Plot: Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) is a grizzled sea veteran who has seen all the open water has to offer, or so he thinks. His latest assignment should also be his last, as he has been promised a sizable payment in exchange for the capture of a killer whale. The whale is needed for important research and once he turns over the capture, he will be able to relax and enjoy his retirement. An extensive tracking expedition finally leads him to his target, but things take an unexpected turn when his harpoon strikes a pregnant whale and kills the animal. The dead whale’s mate goes into a frenzy when this happens and engages a path of destruction that threatens the entire area, but takes aim at Nolan, as if it was a personal vendetta.
Entertainment Value: In the wake of Jaws, all manner of “when animals attack” movies flooded the market and Orca was in that tidal wave of cinema. The premise is similar and clearly designed to hook some of that audience, but Orca is not just a knock off and has more to offer than most Jaws inspired pictures. I think genre fans will appreciate all the killer whale mayhem on showcase and the movie does deliver on that front, but the story has some decent depth as well. I appreciate that Orca makes an effort to have the animal’s wrath make sense and feel believable, though amplified to ensure it rises to genre tropes. This is not some random animal attack or a movie that demonizes the wild animals involved, but a fairly thoughtful narrative at times and a more deliberate effort than most in the genre. But Orca also proves to be a wild, fun experience as well and hits all the usual elements you’d expect from a wild animal on the warpath flick. A good pace, good character development, and some tense, effective atmosphere also ensure the movie delivers entertainment. So if you’re a fan of the nature gone amok genre, Orca is one you should have in your collection.
No nakedness. There is some bloodshed, as killer whales attack sharks, people attack killer whales, and killer whales attack people, so a nice blend of nature’s brutality on showcase here. While this is more deliberate and grounded than most in the genre, bursts of violence and destruction are present. So expect some fun set pieces that have orca related mayhem and that means damaged properties and of course, you gotta have limbs chomped off. As I said, the violence isn’t as rampant and over the top as some of Orca’s peers, but there’s still carnage and demolition. The dialogue is more than solid, with the lone craziness coming from Captain Nolan, who tends to be dramatic and Richard Harris’ performance backs that up. Harris is great here as the salty captain, while Charlotte Rampling, Robert Carradine, Keenan Wynn, and Bo Derek round out the main cast. As for general insanity, the movie is more grounded than most, but between the killer whale chaos and Captain Nolan’s sea soaked persona, Orca still delivers some wackiness.
Overall Insanity: 3/10
The Disc: Umbrella Entertainment sails the seas of Orca with a rock solid HD release, with a clean print and impressive detail. I also appreciated that the image has the natural texture and never looks processed, as often happens. A nice improvement over the previous DVD editions. The extras include a film historian commentary track that shares trivia about the eco-horror genre, an interview with Martha De Laurentiis, and the film’s theatrical trailer.