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Home Vision Entertainment presents
The Day of the Dolphin (1973)

"There are infinite possibilities."
- Dr. Jake Terrell (George C. Scott)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: February 12, 2004

Stars: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Paul Sorvino
Other Stars: Fritz Weaver, Jon Korkes, Edward Herrmann, Leslie Charleson, John David Carson, Victoria Racimo, Severn Darden
Director: Mike Nichols

Manufacturer: Studio Canal
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:44m:20s
Release Date: July 29, 2003
UPC: 037429179826
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

It would be simple to dismiss Mike Nichols' 1973 thriller The Day of the Dolphin as "that talking dolphin" movie, but this is light-years away from the coy antics of TV's Flipper, and the story actually makes the implausible somehow seem plausible, even if the dolphins sound an awful lot like Furbies. It is a film that tackles the maybe-not-so-far-fetched concept of inter-species communication, specifically the work of hard-nosed marine biologist Dr. Jake Terrell (George C.Scott), who has taught a young bottlenosed dolphin named Alpha to speak and understand basic English. The secretive work of Terrell and his team on their remote research island comes under the scrutiny of the mysterious foundation that funds his work, and as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that nefarious plans have been put in motion involving the dolphins.

Nichols' cohort Buck Henry reworked the sprawling and more literal Robert Merle novel, toning down the full-blown conversational abilities of the dolphins, and restructuring the general storyline to be significantly less apocalyptic. It is a much tighter narrative, and one that works to the advantage of Nichols in selling the audience on the premise he is trying to deliver. By the time the bad guy elements of the final act drama are unveiled in the third act, the presence of a gruff George C. Scott carrying on a conversation with a dolphin, a scenario that could have easily crumbled into a laughable mess with a less commanding actor, plays with actual heart-tugging drama. Even the supporting roles, including Scott's ever present real-life wife Trish Van Devere, Paul Sorvino, Leslie Charleson, and Edward Herrmann all seem like very human characters, and sadly it is only the one-dimensional villains who seem like a forced addendum to the story.

In hindsight, a lot of films from 1973 look like films from 1973, in that they don't always age all that well. Looking at The Day of the Dolphin now, 30+ years after it was released theatrically, it is nothing short of amazing the way cinematographer William A. Fraker has given the film an almost ageless look, and his beautiful underwater sequences have the same kind of lyrical and dreamy feel that Caleb Deschanel would later achieve with a horse in The Black Stallion. These moments, when coupled with Georges Delerue's stirring score, are not just simply aesthetically pleasing, but they give Nichols' film a dramatic legitimacy that reinforces the more fanciful story elements.

The Day of the Dolphin delivers a deceptively emotional punch (as witnessed by the copious tears in the eyes of my daughter Sammie during the moving final moments), and the narrative is structured in such a believable manner that the concept of talking dolphins never seems ridiculous or laughable. All of the elements come together (score, cinematography, acting, story) here under the control of Mike Nichols, and time has not weakened the beauty of this film at all.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Home Vision Entertainment has come up with an absolutely stunning 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and this is really a beautiful looking disc. At no point does this look like a film from 1973, and the wonderful blues and greens are reproduced with remarkable clarity. Some minor shimmer (check out Fritz Weaver's tie) and a few age-related nicks, but overall the print is clean and debris-free.

Looking at this transfer, it is hard to believe this film is from 1973.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a fine 3.0 stereo track, which is essentially an enhanced stereo track spread across the three front speakers. There are some noticeable bits of imaging, and the fullness really enhances the haunting Georges Delerue score, which sounds resplendent. Dialogue is clean, but a tad flat, and there are some shrill moments, balanced by a noticeable lack of bottom end. A 2.0 stereo (here called Dolphin H.20) is also provided, and this mix largely forsakes any center channel activity.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Production Notes
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Dolphin Trivia
Extras Review: The extras consist primarily of a series of three new interview segments from Buck Henry, Leslie Charleson, and Edward Herrmann. The Henry piece is the most interesting (12m:18s), and is easily the one that is tied most closely with providing actual production information. He injects some typical dry wit throughout as he discusses how he whittled down the original novel, and modified the storyline to make it more palatable. The segments with Charleson (06m:42s) and Herrmann (13m:01s) proffer their take on George C. Scott and their specific experiences during the shoot.

In addition to some dolphin bios and trivia, as well as a fine two-page insert booklet about the production, the disc is cut into 19 chapters.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Mike Nichols' inter-species communication thriller could have easily fallen into the realm of unintentional comedy without the caliber of a powerful lead like George C. Scott or the lilting score of Georges Delerue, and even after all these years it still holds up with the same degree of slowly unfolding wonder.

A beautiful 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer from Home Vision Entertainment only heightens this release.

Highly recommended.


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