From The Deep: Orca the Killer Whale (1977) - Reviewed

After the release of Jaws we all know the horror landscape changed for the better part of a decade. Sharks, name it and the animal was out to kill us all. 

Orca came about because of that trend but at the same time, it broke from that trend in the most dramatic of ways. Unlike most of the films of animals as killers genre, Orca had a remarkable cast. With the likes of Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Bo Derek (in her film debut) and Robert Carradine among others. So strangely, the acting is excellent. The story benefits greatly from them being a part of it.

  Unlike Jaws and the like, the Orca is not the bad guy. He's not an unstoppable killing machine hungry for human flesh, but he is given animus and motivation. This is the first time in these movies where the hunters are the villains. They are fully in the wrong and movie makes it painfully clear (if you're like me and seeing animals suffer has a bigger impact than seeing humans suffer, well this one is a gut punch). Truly, I spent the movie rooting for the whale (the humans be damned) except for maybe Charlotte Rampling who is the voice of reason and wisdom in the film. Richard Harris turns in a masterful turn as the captain and it's fun to watch his character arc as he changes dramatically from the beginning.

I'm a huge fan of special effects and this has some of the best of the era. The whale was so believable that Greenpeace stopped the truck carrying the animatronic whale to the location because they thought an actual Orca was being moved in a flatbed on a highway, kind of a cool little thing to happen if you're a model maker. 

The cinematography is up to the task effectively telling a story that is so much more than the typical fare of the sub-genre. This isn't a Corman film and it shows. It has that big budget sheen to it and uses it to its best advantage. The sound design is effective enough to rip your guts out when it needs to then pick you up and get you ready for the fight. I can't say it's Oscar worthy but it's damn well done for a genre that was mostly considered quick grabs to take advantage while the iron was hot.

I'm going to go out on a ledge here and people are going to have fun with it, I think this movie is better than Jaws. It's more engaging, there is more meat on the bone, the plot is more interesting to me in it's holding up a mirror to us and asking us what separates us from the other mammals. I'd have to say this is a must watch especially if you're a fan of the genre.

-Trevor West