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DAY OF THE DOLPHIN, THE (director: Mike Nichols; screenwriters: Buck Henry/based on the novel Un Animal doue de raison by Robert Merle; cinematographer: William A. Fraker; editor: Sam O’Steen; music: Georges Delerue; cast: George C. Scott (Dr. Jake Terrell), Trish Van Devere (Maggie Terrell), Paul Sorvino (Curtis Mahoney), Fritz Weaver (Harold DeMilo), Jon Korkes (David), Edward Herrmann (Mike), John David Carson (Larry), John Dehner (Wallingford), Severn Darden (Schwinn), Elizabeth Wilson (Mrs. Rome); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Robert E. Relyea; Home Vision Entertainment; 1973)
“A less stone-faced than usual Scott kept up with the frolicking dolphins in the acting department.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s a goofy film that veers between being a PBS nature type of documentary and a sci-fi/political thriller. Mike Nichols(“The Graduate”/”Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”/”Catch-22”) directs a pic meant for Roman Polanski, but the murder of Sharon Tate made him emotionally unable to direct. Buck Henry adapts it from French leftist Robert Merle’s best-selling adventure novel concerning dolphins, who are cleverly used in an assassination plot to kill the president. One of them carries on her back an undetectable explosive to sink the president’s yacht, and it’s up to the male dolphin, Alpha, to stop her.

Research biology marine scientist Dr. Jake Terrell (George C. Scott), his wife Maggie (Trish Van Devere, the future Mrs. Scott) and a team of biologists for the last few years have been funded by a foundation to do research on dolphins in captivity on a remote island somewhere in the Florida Keys. They have taught a male and a female dolphin to say ‘Fa, Ma, Pa’ and other rudimentary words, and to understand English well enough to have elementary conversations with them. Their secret project is violated by a mysterious menacing character named Curtis Mahoney (Paul Sorvino), who poses as a free-lance writer. He blackmailed snaky foundation rep Harold DeMilo (Fritz Weaver) to interview the reclusive Terrell at his research center. Later it turns out that Mahoney is an intelligence agent investigating the shady dealings of the foundation. When Terrell is lured away from the island to hold a press conference for the foundation, the dolphins are kidnapped with the help of one of Terrell’s assistants, David (Jon Korkes), who got by using an alias hiding his past criminal history. The mammals are then used for the assassination scheme.

The story is undoubtedly silly and incredible, but it held my interest as a less stone-faced than usual Scott kept up with the frolicking dolphins in the acting department.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”