Review: Orca

Blu-ray & DVD: Orca (1977)

Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) is a man who lives his life on the sea after the tragic death of his wife and child by a drunk driver. While hunting sharks to make money, he spears a passing whale and uses the boats crane to bring it on board. The whales mate (the titular ‘Orca’) watches events unfold as the female dangles upside down over the boat. If you were going to show your kids this under the impression that it’ll be like Free Willy, then now would be the time when you would traumatise them for life, as the whale graphically miscarries her whale foetus (which, as we’re told earlier in the movie, at this stage of development closely reveals a human) onto the ships deck, all the while oozing blood from her multiple wounds.

As whales mate for life (another fact established earlier), Orca is naturally pissed off with Nolan and seeks to exact revenge. The narrative is now ‘whale vs human’ in a showdown to the death, and while this may sound a little hokey’ (and indeed contains some ridiculous, though highly entertaining, scenes) there is a sense of pathos which runs throughout.

Often (unfairly in my opinion) compared with Jaws (which was released just 2 years earlier), Orca is grittier, bloodier, and dare I say it…more fun! Before anyone condemns me for that, may I point out that Jaws was THE movie which got me hooked on cinema and is one of the few which I’ve watched well into double figures.

Yes the movie is ridiculous, especially when Orca display Mensa intelligence while destroying a small fishing village, but at no point does it ever get boring. It has characters that you care about, a fantastic action set piece never far away, AND a bloody big whale going on a crazed rampage…what more could you want!?

It is genuinely moving at times, and Richard Harris’ speech about how HE is now the ‘drunk driver’ responsible for the death of a ‘wife and child’ is fantastic. You also get the opportunity to see a young Bo Derek get into a very nasty situation with Orca!

I can not recommend this movie highly enough, especially with the great picture and sound in this release by Umbrella Entertainment. I had an absolute whale of a time watching it (pun fully intended) and it is a movie that’s now marked down as one to watch many more times in the future. Do yourselves a favour and buy this ASAP.


  • Audio commentary by film historian Lee Gambin
  • Moby Dick ala De Laurentis: Martha De Laurentis remembers Orca
  • Theatrical Trailer

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Umbrella Entertainment.