Film: Orca: The Killer Whale

Orca: The Killer Whale is a 1977 horror film released by Paramount Pictures during the "When Animals Attack" phase set in motion due to the release of Jaws. In the film, A hunter squares off against a killer whale seeking vengeance for the death of its mate.

The film provides the following tropes:

  • An Arm and a Leg: The whale bites off Annie's (Bo Derek's) already injured leg and is shown sadistically swimming off with it like a dog with a fresh rawhide bone.
  • Award Bait Song: "We Are One" by Carol Connors hasn't held up well over the years.
    • As oversung as it was, it was by Ennio Morricone, and it still qualifies as a guilty pleasure to some.
    • The actual song itself might leave something to be desired, but the instrumental is another story.
  • Black and Gray Morality: It's an whale hunter and a killer whale. What did you expect?
  • Death by Adaptation: In the novelization, Annie's boyfriend, Paul, skips town and main character Jack is spared by the whale. In the film version, they both get horribly killed off.
  • Downer Ending: By the film's conclusion a town is crippled from devastation, five people are dead, a woman is left maimed for life, another woman loses the man she was beginning to fall in love with, and the whale apparently commits suicide by swimming beneath the ice and drowning itself.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Notably averted in two scenes.
    • The first in which the unborn fetus slides out of the body of the orca's mate.
    • The second in which The orca bites off Bo Derek's character's leg.
      • Played straight in the edited televised releases.
  • Jaws Attack Parody
  • Moby Schtick
  • Novelization: A novelization based on an early version of the script seems to hint that the movie at one point was meant to be much larger than what ended up on screen, including a similar, yet different ending, an expanded cast, as well as a scene in which the townspeople held a hunting party not unlike the one in Jaws that ends in chaos. The novel also gives the impression that the whale is so, so maddened with revenge that it has gone INSANE....
    • Not that targeting a specific group of people and setting an entire waterfront ablaze for the purpose of revenge is necessarily normal orca behavior mind you, so the film hints at the insanity motive as well...
  • It's Personal: Subverted- The whale's first victim is Gus, Nolan's best friend and first mate. Nolan's response to this is to stay away from the water and try to leave town (albeit at the advice of Rachel and Umilak). It's not until after Annie's disfigurement that he swears vengeance and decides to hunt the orca.
  • Papa Wolf: Both ways actually.
  • Revenge: Multiple cases
    • The Orca wants revenge on Nolan and co for killing it's mate.
    • Nolan himself wants revenge on the Orca for disfiguring Annie.
  • Science Marches On: Turns out orca males don't stay with their mates or have much, if anything, to do with their own offspring, making its Papa Wolf behavior unlikely.
    • Even apex predators love their mamas and/or have loved ones could arguably apply, though, if the human characters misconstrued the vengeful orca's relationship with the dead female and her stillborn calf. Since male orcas form intensely powerful relationships with their mothers and choose to remain with them all their lives, it's not completely far fetched.
  • Shout-Out: To Moby-Dick, obviously.
  • Spiritual Predecessor: To the much, much Lighter and Softer Free Willy 3, which also dealt with a family of orcas endangered by a profit-seeking whaler.
  • Stock Footage: Similar to the Jaws films, stock footage was used to fill in the blanks between the animatronic killer whale effects. The same people who provided the shark stock footage in Jaws also provided the shark footage in the beginning of this film.
    • The killer whale itself was a combination of stock footage of killer whales from a marine park in California as well as animatronic effects.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Though not for prey, rather the Orca wants revenge on the people who are responsible for the death of its mate and unborn child.
  • Take That: The scene in which the orca kills a great white shark can be seen as one against Jaws.
    • A year later, Jaws 2 took a shot at Orca in which the great white has killed an Orca. Ironically, the scene in Orca is actually more accurate to Real Life. Killer whales have been witnessed hunting and killing great whites in the wild, and more recent studies have shown that great whites actually do tend to actively avoid areas where orcas are known to be present, even withdrawing from them completely if an orca makes a great white its prey.
  • What Have I Done: Nolan suffers this and a not so Heroic BSOD when the female orca miscarries her calf.

Alternative Title(s):

Orca The Killer Whale