and range wise, the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented. And when it comes to Ennio Morricone’s excellent score, is sounds appropriately robust. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a reversible cover art, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 40 seconds), an interview with Martha De Laurentiis titled Moby Dick ala De Laurentiis (4 minutes 56 seconds) and an audio commentary with film historian Lee Gambin.
Topics discussed in the interview with Martha De Laurentiis include, Dino De Laurentiis’s creative process, the origins of Orca and the cast.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, animal / environmental themed horror films, how the film was inspired by Moby Dick and Jaws, Ennio Morricone / the score, the visuals / underwater photography, the cast, locations, special effects / animatronic whales, other production related topics and his thoughts about the film.
Overall Orca gets a first-rate release from Umbrella Entertainment.