❉ Nick Clement reviews Kino Lorber’s 4K Blu-ray of the bizarre genre-bender.
As a child, I didn’t grow up watching the bizarre yet oddly cool Mike Nichols-Buck Henry genre-bender The Day of the Dolphin. It was released in 1973 to confusion from critics and low box office results, and being a child of the 1980’s, the film never landed on my radar. A couple of years ago I discovered The Day of the Dolphin at the urging of some fellow film buffs, and ever since, I’ve been weirdly obsessed with this effort; the fact that Kino Lorber has just issued a slick 4K re-mastering on Blu-ray isn’t likely to curb my interest, either. There’s something so tonally strange and deliberately askew about this movie, and whether wholly intentional or not, the various ingredients wind up yielding a heady concoction of almost-sci-fi with political thriller undertones, and a comment about the side-effects of animal/human relations. So to that end – there’s nothing else like it anywhere, and if someone attempted a remake or reimaging, it would never resemble what was previously accomplished.
The plot, which was adapted from Robert Merle’s then-popular novel by the droll and mischievous Henry, is roughly as asinine as it sounds, and yet, there’s something very calm and almost serene about the entire thing – it’s a beguiling mixture of vibes and styles. Marine biologists Jake (George C. Scott gritting his teeth all throughout) and his wife Maggie (Trish Van Devere, stunningly gorgeous) have set up a Florida-based research facility where they’ve trained a pair of dolphins to verbally communicate with them. Things take a devious turn when the ultra-smart mammals are kidnapped by a shady group, and programmed to carry about an assassination on the president’s yacht. But there’s more to it than that, and it’s hard not to feel that cocaine may have played a big part in this film’s gestation and ultimate creation. Darkly hilarious in spots and thematically troubling in others, The Day of the Dolphin exists in its own hermetically sealed universe, operating in a slightly heightened world.
The sublime cinematography from legendary cameraman William A. Fraker (War Games, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Heaven Can Wait) is one of the film’s biggest strengths, with the widescreen compositions revealing multiple moments of vast visual information, with a most distinct, sea-green color palette that is like nothing else I can think of. Georges Delerue’s lush, Oscar nominated score is absolutely fantastic, hitting strong emotional chords during the final moments that help to give the movie an unexpected wallop. The Kino Studio Classics Blu-ray release sports a crisp and clean 2.35:1 widescreen image in 1080p, which still retains that special film-grain look from back in the day. Colors are sharp and rich, with the various shades of blue and green almost possessing an eerie quality. Extras include a passionate audio commentary from Howard Berger and Nathaniel Thompson, who spend just as much time with facts and trivia as they do discussing how the film hit them hard in their youth.
❉ Brand New 4K Restoration
❉ NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson
❉ Interviews with Screenwriter Buck Henry and Actors Leslie Charleson and Edward Herrmann
❉ Radio Spot
❉ Optional English Subtitles
❉ Dual-Layered BD50 Disc
❉ Theatrical Trailer
❉ ‘The Day of the Dolphin’ (1973) Directed by Mike Nichols. Cast: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Paul Sorvino, John Dehner, Fritz Weaver, Edward Herrmann, Severn Darden, Elizabeth Wilson, Phyllis Davis.Running Time: 104. Color. Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1. Available on Blu-Ray and digital: https://www.kinolorber.com/product/the-day-of-the-dolphin-blu-ray
❉ Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.