DAY OF THE DOLPHIN (1973): In a Florida research compound, Dr. Jake Terrell (George C. Scott) and his marine biologist associates devote years secretly teaching two dolphins, Fa and Bee, how to speak a simple form of English. The sweet and loving dolphins are incredibly intelligent and have developed an intense devotion to Dr. Terrell. Word of the success of Terrell's project is leaked to the outside world, and the skills of the easily trained dolphins are eventually sought by a well financed, shadowy consortium with evil intentions.
Arguably the last great film directed by Mike Nichols, DAY OF THE DOLPHIN is a classy, beautifully produced science fiction/political conspiracy thriller with a heart. Despite its potentially maudlin storyline, Buck Henry's serious, unironic screenplay and Nichols' graceful direction carefully avoid sentimentality at every possible turn. Initially the story concentrates on Terrell and his relationship with his coworkers as their long work with the two dolphins is revealed to have achieved truly astounding results. Fa and Bee are lovely and enchanting creatures with very sweet, babyish voices. Things become deadly serious in the film's relentless second half, but because the conspiracy theme has been introduced so gradually the change in tone and the orchestrated melodramatics are perfectly acceptable.
George C. Scott plays the bad tempered Terrell with the actor's trademark intensity. Its a passionate and powerful performance, and its perfectly easy to see why the dolphins look at him like some kind of god who towers above the other humans. Scott is the main show here, but the superb supporting cast, led by Paul Sorvino, Edward Herrmann, Fritz Weaver, Severn Darden and Scott's wife Trish Van Devere ably bring a strong sense of realism to all of the fantasy on view.
Georges Delerue's stirringly emotional music adds immeasurably to the effectiveness of the film; his sad, lovely score turns the deeply moving climactic sequence into a heartbreaking apocalypse of despair. This utterly bleak finale is one of the most potent and uncompromising endings in the fantasy genre.
William A. Fraker's gorgeous cinematography makes the sparkling, shifting waters and deep blue skies breathtakingly luminous. Fraker's stunning imagery alone makes the movie a total pleasure to watch. The underwater scenes, shot by Jordan Klein, contain absolutely some of the finest such work ever seen.
The Home Vision Entertainment DVD is highly recommended for fans of this wonderful film. Presented in the film's original theatrical release aspect ratio (2.35:1), its a spectacularly perfect transfer, with vivid, lush colors and no noticeable speckles or flaws of any kind. A skimpy assortment of extras include an interview with writer Buck Henry, who is clearly and bizarrely embarrassed by his association with this great film, additional interviews with cast members Leslie Charleson and Edward Herrmann, and a trivia gallery. The liner notes are incredibly silly and juvenile. Despite its disappointing array of mostly worthless extras, this DVD is a spectacularly worthy investment for any serious movie fan, the definitive presentation of one of the most exciting and thought provoking of all conspiracy thrillers.