Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Orca: The Killer Whale (1977, Michael Anderson)


Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary on this film is complete gold, and is far better than anything I could possibly write about this movie. In fact there is a good movie in here somewhere, however Orca is overall a mediocre at best Jaws rip off that fails hard because it journeys into self-parody. The film also has some of the most hilarious slow motion deaths in cinema history, as the angry killer whale has to rely on his victims to literally hang over the boat in order for him to grab them. Did I mention that the big angry whale is also seeking revenge? Does it matter that really such a thing isn’t possible? Nope. This is a movie so reality is suspended, however there is only so much that I can take before I start to laugh and write off what is happening onscreen. Case in point: the Orca manages to attack a power station, followed by it giving Richard Harris the death stare as he stands on land. Now that’s one intelligent pissed off animal. This film is literally if Free Willy’s mate was killed and he decided to go on an epic killing spree-in fact maybe Free Willy is really what would happen if Mr. Orca decided to befriend a kid instead of murdering people. But where would the fun be in that?

What’s even worse about this movie is that it wastes a good cast that includes besides Harris Charlotte Rampling (who is given very little to do whatsoever), Keenan Wynn, Bo Derek (before she became famous-what happens to her is one of the film’s highlights) Robert Carradine and a post One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Will Sampson, who has some of the film’s less cringe worthy lines. Although I liked certain moments and I didn’t mind the film’s ridiculous plot I still cannot give this film a passing grade. And yes I must stress viewing Joe Bob Briggs’ MonsterVision commentary for this film because it is really quite humorous. I’m not sure why the 70s became so killer animal obsessed as Jaws wasn’t the earliest example, even if it did end up becoming the most famous and best of the bunch. Oh and for some reason this film has a score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. I hope he got paid really well for composing music for this turkey.

Best of the West: Day VII


 14. Major Dundee (Peckinpah, 1965)

One could argue that this is as much a war film as it is a western, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. However I consider this film to be a member of the genre, and I’m thankful that despite the studio’s efforts in the 1960s which resulted in the film being butchered that TCM showed the restored copy a couple years ago, which is also available on DVD and probably Blu Ray as well. Featuring an excellent cast ranging from Charlton Heston, Richard Harris to Peckinpah regulars Ben Johnson, James Corburn, L.Q. Jones and Warren Oates, this movie fits in well with what else I’ve seen from Peckinpah (which isn’t much, sadly).

Namely the ideals of loyalty, honor, in addition to discipline here. Despite the fact that Heston’s Dundee is at times rash and foolish, he has courage and never wavers from his duty. Harris proves to be a fine rival and former friend, and their fight scene is one of the highlights of the film simply because its rugged, violent, and properly represents their harsh relationship by the film’s middle. The concept of a bunch of Confederates and Union soldiers fighting their own private war in Mexico against the Native Americans and the French can be mirrored in The Wild Bunch and even to a lesser extent in Ride The High Country. After all, both films conclude with people forced to not only fight the elements, but also wrestle with enemies that appear due to circumstances perhaps beyond their control, in a way.

Having revisited this film a second time last year, I also marveled at how magnificent this entire movie is. Peckinpah does not glorify war, even though he does present his characters as brave men with their backs against the wall in a unique situation. Considering that my last entry was also a western featuring the Civil War in some fashion, it should be somewhat unsurprising since that terrible conflict helped shape the west.

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