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Directed by Michael Anderson
Produced by Luciano Vincenzoni
Written by Luciano Vincenzoni
Sergio Donati
Robert Towne
Starring Richard Harris
Charlotte Rampling
Will Sampson
Bo Derek
Keenan Wynn
Robert Carradine
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography J. Barry Herron
Ted Moore
Editing by John Bloom
Marion Rothman
Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Dino De Laurentiis Company
Release date(s) July 22, 1977 (USA)
Running time 92 min.
Language English
Budget $6 million[1]
Gross revenue $14,717,854 (USA)

Orca is a 1977 horror film directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Dino De Laurentiis and starring Richard Harris, Will Sampson and Charlotte Rampling.



Producer Luciano Vincenzoni was first assigned to give the film a head start after being called by Dino de Laurentiis in the middle of the night in 1975. Upon admitting that he had watched Jaws, Vincenzoni was instructed by de Laurentiis to "find a fish tougher and more terrible than the great white". Having had little interest in sea life beforehand, Vincenzoni was directed to killer whales by his brother Adriano, who had a personal interest in zoology. Filming took place largely in Terranova during the fishing season. The main orca used for filming was a trained animal from the San Francisco aquarium, though artificial whales of rubber were used also. These models were so lifelike that several animal rights activists blocked the trucks transporting them, confusing them for real orcas. The shark used early in the film was captured by noted shark hunter Ron Tylor. The scenery meant to represent a remote polar region of Labrador was fabricated in Malta by architect Mario Garbuglia.[2] Richard Harris insisted on performing his own stunts in the polar sequences, and nearly died several times doing so.[1]


The movie revolves around the exploits of Captain Nolan (Richard Harris), an Irishman living in Canada, who catches marine animals in order to pay off the mortgage of his boat called the Bumpo, and return to Ireland. Nolan's crew is looking for a great white shark for a local aquarium, but a scientist named Ken (Robert Carradine) is being targeted by the shark. A killer whale comes and kills the shark, subsequently saving Ken. This switches Nolan's target to the killer whale and while he is on the journey with his crew, he tries to capture what he believes to be a male whale, but mistakenly harpoons a pregnant female. She tries to commit suicide on the propellers, but Nolan and his crew get the orca on board, where it subsequently miscarries. The crew hoses the dead fetus overboard as the male watches on.

Later that night, seeking revenge for the death of his mate, the male orca tries to sink the ship. One of Nolan's crew members, Novak (Keenan Wynn), cuts the dead female off the ship, but the male leaps and drags him into the sea. The following day, the orca pushes his mate onto shore. Alan Swain (Scott Walker) berates Nolan on his actions after finding the dead whale on shore. Nolan denies responsibility, but Swain and the villagers eventually find out his involvement. The villagers insist that he stay and kill the whale, as its presence is causing the fish vital to the village's economy to migrate. Dr. Rachel Bedford (Charlotte Rampling), colleague of Ken and whale expert, shows him how similar whales are to humans and tells Nolan that, "If he [the orca] is like a human, what he wants isn't necessarily what he should get." Nolan confesses to Rachel that he empathises with the whale, as his own wife and unborn child had previously been killed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver.

Nolan promises to Rachel not to fight the whale, but the whale attacks his sea-front house, containing an injured crew member of Nolan's, Annie (Bo Derek) within it. The house starts slipping into sea, and despite receiving help from Nolan and crew member Paul (Peter Hooten), the whale bites Annie's leg off. Nolan decides to fight the orca, much to the delight of the villagers, although he and Paul are the only crew members left. Dr. Bedford and Ken go with him, as well as a native American man, Jacob Umilak (Will Sampson), who joins them to share his knowledge.

The crew begins to pursue the whale after it signals Nolan to follow him. Ken is leaning over the side when the whale surfaces and grabs him, killing him in the process. They keep following the whale until they start to reach the Strait of Belle Isle. Paul starts to get into a lifeboat, but the maddened orca knocks Paul out of the boat and eats him. The next day, the whale shoves an iceberg into the boat and starts to sink it. Nolan and Dr. Bedford escape from the boat, while Umilak is crushed beneath an avalanche of ice.

Nolan and Dr. Bedford hide in an iceberg, but Nolan slips onto another. The orca separates the icebergs, trapping Nolan. The whale jumps onto the ice, causing it to tilt and send Nolan into the water. The whale lifts Nolan up with his tail and throws him onto another iceberg, killing him. Dr. Bedford looks on in shock as Nolan slips into the water in a cross shape. His revenge complete, the whale swims under the ice, while a helicopter is seen to rescue Dr. Beford.


Orca was poorly received by critics and audiences alike due in part to its similarities to the film Jaws released two years prior. Upon release the film received only minor theatrical success, but in recent years the film has achieved a cult following among fans of the eco-horror sub genre.

Richard Harris enjoyed his experiences during filming, and took offence at any comparison between Orca and Jaws.[1]



  1. ^ a b c Richard Harris: Sex, Death & the Movies, Author Michael Feeney Callan, Edition illustrated, Publisher Robson, 2004 ISBN 1861057660
  2. ^ Pane e cinema: il racconto di una vita straordinaria consacrata al mondo del cinema by Luciano Vincenzoni, published by Gremese Editore, 2005, ISBN 888440391X

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