I keep thinking about ORCA and why I like it so much. It’s not a great movie. It will never go down in any of the official lists of “all time great films.” But the truth is this film, in its own way, is a classic.
Raymond Chandler once wrote: “Within its frame of reference, which is the only way it should be judged, a classic is a piece of writing which exhausts the possibilities of its form and can hardly be surpassed.”
The ORCA script was written by Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Donati, and Robert Towne. An impressive trio. The script fits Chandler’s definition of a classic in the sense that it exhausts the possibilities of its form by taking the concept of the pathetic fallacy to its ultimate extreme. In case you can’t remember back to your English Literature 101 class, the pathetic fallacy ascribes human traits to animals. You could not go any further with basic idea of ORCA than this script does. It can hardly be surpassed.
It’s a better film than JAWS because, for one thing, it gives the whale motivation. We know why ORCA wants to kill Richard Harris. Revenge for killing his wife and child. What’s JAWS’ motivation? He’s just an eating machine. Where’s the conflict?
Some critics complained that Dino DeLaurentis and his writers were basically ripping JAWS off. Maybe, but there’s more to it than that. They obviously respected Stephen Spielberg’s film but they weren’t above giving it the finger either. The ORCA filmmakers definitely took a tongue in cheek shot at JAWS in the very first scene, in which a Killer Whale kills a big Great White Shark without breaking a sweat. Chomp-Chomp. Charlotte Rampling says, “Only a Killer Whale could do that.”
Take that Bruce.